Guest Post by Toma Kusakawa
Submitted as part of the 2010 Crossing Borders Writing Competition
Evolution from My Immaturity
Eleven months have passed since I came to the United States of America from Japan. During this seemingly short period, I have learned so much about myself and also noticed a great deal of difference among nations. In addition, I discovered the pleasure of studying languages and interacting with people who have different backgrounds from mine. I never expected that my life in this nation would be as splendid as it has been so far. I never expected that I would gain such a sense of maturity.
Before I came to America, I was far from being a good student in school. I hated studying, I did not do my school work seriously, and I just graduated from my university without any accomplishment. I had never had a dream. Moreover, at my university I did not even look for a job, which almost all the Japanese college students do at their universities. This was because my parents had encourage me to study abroad in order to earn a master’s degree in the United States after graduation. I had already decided to do that because I thought it would be pleasant, since I was interested only in English and I could also escape from working.
I set a goal of studying Teaching English as a Second Language in graduate school in the U.S. because it was a program in which my father earned his master’s degree and in which I was interested. In addition, I expected that improving my English and obtaining a degree in the program would be easy. However, after I spent some time in the U.S., my views of the world evolved. Everything was different from Japanese culture, for example, what people usually ate, how they behaved themselves, and especially how they managed their time. By observing people working on their school work, I discovered that graduating from college in America is extremely difficult, unlike graduating from my college in Japan. Furthermore, I realized how naïve and immature I was, and how weak my English actually was, especially my speaking and listening abilities, even though I had been learning English for more than 10 years in my mother country. I seriously regretted that I had not studied diligently in school; therefore, I resolved to begin studying English in earnest to attain something in my life for myself.
After making this resolution, I entered the English Language Training Institute at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in order to better prepare myself for graduate school. It was actually a big challenge for me after discovering my immaturity. At the beginning, I was really stressed and frustrated about studying and living in a different country every day, because of my naïveté and the weaknesses in my English. However, I managed to overcome the situation and my English gradually improved due to my determination and the help of my teachers and ELTI staff. When I had trouble with my English, my teachers talked with my any time and gave me marvelous advice and encouragement. Likewise, the ELTI staff helped me with the necessities of daily life outside of school, such as obtaining a driver’s license or leasing an apartment. This assistance reduced my stress and frustration. My life became comfortable with their help. I learned that human beings cannot live alone.
More importantly, through the school, I could meet a lot of international people and make a lot of precious friends from a variety of countries: Saudi Arabia and Turkey for instance, which I had never known about. It undoubtedly enlightened me about other countries and cultures. I discovered how interesting learning other cultures is and became much more interested in international people or other countries than I was before. At the same time, I came to realize that I enjoyed studying and living in the U.S. I became assured that coming to the U.S. had been a wonderful decision.
As the number of my American friends as well as international friends increased, my life became more pleasant. My English language has improved greatly thanks to their help and I also learned more about diverse cultures, such as sharing an apartment with friends, which is unusual in my country. Most importantly, although I had never considered being a teacher in my life, while I was studying with international people at ELTI and observing the teachers teaching us English as a second language, I began thinking that I seriously wanted to be a teacher like them in my country, and teach children practical English. I finally acquired a reason to aim to study in graduate school. This experience allowed me to have a dream to chase for the first time in my life.
Thus far with my life in the U.S., I have had many valuable experiences that I would never have had in Japan. Everything I see or hear is fresh and pleasant for me. If I had not come to this country, I would never have had a dream nor would I have known about America or other foreign countries, people, and cultures. This experience has changed my point of view in a remarkable way; I am taking away with me my dream and evolving maturity. Even if I am not accepted to graduate school in the future and have to go back to my country, I will never think that I wasted time or money. I have had a priceless and fruitful experience that will be very useful in my future endeavors. I would like to thank my father, mother, my family and all of the people who have taken care of me and helped me improve my English language. I am truly looking forward to experiencing new facets throughout the rest of my life in America.