Tamaki Nakahara is a second-year foreign exchange student from Japan doing a semester abroad at University of Dallas. She attends Teikyo University, a liberal arts university in Tokyo where she plans to study humanities. She discussed her experience here at UD compared to that in Japan and revealed a little about life at home.
Nakahara comes from a liberal arts university not too different from UD. “The university that I belong to in Japan is also conducting a liberal arts education and the department and the conduct, all the classes [are] in English,” she said.
Teikyo University resembles UD in that it also emphasizes the importance of studying abroad. Nakahara explained that it is a mandatory requirement for students to travel. For college students in America, they can choose and change their major many times before committing to a specific discipline. This differs greatly from university students in Japan who pick their profession when they take the entrance exam.
“Until sophomore spring semester, you have to take the mandatory, or the basic studies, of those three sections [of business, citizenship and humanities] and after that, you go study abroad,” said Nakahara. “After that, the 3rd years, like fall semester, you will be able to choose your major.”
UD’s art education is what drew her in. “There was no such specific practical classes, especially for our classes, we had literature classes, but that was the only thing we had for our humanity studies. I was kind of thinking that I should experience things that I can’t do in Japan,” she explained.
Nakahara’s experience has been that people in Japan are different in personality from Americans. “People in Japan are really shy, and I think people in Japan are a lot more introverted,” she said.
Nakahara accidentally made a new friend as a result of UD’s warm and welcoming community.
“Once I was at the Art village and I just found one girl that was sitting on the bench, and she called me, but she was calling a different name. She was calling someone else. And I [was] like, ‘I’m not her, but nice to meet you.’ And we just became friends. And that is really, really rare in Japan,” she illustrated.
While this aspect has been her favorite thing so far in America, it has been an adjustment for her as well. “I’m a person who needs a certain amount of personal time,” she explained.
In Japan, Nakahara’s commute was about 20 minutes by train; she has enjoyed the considerably shorter distance from a dorm to a classroom. She said, “Because I’m living in a dorm, and we can just kind of go to the classroom, just two minutes or something. That’s a really big difference.”
Nakahara has also enjoyed access to the UD cafeteria, since she often bought lunch from a convenience store in Japan. “It didn’t take that much time for me to adjust myself with the food. I think it’s because the food in the cafeteria here is really, really good,” Nakahara said.
In spite of the distance between America and Japan, Nakahara finds a way to connect with home from afar. “My parents usually send me Japanese instant noodles like cup noodles,” she said.
At the end of fall semester, Nakahara will return to Tokyo and officially declare her major in humanities.