Summary: Laurence spent a year studying in Japan and a term in France. Read his story here.
I am in my fourth year at Leeds studying French and Japanese having moved up here from London for my degree. I am the treasurer for the Japanese Society which keeps me pretty busy, but I still find time for my main hobbies, cooking and music.
One of the reasons I chose Leeds was because the staff and students I met at the open days were friendly, encouraging and most importantly seemed motivated about their teaching or studies. The course here also allowed me to study abroad for longer, and from an earlier stage in the course than other universities. I had studied A-level French and wanted to continue with it whilst adding another, totally different language. I settled on Japanese because I was interested in Japanese literature and film, and because I felt like a challenge!
I spent a year studying in Kobe, close to Osaka, Japan’s second largest city. I studied at Kobe Gakuin University, along with 3 other Leeds students. We were the only Western students on campus and stood out a lot, which was sometimes welcome, sometimes not. Virtually nobody spoke English to us, so we were forced to ‘sink or swim’. During my year I got the opportunity to travel to many different parts of Japan by road, rail and sea, from the tourist traps (Tokyo, Kyoto) to other lesser-known but equally interesting cities and beautiful areas of countryside. The places I saw, the people I met and the activities I took part in are what really stand out for me in my memories of Japan. I would recommend a year abroad to anyone who wants to expand their horizons. As a language student, it was a fantastic opportunity to improve my language skills but I also think it helped me mature as a person. Being the foreigner and having to adapt to a different way of doing things is a humbling and enlightening experience. You learn to reassess your own values and opinions and become more accommodating and accepting of other people’s. It’s also great to put on the CV!
It’s a cliché, but languages really do open up your world. I think that people who speak only their native language are restricting their understanding and appreciation of the world they live in. I love being able to chat to foreign students or reading foreign newspapers and getting a different view of things. A double language degree requires a lot of focus, particularly if like me you start one or even both languages from scratch. That said the rewards make it more than worth the effort! I have no regrets about choosing to study two languages and I would encourage anybody who’s committed and enthusiastic about languages to apply too.
I enjoyed my time in Japan so much that I’m determined to go back and work there when I finish my degree at Leeds. I’m currently applying for a role in international relations in Japanese local government. I’m also considering applying for a scholarship to do a Masters at a Japanese university.