Posted by: viaprograms | January 31, 2011

Post-program travels Continue

Stanford Sophomore Jessica Ward served as a coordinator for VIA’s American Language and Culture (ALC) Program. In summer 2010, she spent five weeks sharing American culture with her peers from Japan, Korea and Taiwan.  In December, she traveled to Tokyo, Yokohama, Kamakura, Osaka, and Kyoto where she reconnected with her ALC  friends. It was her first time in Japan, first time in the continent of Asia, and her first time traveling alone.  Learn about how she fell in love with the real Japan on her 10-day trip.

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What new food was your favorite?

Ramen!!! I could eat ramen forever. We went to the Ramen museum in Yokohama for my last dinner in Japan, which was a perfect ending to my food tour of Japan.

What did you do?

Over the ten days I met most of the Japanese ALC1 2010 alumni. We went to both tourist places and hidden neighborhoods in Toyko and also to nearby Kamakura, which was the Japanese capitol from 1192-1333. It was interesting to see the contradiction between the super urban atmosphere that is Toyko and the rural areas of Japan from the window of the Shinkansen (bullet train). Kyoto had amazing historical temples and palaces. Though seeing all of the places was cool, I think the things I enjoyed the most was just hanging out with people and, of course, eating.

Was seeing your ALC friends in their home country different than hanging out at Stanford?

It was interesting to have the tables turned on you. At Stanford, I was the one who knew where we were going (or at least pretended to) and I was the one most comfortable. In Japan, I was more or less completly helpless without my “Japan Coordinators” who had everything planned out for me. It was also interesting to see people in their “normal” lives.
Did having friends in the country made your experience different from just a tourist visit?

My trip was so much more than a tourist experience- I got to stay at alumnus Masaya Okamoto’s house with his family, which was one of the highlights of the trip. I also got to go to a class (and a cafeteria!) at Doshisha University with alumna Shiori Saika. Everyone share their thoughts on what  the “real Japan” was – something that just wouldn’t be possible without local friends.

I am incredibly grateful for the amount of time people spent hanging out with me and showing me around, and also for letting me stay at their houses. Everyone took care of me from the moment I arrived at the airport to the moment I walked through airport security for my flight home (especially alumnus Motoaki Matsuura!).
Anything else you’d like to add? I ❤ Japan!!!! (I heart Japan.)

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