Over this past spring break, a group of St. Edward’s students traveled to Japan for the week to learn about the culture and how it affects the Japanese economy and it’s business engagements. While they were there, they were paired with a Japanese buddy from Asia Pacific University that would help translate Japanese to English and show them around the city of Beppu throughout the week. Here is a reflection by Mitsuhiro Suemori, one of the many wonderful APU buddies that participated in the program.
“I had lots of experiences last week, my facts could not match sometimes and the experiences were better than my expectations. Everything was very fresh and amazing, even though I have been living here [Beppu] for a long time. The BIJ program gave me an enormous opportunity to grow.
Before the start of the week, I had thought about my own culture and what hospitality is. These two topics were main points for me. Also, I had been thinking how to improve my skills, like self-discovery, empowerment, originality and active use of foreign language. In particular, I want to talk about hospitality and own my culture in this time.
In the light of my experience, I can say that our feelings go through three big processes when we go to different country or places. A feeling imagined by your mind, those are expectations. I thought I had to give good expectations to SEU students before they come to Japan, because it is very much related to the experience. That’s why I contacted SEU students many times before the trip, to know about them and introduce them to Japanese food, sightseeing areas, climate and people. Sometimes SEU students did not reply to my messages, so I could not prepare for the first stage of hospitality. In addition, I actually went to tourist places and tried befriending American people. My hospitality process started at this point.
After they came to Japan, I had to try my best to make them happy, otherwise they would be disappointed when they compare their first expectation to real experience. I thought a lot about it. I always had a smile for them. If their experience was good and satisfied their expectations, then the good feelings would come naturally. I learned these things through the BIJ.
Now, about own my culture. Before the start of this program, I never thought about my own culture carefully. I never wondered about Japanese food, people, culture and environment, because I do not usually explain each thing to foreigners. However, I had to think about it in this program, so I always tried seeing it from another point of view, as if I was American. Like how American people would see something in Japan and what they would think and feel about it. Before SEU students came to Japan, I asked for myself many times, ‘what is this and why?’. This was very important because when I reflected on this program, it gave me big growth and change. When I think about Japan now, I noticed how much I love Japan and how much Japan and Japanese people have beautiful heart. I had never noticed Japan in that light, so it was good opportunity to see Japan again. If I can learn and teach about my own culture to foreigners, that would be best way to have strong relationship between foreign people and me. It becomes a win-win for us.
In conclusion, this program was not just about getting along with SEU students, making memories, and improving English. I learned a lot about hospitality and own my culture deeply. I believe the experience will definitely be connected to my future career.
So, what was the best memory for us? I think the best memory is the memory we can reminisce repeatedly. Let me introduce my fun and precious memory with SEU students. I have quite a few stories.
When we went to Sushi restaurant, my group of SEU students had never tried eating Sushi and other Japanese food like chawan-mushi (a custard-like dish containing shrimp, chicken, mushrooms, vegetables steamed in a cup). Before they eat sushi, they said ‘I am super scared to eat sushi’. I never heard this word and did not expect it. I had always thought sushi was very famous, with not only Japanese people, but with people all over the world. I was very surprised at hearing this and I could not stop laughing. After a few minutes, they ate sushi little by little. Sometimes they said ‘this is good,’ and sometimes they said ‘this is awful and I cannot eat any more.’ At the same time, their facial expression was very funny. We had the funniest experience even though we just ate sushi. Because of our cultural differences and backgrounds, we can make memories like that.
Next story is about the calligraphy class. I had never done calligraphy with American people. The calligraphy is very familiar to Japanese but it is uncommon for American people to do it. It was a very fun time to teach calligraphy to them. They tried writing down some Japanese kanji but it looked very difficult, so I wanted to help them. However, teaching calligraphy was more difficult than I expected. I was very happy to observe SEU students who enjoyed doing calligraphy. In the end of class, I made a mistake. When a student asked me the kanji for boyfriend, I taught her the wrong kanji. The meaning of the wrong kanji was his children, but she did not know about it in the moment. Moreover, I did not notice the mistake myself. When another Japanese buddy saw the kanji, she said it was not right. I felt so sorry but it was also a very funny memory.
I have decided to work in the United States instead of doing job hunting in Japan. While I spent whole week with SEU students, I thought about my future job all the time. SEU students and this program encouraged me to do it. I believe that every moment we spent together will be connected to my future. Thank you to all the SEU students and APU buddies and professors. I sincerely appreciate this opportunity.”
Thank you so much, Mitchy, for dedicating your time to this program and for helping other students take on their world!