The University of Iowa

Credits, Fried Food and... Dragons?

October 12th, 2015

By Luke Bader*

Hey Everyone!

Well, classes officially started last week and my schedule is significantly busier! Today I thought I would tell you a little bit about how classes work here at Nagasaki University of Foreign Studies and some of the things I have been up to with some of my new friends.

Me (wearing my University of Iowa shirt) and my friend, Kat, in front of a few of the 'Dragon Dance' performers. 

But first off, I should offer a warning to anyone who wants to study abroad. Be sure to research the credit system at the school you plan to attend because with some schools (like mine), a class that might be worth 3 credits back home at Iowa, may only be worth 2 here. Luckily I was able to find this out last spring, but you would be surprised at how many students apparently did not take the time to read the syllabus that was emailed to us.

Next, since I am an International Studies student (East Asian Track), many of my classes that I chose were aimed at culture, language, business etc. However, as I am a study abroad student and my language skills are not yet high enough to take a class fully in Japanese, my options were still fairly limited. Thus, I did what many students did; sign up for more classes than I wanted to take, see what the first two weeks were like, and make final decisions.

Thankfully, I have managed to settle into what I believe is a very good schedule for me. My biggest classes include my Japanese Language course, Japanese Linguistics, Modern Japanese History, Contemporary Japanese Literature, and Japanese Business. These combined with a few other classes promise to make this semester very busy but very productive!

Along with the fact that my school also caters to domestic students as well as international ones, one thing I love about being here is that Nagasaki University has a cool conversation partner program where international students are matched up with Japanese students. This way, we can practice our Japanese with them, while our partners can also practice their English with us! It’s a win-win situation!

Side Note: During my first week here at school, eating lunch became a slightly trickier situation than it should have been. Apparently, the menu only offers a picture of the food you want and the Japanese Kanji name for it. It’s a great way to learn the language, but bad if you’re starving and are terrible with Kanji! However, as you can tell, I am still here so I’d say I have managed fairly well!

Takoyaki!!! (Fried-breaded octopus balls)

Aside from classes, I’ve had some time to explore the city a little with some of my fellow students. There have been a few pretty nice outings so far and there are still places I have yet to see. However, probably my favorite place I’ve been to so far is the Kunchi Festival!

As a bit of background, Kunchi is one of the most famous festivals in Japan. The basic cause for celebration focuses on the traditional time of Autumn harvest as well as the opening founding of Suwa Shrine in 1642. As a bit of side history, back during the ban on Christianity, this festival was also used as a way to check for hidden Christian.

In Layman’s terms, the harder you partied, the less likely you were a Christian…sounds like one crazy party, right? However, today, it has returned to its roots and now a three day celebration filled with entertainment such as the traditional ‘Dragon Dance’ and outdoor food stalls (Yatai). Some of my favorite festival foods included takoyaki (fried-breaded octopus balls) and yakitori (grilled meat on a stick), YUM!

Some things that are coming up: this next week I am going to get the chance to meet with some local high schoolers for a few hours and hang out with them. They want to practice their English skills while getting the chance to show us around the area. This should not only be a great learning experience but also a really fun time!

Thanks for reading everyone! まったね!

Quick Tips:

  • Tipping in Japan: DON’T DO IT! As an American, whenever I find myself at a small restaurant with some friends, I always have to give myself small reminder that tipping in Japan is not only not necessary, but it is also frowned upon. Apparently, some waiters can see it as an insult if you try to tip.
  • While we’re on the topic of restaurant etiquette, unlike in America, it is considered extremely rude to ‘call’ your waiter over and wave your hand at them, even to ask for the bill. Instead, many restaurants will have a small button on the table that your press when you are ready to order or to get the bill.
  • This is more of an observation more than a tip. If you are a gaijin/gaikokujin (foreigner) and you are wearing a shirt with katakana (Japanese characters used for foreign words) on it, you may get some stares. Surprisingly, for the actually few people I’ve seen with writing on their shirts, the writing has been in English. Therefore, with me wearing a shirt that says “アイオワ大学” or “Iowa University/University of Iowa”, I understandably attracted a few more amused grins from strangers than my fellow gaijin. However, this was not a bad thing as people were merely surprised to see a gaijin with a Japanese shirt on.

*Luke Bader is a senior majoring in international studies with a minor in Japanese and a certificate in writing at the University of Iowa. This semester, the Jesup, IA native is studying abroad on the USAC Nagasaki Program in Japan.