Gwendolyn G. DeRosa
Mei Fujiu is an international student from Tokyo, Japan. She began her studies at Ohio Dominican University in the MA in TESOL program this fall and she is currently an active member of the TESOL GSO. Mei studied Intercultural Communication for her undergrad degree and she studied abroad in St. Joseph, Minnesota in 2010. Recently, I spoke to Mei about her experience studying abroad.
Mei stayed for about a week with a homestay family. She enjoyed staying with an American family, but Mei said she had difficulty getting things from the refrigerator without asking. In fact, she always asked first.
Mei also stayed in the dorm and she liked her roommate. Life in St. Joseph was much different from life in Tokyo, Japan. For one thing, it was much quieter. “Especially walking around campus at night. It was too quiet for me,” said Mei. It was also much, much darker. The amount of snow accumulation was also something that Mei wasn’t used to. “We have snow in Tokyo, but it doesn’t stay.”
One of the most challenging aspects of communication in the U.S. is the common greetings and salutations because of the lack of real meaning. When an American says, “How’re you doing?” they mean “Hi!” They do not actually want you to answer the question. Also, a common salutation, especially among college students is “We’ll hang out soon.” But this does not actually mean that you will spend time with this person soon. This was confusing for Mei.
One of the most difficult aspects of learning English for Mei is the pronunciation. This is because “I had only learned English grammar in my schools in Japan. It is very difficult to learn speaking because the class style in Japan is mostly lecture, and there are not many materials to practice speaking.” Mei said that she had two choices: “Either I should make English speaking friends or I have to go to an English conversation school which costs tons of money. In Japan, we learned English at least for 6 years (junior high-high school), but most Japanese cannot speak English at all because all we learn is English grammar for exams.”
Mei enjoys English because it can help her when she’s traveling around the world. “I like traveling and if I can speak English, I can interact with people from all over the world while I’m traveling. It is really fun to hang out with people from different countries. Also when I was in Japan, I helped and took care of many international students. I was very happy that I could get to know them because I knew English.”
Mei wants to teach English because she knows how hard it is and she wants to help international students. She also believes that it’s very important to teach American culture, such as lifestyle, holidays, and relationships, in American English language classes.