Richard Njoroge ’18 and friends in Japan

During my junior year of high school, I was offered the rare opportunity to study Japanese for a year with a local Boys & Girls Club and travel to Japan for two weeks. After admiring Japan’s historical and religious sites, embracing the kindness of its people, and falling in love with the vibes of the country, I decided to pursue the language in college. Four semesters of Japanese later, as a Hamilton student I was accepted to the Middlebury Language Program at International Christian University to study in Tokyo for my junior fall.

The beginning of my fall semester was spent adapting to the ICU school system while also adjusting to life in Tokyo. Though eventually my colloquial and formal Japanese significantly improved, it was initially difficult to communicate with the Japanese students at the university. I worked with the program director to develop a plan that made it possible for me to make the most out of my learning experience.

Aside from academics, studying abroad in Tokyo exposed me to a vibrant social scene and mobility. Most weekends were spent exploring the metropolis of Tokyo, memorizing bus and train routes, and dining at myriad restaurants and convenience stores. The program sponsored two group trips to Kyoto and to Tottori Prefecture that allowed us to escape the density of the city and exposed us to the more rural and rustic aspects of the Japanese countryside. Through these experiences, I met and befriended many Japanese citizens as well as other international students from universities throughout Asia and the U.S. The friends I made while abroad solidified the experience for me, making ICU and Tokyo feel more and more like home as the semester went along.

With regard to my future plans with Japanese, I plan to study the language and its culture until I graduate from Hamilton. While I am still unsure of where life after graduation will take me, I hope to continue studying and to eventually become fluent. My time in Japan taught me how to adapt while remaining true to myself. I am incredibly thankful for the chance to study off campus; it truly enriched my college experience.

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