An Experience Like None Other – Lauren Ouellette, 2017 Melville Scholar

Beginning in 2016, JCMU has offered annual student scholarships for the Harold Melville Memorial Scholarship competition! Lauren Ouellette, a student on the 2017 Summer Intensive Language program and one of the Melville Scholarship recipients, spoke with us about her experiences in Japan and how receiving the scholarship helped her better utilize her time in Hikone.

Lauren together with her friends at Universal Studios Japan

As I stepped out of the plane on June 5th into an unfamiliar airport not knowing a single person, my nerves were high as was my exhaustion. I dragged my copious amount of luggage through customs and to the meeting point where I tentatively introduced myself to the only two other people that were there at the moment. As time passed, more people filtered in. Some of us went to explore the airport and that’s when it hit me that I really was in Japan. The convenience store had onigiri (rice balls) and bento (premade lunches) and that small detail gave me such excitement that this experience was really happening.

After I got adjusted to living at JCMU I was able to focus on learning. Class was intense. We all tried to prepare ourselves for the demanding nature of taking a  full year’s worth of Japanese within 9 weeks was more work than I imagined it to be. Everyday students could be seen in the residential hall lobby working together to do homework and study but that didn’t take away from the fun. Getting to know each other and travel together every weekend got us through the hard exams and hours of studying.

Traveling within Japan was beyond anything I could have dreamed of. Navigating the train system was a challenge within itself. There were a few times we got on a train going the wrong way or got confused trying to read a sign. But I truly learned that the best way to get to know and appreciate a city is to get lost there. I gained such an appreciation for both old and new parts of Japan. Kyoto being one of my favorite places to explore, I went back multiple weekends in a row because there was so much to see and do. But going with friends was the best part.

Torii gates at Fushimi Inari-taisha near Kyoto

Applying for this program, I was afraid I wasn’t going to fit in. I am not a big fan of anime and don’t have any knowledge of that part of Japanese culture so my fear was that I wouldn’t be able to relate to anyone in the program. Well my assumption could not have been more wrong. The friends I gained through the program will last me a lifetime and I am so thankful that I could develop such close relationships with people I would have never met otherwise.

I learned more than just the language while in Japan. I learned about Japanese cultural values, and gained an appreciation for their pop culture. Most of all, I learned that this is not the end of my journey with Japan. I decided that I will do everything I can to one day live in Japan. This program solidified my love for Japan, its people and its culture and I am so thankful for the experience.

In front of Lake Biwa.jpg
Lauren and two of her classmates in front of Lake Biwa

We hope that you will consider making a charitable contribution to the Melville Memorial Scholarship Endowment! More information about the endowment can be found on the JCMU website. In the years ahead, we look forward to awarding more scholarships that help to bring down the financial barriers of study abroad.

Donate today

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.