Foreign language minors expect ‘interesting’ semester in Japan this Spring

Melissa Dunson

Three Missouri Southern students are receiving the chance of a lifetime.

Richard Lazarus, Jeff Tilton and Daniel Rogers will soon find themselves in the land of chopsticks and sushi as they travel to Japan this spring to study.

The students are traveling with Southern’s bilateral exchange program that enables universities to swap students. Each year Southern sends several students to Sweden, South America, Chile, Japan and South Korea while allowing an equal number of students from those countries to study here.

Stephanie Goad, international student adviser and exchange coordinator, has been involved in the upcoming trips.

“I think this is a great experience; there is no better way to learn a language than immersion,” she said. “A lot of people will only have book Japanese, but these students will be far more proficient.”

Lazarus, a senior computer science major with a minor in Japanese, is originally from Indonesia and spent three years studying in New Zealand before coming to Southern. His interest in the Japanese language began at an early age by watching Japanese cartoons that resemble the modern cartoon “Dragonball Z.”

“Watching things in Japanese with English subtitles made me interested in learning the language and knowing more about their culture,” he said. “I watch a lot of Japanese movies now, and I wonder if it will be exactly the same when I go or if they made up things.”

He has been studying the Japanese language for a year and a half.

Tilton, junior international studies major with a minor in Japanese, and Lazarus will both fly to Japan at the end of March to attend Ryukoku University.

The Japanese semester begins in April and goes through August.

The students will be without a Southern instructor or translator to guide them once they arrive in Japan. They will be taking classes in Japanese language, culture, technology and history taught strictly in Japanese.

“It will be interesting, but a challenge,” Lazarus said. “I’m a little bit scared, but mostly excited.”

The trip offers a change of scenery, a chance to make new friends and a better environment to learn the language, but the students say they will miss some of the American staples like Wal-Mart.

Unlike Lazarus, who will be spending one semester studying in Japan, Tilton will be in Japan from April until January 2004.

Tilton is a traveler by nature and spent a week in China after his senior year of high school.

He is still applying for student study abroad grants to provide the money for an airplane ticket, but said he is determined to go to Japan.

“If I have to hang on to the wheel of a 747, I’m going,” Tilton said.

He has studied Japanese for a year and a half and looks forward to becoming more proficient in the language.

“My Japanese is very limited right now,” Tilton said. “Mostly what I know how to do is order food in a restaurant, ask for directions and get my face slapped by pretty girls on the street.”

Tilton started out at Southern as a computer and information systems major with a minor in Japanese, but switched to international studies because it better fit his goals.

“I figured if I was going to be in the technology field, sooner or later I was going to end up working for the Japanese,” he said.

Tilton hopes to become more fluent in spoken and written Japanese as a result of the trip. Both Lazarus and Tilton said they look forward to the authentic food during the trip.

“I love Japanese food,” Tilton said. “I can cook Chinese food pretty well, but as far as Japanese, my sushi still comes out horrible.”

The trip helps complete a childhood dream of Tilton’s to visit Japan. He is a student of Aikido, a nonviolent form of martial arts for self-defense, and has long been fascinated by Japanese culture.

“When all of my other friends were watching ‘Ninja Turtles,’ I was watching the Seventh Samurai, go figure,” he said.

A third student traveling to Japan this spring, Daniel Rogers, junior history major with a minor in Japanese, left for his study abroad program earlier this week.

He will be attending the university at Kansai Gai Dai where the semester begins in February.

All of the students were grateful for the chance to study abroad with the College.

“No other school in this part of the country offers the same opportunities for a student to be able to expand their horizons and see the world,” Tilton said.