Midterms in Japan
Posted on June 16, 2015 by By Kristy Poisson ’16.
I can’t believe it. I have been in Japan for two whole months now, and my semester here is halfway over. Though I have experienced so much so far, there is still a lot that I have yet to do here and now have to find time for!
That being said, it is halfway through the program and that means midterm exams have reared their ugly heads. At Japanese universities, or at least both Sophia and my host sister’s university, midterms happen all at once within the course of a few days. On top of that, for a couple of my classes, the two grades we have are the midterm, and the final, which means that this week determined 50 percent of my class average. As for my Japanese midterm, it lasted a span of three whole days. The first day was the oral exam, the second day was Kanji and listening and the third day was grammar. On the whole, this week and the one leading up to it were extremely stressful and I have not gone out exploring at all.
I have been depending on convenience stores for small morsels of happiness to get me through the study sessions and essay writing. Japanese snacks have proven themselves quite tasty and interesting. Without them, I don’t think I’d have made it out alive. Perhaps it’s because they are so differently flavored compared to what I am used to in the U.S., or because they come in such neat and cute packaging, but whatever the reason, I’ve fallen hard. Japanese chocolates are so rich and adorable, always in bite-sized portions usually individually wrapped. And the chips come in interesting flavors like sesame or shrimp.
In any case, I would say that this week I’ve reached my “wall.” Not only has the stress of classes been weighing me down, but my homestay is pretty much the one place I can study and I have been feeling a little cooped-up and strained. I suppose it was just me over-thinking things, but I felt really imposing staying at home all day on the weekend. Even though I was doing homework I worried that I was burdening the family.
There was no reason in particular. They are extremely nice and I can talk with them rather easily. We spend time together regularly, but it’s just very sensitive new experience being thrown into not just a new societal culture, but also a new family culture. It has been mostly me trying to feel my way through what they are feeling, especially since Japanese is, as both a language and a culture, one that never speaks its mind out-right, but rather hints and dances around the point. Being in Japan requires a lot of interpretive and intuitive skills. For example, I felt bad about staying home for every meal both Saturday and Sunday. I felt stressed because I knew that even if they found it troublesome, they probably wouldn’t say it out-right. So, I was on constant alert all weekend, trying to pick up on if they wanted me to leave the house for a bit or not. I would say that this would be the one con stacked up against the numerous pros of doing a homestay. Other than this small stress, I have so far had an amazing time at my homestay, living in full immersion of the Japanese culture.
At the end of it all though, it turned out alright, and my exams are finally over! Hopefully next week I can get back to exploring Japan and experiencing less stress.