Study Abroad Stories: An Interview with Shu Hirashita

Thinking about studying English in another country? This series will interview students from Eibei and other departments about their experiences studying abroad. If you have any ideas, questions, or comments, feel free to contact an Eigo Daily staff member or visit our Facebook page.

Shu Hirashita is a 3rd year student in the department of British and American Cultural Studies.

Interviewed by Nagisa Kurihara

NK: What made you decide to study abroad?

SH: To be an English teacher, I thought studying abroad was necessary because my ideal teacher in my mind is one who has various and a lot of experience. To step closer to that teacher, I thought study abroad was the best way, and I decided to apply to the Chukyo study abroad program.

NK: Why did you choose to study for a year?

SH: Like I mentioned, getting experience in various ways was my main purpose for the study abroad. I knew it was hard to get a chance to go study abroad for a year, but therefore I could get the experience only a few people can get.

NK: Where did you study abroad?

SH: It was California State University, Chico. It’s located in northern from San Francisco, midway along the coast of California.

NK: How did you choose which university you would attend?

SH: It was quite simple. I just wanted to go to the west coast. I had heard everything was warm on the west coast like the weather, people, food and so on. In fact, it was.

NK: What classes did you take?
SH: Any classes. I went to the university as an exchange student, so I was able to take any classes. I took the classes that I can’t take in my home university such as Psychology of Coaching, American Sports in Film, Archaeology, and American football.

NK: Were the classes interesting? 

SH: Of course yes. Subjects to study were surely interesting, but also it’s a good point to make that there is discussion time or group work in most of classes so it was really easy to make friends through the classes.

NK: Are there any differences between Japanese students and students you met abroad?

SH: This is really good question. The answer is yes and no. When I first got to the US, I was not going to socialize with Japanese students to spend as much time as possible speaking English. However, one day I found it was the wrong approach. The reason why I was in the US was not just for socializing with Americans or people from other countries, but everyone who I met. Then I stopped avoiding talking with Japanese and I felt they a had clearer goal or thoughts about their future than many students in Japan.

NK: Did you experience culture shock?

SH: I found the American way to spend time with their family. At Christmas, I was staying at my friend’s house and I thought I would be alone doing nothing special. However, my friend’s roomy asked me to spend time with his family at Christmas. Of course my answer was yes, but I was a little bit afraid of going to his parents’ house because I thought Christmas for Americans is one of the most important holidays to spend time with family. Therefore I thought if I visited his family, it might be a sort of destruction of the precious time with family. When I told my friend about this, he said, “You worry about such a thing? No. It’s not a problem at all. Just come over my parents’ house without thinking anything and have fun with them.” Actually, his parents looked glad that he brought his friend to the house and I really enjoyed that night chatting and eating dinner together.  Then his grandma told me “I’m not sure if this is the usual way to celebrate Christmas in America, but we are open to everyone and once you come to see us, you are already one of the family.” Then I felt the difference between the facts and what I assumed I knew about how American families by visiting and spending time with an American family at Christmas. It was good, and the biggest culture shock for me.

NK: Do you feel that studying abroad improved your English skills?

SH: Absolutely yes. English skills, which I think in my mind, include courage to talk to people without any fear of making mistakes and being able to speak English as native people do. Of course vocals, phrases, and those kind of English skills improved, but I got the former two things pretty much through studying abroad for 10 months, which is hard to get in Japan.

NK: What was your best experience while studying abroad?

SH: It’s hard to tell the best experience while studying abroad, but definitely every friend I met at Chico is my forever treasure. It’s almost impossible to see most of those friends again but I remember even small memories with each friend at Chico and the relationships can last forever. Actually, some of my friends are coming to Japan for jobs or some are working already working in Japan. It’s a really great thing, and I am planning to go to my friends’ country. Making a lot of friends from different countries made my eyes open and makes me feel like I grew up in many ways. This is the best thing I got through studying abroad.