Xiao Ren reflects on her adventures during the summer school programme in Kyoto:
During the summer of 2015, I was able to spend three weeks of July in Kyoto, Japan as a summer language school student at Kyoto University of Foreign Studies (KUFS), and I’m here to tell my story.
Since I study Japanese as an additional elective at Keele University I was luckily accepted on this program. I and an additional 5 Keele students arrived at Japan on the 4
During these three weeks, we were able to experience a variety of things; meet a diverse group of individual, visited tourist attractions, engaged in their culture and tasted a variety of cuisines. The whole program was made up of 33 students of all ages and ethnicity; it was a privilege to have met them all and share this experience with them. Spending time with people of different cultures allows you to open up your perspectives and look at things in a different light, creating more understanding and appreciation for your surrounding and experiences.
On top of our daily classes, KUFS also organised trips to Kyoto’s hot spots and activities to engage ourselves in the Japanese culture. These included:
Nara, filled with traditional architecture including Todai-ji temple and Kofuku-ji temple. It is mostly famous for their deer parks, where herds of deer are permitted to roam freely. You are allowed to touch and feed the deer, but you have to careful as they are not shy from humans.
Arashiyama, it is located on the outskirts of Kyoto and is filled with natural beauties. We were able to ride a boat along Oi River; it was really a tremendous sight. We came across fishermen, other tourist and were also approached by a food ‘stall’ boat selling freshly made squid and dangos! Afterwards, we entered the shadows of the bamboo forest and climbed up a several hills to see the monkey parks, the moneys was as equally as outgoing as Nara’s Deer.
On top of these trips we students also travelled around Kyoto during our spare time. Kyoto is filled with traditional sites. From visiting traditional landmarks all the way to modern hotspots. The Golden pavilion, a Buddhist temple made out of pure gold. Fushimi-inari shrine, a shrine created to honour the god of rice and sake, and also the proud owner of 10,000 red tori gates leading up a mountain path, it honestly is a breath taking sight. Gion, a shopping district to visit if you fancy a bit of geisha spotting. The Manga museum, rooms stacked high with mangas from the start of its existence till now. You are able to see shrines dotted around Kyoto; between store on the high streets or just in the general area of residence. It is amazing to see they take pride and fully embrace in their culture as you can see it everywhere!
I felt extremely privileged being able to learn Japanese in its country of origin. It did not only force me to practice the language on a daily basis but also enable me to understand how formality and body language is used in context. It dawns on me how much we take advantage of the fact that English is a universal language and turn blind to the wonders of what other languages have to offer.
Language is not just another form of communication; it’s another way of life. Each language has its unique foundation built from years of history and beliefs. For example, in Japanese there are different levels of formality. The words you use change drastically depending on the receiving party, displaying their value of the hierarchy amongst citizens.
Overall this trip was fantastic and I would fully recommend it to future students! Japan is a truly beautiful country which I will defiantly return to in the future! Thank you Keele for giving me this spectacular adventure!