MU
Oak Leaves

April 21, 2017

Japan Letters 2


Letter From Japan


Haylee Parrish
Guest Writer 

It has been two weeks since I left the United States on my first out-of-country experience to study abroad for my spring semester at Hokusei Gakuen University, a sister school of Manchester University's in Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. Over the course of this time, I have become acquainted with several staff members and students of the university, settled into my classes and daily commuting routine, and had the opportunity to explore a handful of the city's sights. Although I have only been here for a short time, I hope that by sharing my experiences with the MU community, I can raise awareness about Hokusei's study abroad program, the city of Sapporo, and the benefits of studying abroad.

My first week in Sapporo, the other new “ryuugakusei,” or international students, and I were given a tour of the campus by the continuing students and Japanese students. This included visits to the building we would attend our classes in, the gym, the library and the international center, the latter of which features the international office, international lounge and my personal favorite, North Star Café Sarah, an international cafe where students can order hot food and beverages, including sandwiches, pasta, cocoa, coffee and more. It offers a positive environment for students to relax, eat, socialize and study.
 
However, what makes the café even more appealing is that it hosts International Times, where student workers host the café in their own native languages and students order using a piece of paper prepared with phrases in that language. It is a fun and creative way to get students exchanging language and learning more about their peers in the process.

Outside of the university, traveling around the city has been a huge learning experience for me, having lived in smaller towns and cities my entire life. Coming from rural Indiana to Sapporo, Japan, what struck me the most was just how alive and fast-paced it is. Trains and buses arrive to the minute. Waiting in the station for a bus to arrive, someone always rushes past who just barely manages to board before the doors snap shut and it departs.
 
Passing through Odori, the central part of the city where the Tozai, Namboku, and Toho subway lines intersect and countless shopping centers rise off the map, one can find swarms of people filtering through the streets and standing on corners, waiting for the light to turn green to be able to cross. Visiting a bustling open-air mall, small shops sell foods such as crepes and savory “takoyaki,” or octopus dumplings, to those passing through.
 
In the square in front of the TV tower, the occasional performer will entertain those who happened to drop by, such as when I had the fortune of watching a group of students performing all sorts of incredible jumps and flips to American pop music.

And if Odori is to be considered the heart of Sapporo, then the subway tunnels underneath the city, just as lively as its surface, could be considered the veins though which the people move through the vast city system. Having never particularly relied on public transportation before, I feel a rush of excitement whenever I walk down a set of stairs to get to the station and receive a huge blast of cool air whipping my hair around as I prepare to approach the ticket gate, or when the train takes off, dragging my body to the side, and declares the station it is bound for.
 
Sapporo’s underground network also offers several shops and kiosks similar to those on the surface, some for convenience shopping, and some for those willing to pay more for fashionable clothing, accessories, or pop culture merchandise.

Whether at restaurants, hobby shops, or local landmarks, the city is home to many unique places for students to explore.

Until next time, “mata ne!”