Tag Archives: orientation

Learning for the sake of learning

We were final­ly able to meet every­one on our course, just in time for the ori­en­ta­tion at the uni­ver­si­ty. We were able to expe­ri­ence first hand, the hor­rors of over­crowd­ing on the Tokyo sub­way dur­ing the morn­ing rush hour — an expe­ri­ence we will now have to endure every sin­gle day! The jour­ney from Shi­mo­takai­do to Ichi­gaya takes about 45–60 min­utes. The nov­el­ty fac­tor meant that we were still rea­son­ably cheer­ful, but I sus­pect that the jokes about ‘get­ting close to each oth­er’ will soon wear thin as time goes on. Like sumo wrestling, there is only so much that we can take. The sub­way trains are well air-con­di­tioned and very clean, so it is gen­er­al­ly quite a pleas­ant expe­ri­ence (minus the over­crowd­ing).

When we arrived at the uni­ver­si­ty, we were giv­en a talk by one of the course coor­di­na­tors about the hous­ing con­tract and gen­er­al rules and reg­u­la­tions. She alter­nat­ed between Eng­lish and Japan­ese and I tried my best to look like I could under­stand the gist of both (with well-timed nods!). We filled in a bunch of forms and ques­tion­naires about our lev­el of Japan­ese pro­fi­cien­cy and the cours­es that we would like to take. The dif­fer­ent class­es [class A to class E] rough­ly fol­low the dif­fer­ent lev­els of the inter­na­tion­al Japan­ese Lan­guage Pro­fi­cien­cy Test. For­tu­nate­ly, we were told that those who had not stud­ied Japan­ese before did not need to attempt the lis­ten­ing and writ­ing place­ment tests and were only required for an inter­view. It seems like most of Cam­bridge as well as the Finns will be in the beginner’s class (class A), which is good since we have been hang­ing out togeth­er a lot any­way. [“A is for awe­some!”]

The coor­di­na­tor remarked about how the pro­gramme was quite strict, but only 60% atten­dance of the class­es is required. This seems to me to be a very lax fig­ure — I could effec­tive­ly skip class for an entire month and still pass! There are also a ridicu­lous amount of pub­lic hol­i­days [almost one day per week] where we don’t have class­es, and so I don’t except there to be too much pres­sure. Since I have already grad­u­at­ed, the trans­fer cred­its are incon­se­quen­tial to me and I am effec­tive­ly learn­ing Japan­ese only for the sake of learn­ing Japan­ese. This rep­re­sents a refresh­ing change to my time at Cam­bridge where I felt pres­sured to try and max­imise exam per­for­mance at the sake of learn­ing about things I was inter­est­ed in.

We got a first taste of the Nihon cafe­te­ria and I found the food to be very good qual­i­ty and gen­er­ous in por­tion size. For about 600 JPY we were able to get a set meal of miso soup, sal­ad, rice, and fried pork cut­let. We bought the com­muter pass that allows us to trav­el freely between Shi­mo­takai­do and Ichi­gaya, and it cost about a whop­ping 30,000 JPY (just over £230) for three months. To con­trast, a one-month ‘zone 1 only’ trav­el­card in Lon­don costs £99.10 and so the com­muter pass in Tokyo is rel­a­tive­ly good val­ue. How­ev­er, it only pro­vides free trav­el for one par­tic­u­lar route and so we will still need to pay for tick­ets when we go out­side it.

The Finns received a sig­nif­i­cant mon­e­tary grant from the uni­ver­si­ty and so we decid­ed to go back to Hara­juku to spend some of their mon­ey and kit out in Tokyo fash­ion! The Brits were unfor­tu­nate­ly feel­ing a bit poor after pay­ing for the com­muter pass, but I was still able to find some cool flip-flops and invest in a 100-yen umbrel­la. Today was the first day it rained in Tokyo since we arrived, and I per­haps even pre­fer it to the sun­shine. The air was much cool­er and the streets were less busy — a touch of Lon­don nos­tal­gia per­haps? I thought I wouldn’t miss the UK at all (par­tic­u­lar­ly the weath­er) but it seems there is still a soft spot for it in me some­where…

Category: JLSP | Tags: , , , , ,