Challenging yourself while studying abroad can lead to new opportunities and a new you! From the location, internships, and more, Wayne State University graduate Victoria Eichbauer explains below why studying abroad in Hikone was the best fit for her.
What is your name, and what is/was your major at WSU?
My name is Victoria Eichbauer and my majors are Asian Studies and Political Science.
Which JCMU program and year did you participate in?
I participated in the 2015-2016 Academic Year.
How did you find out about this program while you were at WSU?
JCMU is the main program recommended to the Japanese students at Wayne State University for those that want to go to Japan for an extended period of time. My sensei, Rie Masuda is a strong proponent of Wayne State students going to JCMU.
What motivated you to study abroad at JCMU? Was it the location, the classes, or something else?
My motivation was almost innate. Since a young age I have loved studying cultures, especially Japanese in regards to history, art, and film. It was a no-brainer that I would go to Japan and I was intensely determined to participate in a full year. Though JCMU is the main option for Wayne State students, I believe it is also the best option. The location in Hikone, is not too rural and not too urban which is perfect for immersion into the Japanese culture. Students could not fully rely on English for many things as they would be able to in Osaka or Tokyo but still had modern conveniences such as a very close train station, grocery stores, and the infamous bread stores and 7/11 close to campus. What I love about Hikone is that it is rich with history which was what initially piqued my interest in the city.
How were classes in Hikone compared to classes at WSU? Did you enjoy them?
I love my sensei at Wayne State as she isn’t afraid of being extremely energetic to draw out participation from students that don’t want to mess up their Japanese. Similarly, the teachers at JCMU are extremely dedicated to their work and their students. Not only this, but the classes are so intensely focused on the Japanese language that even if you don’t try -I would not recommend this, however- you cannot help but learn. The main difference is that the classes at JCMU are incredibly intensive, and only in Japanese so the expectations are set at a very high level.
What were some of your favorite things about your time at JCMU?
The English Program, the travel, internships, and the new challenges I faced at JCMU were my favorite things. The intensive program at JCMU really pushes your boundaries and what you think your limits are; you are continually pushed to be a better you. JCMU is a really friendly environment but if you are not prepared for rigor, you might get the tatami pulled from underneath you. Don’t come in expecting things and most of all, humble yourself. In that way, the traveling, the internships, and the challenges that I faced were all growing/learning experiences. I wanted to have a host family but after careful deliberation I decided it would not be the best fit for me. Another factor in my declining a host family was the internship opportunities provided to JCMU students. I volunteered at a bookstore my first semester and the next semester: Gohanya Kuma Kuma, a restaurant close to Hikone Castle down by Castle Road. Those that are hesitant to join host families should definitely take advantage of the plethora of internship opportunities as they are great opportunities to gain work experience in Japan and to learn new vocabulary outside of the JCMU curriculum. The travel of course, is a highlight of being in Japan due to the convenience of Japan’s public transportation. And lastly, the English Program had Japanese university students come stay with us at the dorms which provided a great way for us to mingle with Japanese people our age with potentially the same interests in language learning. The English Program as well as traveling really expanded my usage of Japanese and helped me make lasting friendships.
Did your experiences abroad help you when you returned to WSU? When you entered the workforce (if applicable)? How so?
My studying at JCMU prepared me to pass level 3 of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test and also get a job with the JET Program in the neighboring prefecture of Nara. On a more personal level, it helped me fully appreciate my sensei at Wayne State University. Her passion for teaching Japanese to American students sometimes seems like a thankless job as many students give up or fail to continue but if it was not for her, I would have never studied abroad.
What would you say to prospective students considering JCMU?
I will be the first to admit I struggle with my confidence in Japanese. But I will also say that if you are like me and struggle with Japanese that the first thing to do is something completely out of your comfort zone like studying abroad. I can say without a doubt that any reservations about joining a program at JCMU should be thrown to the wayside and you should take the plunge. Not only will you not regret JCMU as your choice but you will truly learn about the Japanese culture and in turn, yourself.
We would like to thank Victoria for sharing her experiences with us, and we hope that her words encourage you to consider studying abroad yourself! For more information about Victoria’s program, please visit the Semester/Year language & Culture program page.