From there I entered college with a drive to learn and to push myself. Having a desire to learn another language has become a driving force in my effort to learn Japanese and is incorporated into my major. I started off not truly knowing how to study Japanese and I would often spend most of my time staring at the pages of my textbooks, trying to absorb the information that way. This was horribly ineffective and after the first few chapters I started struggling. Most of the grammatical structures, vocabulary, and conjugations would make some sense for a day or so and then I would forget them or make the same errors again and again.
I was lucky enough to meet several Japanese exchange students right around the time when I was struggling most. They were very kind and started helping me practice my Japanese a few times a week. They would quiz me over and over again on vocabulary until I knew what they were going to say just by the first syllables that left their tongues. Once I was able to create my own sentences, not just repeat common phrases everyone had memorized, I would say anything and everything I could in Japanese to them, and I listened intently each time any of them spoke to me. I still struggled in class and my skills were poor all around, but I was still passing my courses at a level to continue. These people that helped me have become some of my best friends and I am still in contact with them today, driving me forward still.
I tried twice to go to Japan as an exchange student and had to cancel my application for abroad due to financial situations, caused by steep increases in the university’s fees up to $5,000 in one year. I tried for a third time and was able to study abroad in the Fall of 2012 at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan. I was kept busy working throughout the summer, keeping me distracted for the most part from my studies, almost as if it was all a lie. Once I had let it sink in that I was accepted and the initial exhilaration had worn off, I started worrying about the different regional dialects of Japan, especially Osaka, where I was headed. I had heard from others that the dialect, known as a“-ben” in Japanese, in Osaka was particularly difficult and that words conjugated completely differently, nearly influencing a change in area of study. Yet the area was perfectly located; the university was in the middle of a triangle of absolutely beautiful cities, Osaka City, Nara, and Kyoto, all within about an hour or so by train. With this in mind, my motivation spiked once more and I set off for Japan.