Regarding the May 20 editorial, “Don’t be shy about study abroad“: I am a Norwegian with the good fortune to have made friends with many Japanese foreign students while studying at the Grieg Academy in Bergen, Norway. We have had many students from Tokyo and Sapporo as one-year exchange students. Some have even taken a two-year master’s degree at our academy after their year of exchange was finished.
While Japan may be receiving many more foreign students than it is sending abroad, at our academy Japanese have come to Bergen, but no one is going the other way. This might be because classical music is seen as a European thing, even though it is just as much a part of contemporary Japanese cultural life as Norwegian.
The editorial said Japanese students learn about foreign cultures as well as their own by going abroad. I agree. My own exchange to Sweden (even though it is very much the same as Norway in most aspects of culture) has taught me that it is much easier to understand one’s own culture when you see it from a distance. My Japanese friends have taught me a little bit about Japanese food, drinks, kimonos, holidays, religious beliefs, attitudes and language.
In light of articles about the lack of proper education in world history in Japanese high schools, I can add that when I talked with my Japanese friends about World War II, I knew more about Japan’s colonial rule of Korea, Manchukuo and later wartime activities in East Asia and the Pacific than they did. I found this surprising.
The best part of student exchange is not just to learn new things about culture and get new perspectives on academic subjects from teachers with different backgrounds, but to make new friends and experience new places with them.
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