Posted by on Oct 9, 2013 in Blog | 4 comments

The Learning Begins

I signed up for a 400 level comparative art history course dealing with perceptions of Japan in cinema. On the first day of school, I strode confidently into a lecture classroom rivaling an auditorium in size. I was slightly perplexed when I noticed a merry band of chattering Japanese students slowly filing in to a class that, as I understood, would be taught in English.

My thought process was as follows:

– They must all know English
– I’m a failure at life for not being remotely near that level of understanding Japanese.
– At least five of these lovely students will become test subjects in expediting my language acquisition. Effective immediately.
– I’m from Skidmore. I’m from New York. I’m from MURICA. I got this.

Such was my happy little thought bubble. Until the professor began speaking entirely in Japanese.


The one other international student in the room gave me a side glance. Two foreign students quite obviously in the wrong class and all we could do was quietly argue whether we bear through it with blank stares and bobble headed nods or suffer the humiliation of walking twenty rows out of a now silent room. Did I mention we were sitting practically front row center? This went on for five minutes. Still, I waited for the moment when the professor would spontaneously shout, “JK! Let’s get to the good stuff now, shall we?”

In the end, my partner in crime leisurely strolled down one row while I dashed down the other, head low and muttering, “Sumimasen! Sumimasen!”

Where Wiser Thought Also Matters


Sophia, also more commonly referred to in Japan as Jōchi Daigaku (上智大学), is a private research university founded by Jesuits in 1913. It takes its name from the Greek Sophia meaning “wisdom”. The Japanese name translates to “University of Higher Wisdom”. I wasn’t feeling particularly wise on my first day, but I figure I have plenty of time to rectify that. The main campus, which is where I study, is located within the outer moats surrounding the Imperial Palace.

The school boasts an impressive diversity rate, snatching over 200 exchange students every year from all corners of the universe and educating them against their undying wishes to spend their semesters abroad in hot springs sipping green tea out of bowls. I myself would rather bury my face in a Tokyo travel guide as opposed to An Integrated Guide to Intermediate Japanese, but alas, the word study does precede abroad. Time to bring on the A’s!

I’ve so far had classes with students from France, America, China, Korea, Vietnam, Australia, London, Germany, and Spain. I know you’re here too Canada, and I will make it my mission to find you. If you include me and fellow Skidmore student, Megan, enlightenment of the highest degree is bound to ensue.


Soooooo, have any questions for me? Here are some prompts from an anonymous source who does not bear my name in any way shape or form.

What classes are you taking Deja? How many unsuspecting Japanese students have you acquired for your language acquisition thus far? How do you possibly manage against the blood thirsty mosquitoes in Tokyo? Will Gohan ever learn to dodge in the next episode of Dragon Ball Z Abridged?

Until next time!