Konnichiwa, Japan!

October, 2004

PSU student Dan Moler spends a year at Tokyo International University

by Sabrina Blanco ’04

Dan Moler (standing) with his host family and an American friend during his internship at Toyko International University last academic year. Photo courtesy of Dan Moler.

Dan Moler (standing) with his host family and an American friend during his internship at Toyko International University last academic year. Photo courtesy of Dan Moler.

In August 2002, Dan Moler, a Plymouth State history major, landed in Kawagoe, Japan, for an internship at Tokyo International University.

Moler was one of only 25 college students from around the world accepted to the Japanese studies program, attending TIU and studying the Japanese language.

Founded in 1965, Tokyo International University is composed of five schools with approximately 7,000 students divided between four campuses. Two campuses are located in Kawagoe City (35 minutes by train from Tokyo), within walking distance of each other. Moler says, “The campus is fairly small, with very tall buildings—there was a lot of state-of-the-art equipment available to us. We also had access to many activities off campus because we could take the train anywhere in Tokyo.” The university hosts a wide range of workshops and internship programs open to students who wish to study abroad.

“I had no idea what I was getting into. To come from a small town in Maine (where I lived my whole life) and then to go to Tokyo where there are 12 million plus people was a huge change,” says Moler. “I knew two words in Japanese: ‘konnichiwa’ and ‘sayonara’—that means ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye.’ When I was finished, I had mastered three years of Japanese language study in just one semester.”

The Japanese studies program focuses on three elements: the acquisition of Japanese language proficiency both in and out of the classroom; an understanding of historical, social, political, economic and cultural aspects of Japan through course work and field trips; and an active intercultural exchange through firsthand experiences with faculty, students, host families and others in the local community.

While in Tokyo, Moler studied Japanese three hours a day, four days a week, along with two afternoon courses in Japanese post-war history and the anthropology of Japan. Moler says, “Everything was spoken in Japanese, and in Japan you have the same classes every day. Each class is three hours long, and classes take place six days a week.”

Moler lived with a host family while attending school. “They became like my second family. Every Sunday I would get up early to play tennis with my host father. On those days I was required to join him for dinner—it is a huge event to go to dinner in Japan. My host father would order huge amounts of food and the traditional sake drink. I was treated like a son.” At one of these dinners, Moler had the opportunity to taste fugu (blowfish), a delicacy in Japan also said to cause death in one of every 90 people who eat the poisonous fish. “It was delicious, but a lot of Japanese people won’t even eat it because they’re afraid to,” says Moler.

While at the university, Moler played on the soccer team and participated in “Happyokai,” a recital in which students display certain talents on stage. At one Happyokai, Moler dressed in a traditional kimono and told Japanese stories to the audience.

“We spent a lot of time exploring the city. We once met up with students from the biggest foreign exchange in Japan to tour Osaka,” Moler says. “I usually completed about 250 pages of reading for each class, every week. But even though the work was demanding, there was never any stress. The people are so nice there, and there is no concept of stress for the Japanese students.”

At the end of fall semester 2002, Dan Moler left for home, saying goodbye to his colleagues and friends in Japan. He says, “When I returned home I missed Japan so much that I decided to go back for another semester.”

When he returned to Plymouth State for the 2003-2004 school year, Moler says, “I was able to share my experience with alumni by taking part in the calling program for alumni relations. The alumni are fascinated with the stories I share from the trip, and I like telling them about it. The calling program funds provided $1,000 for my trip to Japan, so I feel like this is a way for me to give back.”

Reflecting on his experience, Moler says, “The trip was everything and more. I didn’t have a plan before I went to Japan—I was just studying history and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Now, there is nothing else I want to do.” Moler is currently applying to graduate schools; he intends to pursue a master’s degree in international relations. “I would really like to work as some kind of consultant for a company based in Japan—as long as I’m connected to Japan in some way.”

Sabrina Blanco is a senior communication major at PSU with minors in anthropology/sociology and expository writing. She serves as publicity intern in the PSU public relations office, and participates in numerous campus and community groups. Blanco has been listed in Who’s Who Among Students in American Colleges and Universities and honored with many scholarships and awards. In October 2003, she was elected Homecoming Queen.


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