Jonathan is majoring in Computer Science at UCSD’s Eleanor Roosevelt College, with a probable second major in Japanese Studies. He feels that his year in Japan will have a great influence on his future. He is aiming for a career in computer graphics and animation, artificial intelligence and sound manipulation.
Jonathan has visited Japan before, and lived in Taiwan for a year. He expected living in Japan to be a challenge, as it was when he first arrived. “Eventually I started getting the hang of these things [trains, restaurants, stores], and started worrying about administrative issues – getting my alien registration, health certificate, how to pay bills…. I have pulled through the first hurdle…” he wrote in mid-September.
At Osaka University, Jonathan will spend most of his time at the Suita campus (living in the Foreign Student House) where the engineering courses are taught. He will be continuing his study of Japanese and he is paired up with a faculty member for a research project involving virtual reality. As for other courses, Jonathan describes a situation very different from that found in U.S. universities:
I cannot say for certain which classes I’m taking. In Japan a student can enter a class at any time, because entering a class requires no more or less than the professor’s permission. So one can theoretically enter a class the day before finals and pass. What this means, however, is that I will have to attend classes I’m thinking of taking before I can decide which ones to attend to the end of the semester, and which professors to speak to for their permission.
The daily routine of a student at any level is often the opposite of that of a student in the United States. Classes grow up together in middle and high school, rigorous testing determines the high school and college a Japanese student attends. The easy-going academic standards of an American high school student are nowhere to be found in Japanese equivalents. On the other hand, while it is extremely difficult to test into a first-rate university, once in, the tables turn, and Japanese college students study perhaps a third as much as American college students do.
Finally, Jonathan writes:
My interest in Japan is based on a mixture of its history, its modern media, and both old and modern culture. Japan is in many ways what American cities are not – it is compact, homogenized, commercialized to the point of being systematized, and there exist standards of politeness, quality, and customs that are unmatched in any other place I have visited. I wanted to come to Japan to be in the middle of a culture which puts so much emphasis on the new, the next, and innovation. I wanted to meet the caliber of people who manage to survive the trying process of becoming a student at a prestigious Japanese university. Most of all, I wanted to be in a world where when I wake up every morning I can expect something new to be seen and learned. Everything is different here, and I love it that way.