By: Caitlin Kirby
The Japanese Language House, without a doubt, has been one of the most rewarding experiences during my time at Furman. It has surrounded me with a community of individuals that care deeply about Japanese culture and has fostered moments of educational discussion and language immersion that I could not have gained through a classroom setting. As one of the engaged living opportunities here on Furman’s campus, language houses are something I recommend to everyone, especially those interested in diving deeper into a culture outside of their own. While I can only speak to my experiences in the Japanese language house, other ones exist for other languages such as Spanish, French, and Chinese. My time in the language house has fully shaped my experiences at Furman and has given me the opportunity to meet some of my best friends.
Engaged living is something unique to Furman as it gives students an opportunity to reside in a place that also works to promote their education. For language houses in particular, this is done through a Language House Assistant who lives with the students and helps plan cultural events throughout the year. Further, the Language House Assistant comes to Furman as an international student, allowing students like myself the opportunity to learn and speak with a native speaker. Community is developed as you become roommates and neighbors with the people taking the same language courses as you. The community transfers both inside and outside the classroom and often I found my friends and I meeting up outside the apartments before we all would walk together to our Japanese class. Living with other students creates a built-in study group as well. Some of my favorite memories during my time in the language house have been the late night study sessions in my living room as ten Japanese students tried to figure out the grammar patterns for our test the next day.
Besides community, the language house engaged living option also allowed me to immerse myself into the culture of Japan. While we often had unplanned events almost every week (a result of an overactive and meme filled group chat), the Language House Assistant worked alongside us to develop activities that celebrated the culture of Japan. One of my favorite events we held yearly was Hanami, a Japanese celebration of the beauty of flowers. This is a centuries old Japanese tradition of viewing the cherry blossoms at the beginning of spring and we celebrated our own version of it on Furman’s campus. Underneath the cherry blossom trees outside the art building, we set up picnic blankets and invited Japanese language students to join us as we played games and ate traditional Japanese food under the cherry blossoms, similarly to what people in Japan do to celebrate. It was a really fun time to just relax and get to know some of the exchange students from Japan that I hadn’t met yet while also practicing my Japanese with them.
The Japanese language house has forever shaped my time here and is the one thing that will stand out as I think back on Furman in the future. The experiences I had there, the friendships I formed, and the things I learned were crucial in encouraging me to continue my education in Japanese when I found it difficult. This group of Furman and international students brought about diversity into my life in both thought and culture. This experience has molded me to be not only more knowledgeable of Japan but also of the world outside of a college in the southeast. If you ever find yourself passionate about a culture or language, I encourage you to look into the language houses here at Furman. If your experience is anything like mine, it will be absolutely life changing.