Patrick Carland's ('14) fascination with Japan began at an early age, when he got his first Nintendo Game Boy Color. Over the years, his interests have grown from video game technology into the Japanese language, as well as the country's political, cultural and economic issues.
"For a long time, I've been very interested in both the cultural orientation and recent history of Japan," Carland said. "With its decades-long recession, Japanese media and culture has developed highly fascinating contours and idiosyncrasies not found elsewhere in the world.
"The country occupies a very unique geopolitical position, with its influences from China, America, the West and the indigenous Shinto culture."
Through CET Academic Programs, the English communications major spent the fall 2013 semester studying at Osaka Gakuin University in Osaka Prefecture. He was awarded a Bridging Scholarship by the American Association of Teachers of Japanese (AATJ), with funds contributed by the United States-Japan Bridging Foundation. Carland took three classes-an intensive Japanese language class, which met for three hours a day, five days a week, and courses on Japanese religions and Japanese pop culture.
His language class contained Japanese speakers of various skill levels. Having only taken one or two Japanese courses before his trip, he sometimes found himself needing to catch up.
"I remember one day in class when everyone suddenly began packing up and leaving," Carland said. "I asked another student what was going on and he said, 'We're going to the supermarket. She just said that.' I knew I had work to do."
The students used Osaka as their extended classroom, spending a lot of time outside engaging in real-life activities, such as reading a train map or finding specific items at the grocery store. They also participated in excursions to see some of the country's sights.
Carland recalled a highlight of his semester-a day trip to Mount Hiei, a mountain northeast of Kyoto and the home of Enryaku-ji, the first outpost of the Tendai sect of Buddhism. After taking a bus to the top of the mountain, the class decided to hike back down on foot.
"We walked for a while and then the path started getting narrower and narrower," Carland said. "We knew we'd lost the trail. Our professor was panicked, but the students weren't. We were off the beaten path, walking on a mountain where monks traveled and built temples centuries ago. It was exactly the kind of adventure I was hoping for."
He spent some time at the Port of Kobe and the nearby hot springs; the Ise Grand Shrine in Mie, one of Shinto's holiest sites; and Japan's former capital, Nara, where hundreds of tame deer roam the town and are regarded as sacred, protecting the city. An overnight bus took Carland to Tokyo, where he explored different wards and districts such as Akihabara, Harajuku and Shinjuku.
"Tokyo was amazing," he said. "It's really a world of its own."
Even with all of his traveling, Carland called Osaka home for those months, living in a special housing arrangement provided through CET. He shared a house with six other male students, including three Americans, who were also participating in the program, and three local Japanese students, who are selected by CET. Together, the roommates participate in a semester-long cultural exchange that, above all, honed Carland's Japanese skills through daily conversation with native speakers.
Also in Osaka, Japan's unofficial headquarters for food and comedy due to the prevalence of inexpensive eateries and traditional manzai comedy, Carland "ate a ton of ramen" and became immersed in what he called "a friendly, open-minded and immensely supportive community." The servers at a local café offered him and his roommates free tea and help with their Japanese homework, and Carland became friendly with an elderly barber, with whom he exchanged gifts at the end of his stay.
Carland encourages students to take every opportunity to study abroad as early as they can.
"I only wish I hadn't waited until my senior year to study abroad so that I could go again," Carland said.
Back at Emmanuel for the spring semester, Carland will be furthering his Japanese with a class at Simmons College, working on his senior distinction project about Japan and interning at the North American Coordinating Council on Japanese Library Resources, a Harvard-based organization that collaborates with librarians, faculty and other agencies to strengthen Japanese language collections and promote access to information in many formats.