The most significant difference (so far) between my experiences studying in Adelaide and Hiroshima is the language barrier. A few months of part-time self-study was definitely not enough for me to get to a level of functional proficiency. I vividly recall the struggles of ordering dinner when no English was available, and it’s sometimes bewildering just hearing the cashier talk to me.
Luckily, the hostess of my temple stay (I travelled around a little before the official start of the exchange) spoke great English. Even more fortunate is when she very kindly offered to take me and my numerous luggage to my dorm on the day of moving in. Later the hostess would also take me to a Home Depot after I merely asked for her advice on where is the best place to shop for home items.
In that same week, I got on the wrong bus while trying to get to the same Home Depot. I somehow managed to get on a non-stop highway bus to Hiroshima Station instead, which was more than an hour away! Very awkwardly, I managed to get off the bus when a lady was being picked up. There happened to be a single person at the bus stop as he was sending his wife off. He talked to me out of concern and after understanding my situation offered to take me to the Home Depot, which was 30mins away. As the bus had taken me beyond the city where Hiroshima University is and the stop was not serviced by any buses going that way, I’m not sure how I would have gotten back at all if I hadn’t accepted his kind offer.
These are just a couple of my experiences of the kindness of the Japanese people I’ve met so far. I can’t even begin to describe the kindness of my HUSA group’s supporter (exchange students have student supporters to help ease us into university life and with all the paperwork required in the first weeks. And believe me, there is are a LOT!) who have truly gone above and beyond, assisting us at banks for hours, to taking us for meals and much, much more. タイガくんは一番サポーターです！
Of course, I haven’t received kindness from only the Japanese; my fellow HUSA (Hiroshima University Study Abroad) students have made these past couple of weeks so much better and much more fun. From helping each other with the Japanese language, to keeping track of the various tasks and paperwork to be submitted, to sharing food and laughter, so far my time in Hiroshima University has been both crazy and absolutely wonderful.
So yes, although I’m far from fluent in Japanese, I discovered that kindness is a universal language and that I have been hearing it spoken abundantly. I’m sure that my experiences over this semester will be a treasured memory in the years to come, and while I’m here I’ll make sure to savour every moment!
Mey Wong, Bachelor of Arts (High Achievers) is undertaking an exchange at Hiroshima University during S2, 2019
Read Mey’s 1st blog post here