Story by Colby Turner | Contributing Writer
Ryuta Yoshikawa, a Japanese exchange student and thrifting extraordinaire, has been publicly chronicling his daily experiences in the United States since he began studying at Middle Tennessee State University in August.
Yoshikawa, 21, is a junior marketing major from Fukuoka, Japan. He exchanged from Seinan Gakuin University, and he knew from the start of his study abroad journey that he wanted to come to the United States. “I was interested in American culture,” he said.
Even though he had over 100 universities to choose from all over the world, he chose MTSU. “In America, I was choosing between five universities,” said Yoshikawa, “I watched YouTube videos about the universities, and the MTSU video was awesome.”
As a student who wishes to one day work in marketing, he knew he had to consider academics as well. “I heard that MTSU’s business school was very famous, and I wanted to learn high-level marketing, so I chose here,” he said.
Yoshikawa created an Instagram account as a diary dedicated to his new experiences in the United States. He has posted every day since Aug. 16, and he even began a segment on his posts where he documents at least one new thing he does every day.
I do ‘Today For The First Time,’ so I try to find something new to do or talk to someone new every day.Ryuta Yoshikawa
He also uses the page to challenge himself to talk about his daily activities in English, which is a big part of why he chose to come to the United States. “I came here to learn how to speak English, so if I don’t speak English, it’s a waste of time,” he said, “So I decided to not hesitate to speak English.”
Writing about his daily life is not the only way he practices his English skills. “I watched American dramas to improve my listening skills, so I’ve watched many dramas,” he said. His current favorite American drama is “Stranger Things.”
Not only does he chronicle his daily life on his Instagram, but also his hobbies and new activities that he does. He recently started skateboarding, and he often posts about his vintage thrifting trips. One of his biggest interests is thrifting and fashion, so he is always looking for new places to thrift.
The cultural differences between Japan and the United States have been shocking. “Culture is totally different here,” said Yoshikawa. Even the smallest differences are surprising to him. “In Japan, we don’t say ‘bless you,’” he said, “I was surprised that people say bless you even during exams. If you do that in Japan, it’s cheating.”
Some cultural differences have been unexpected. “The biggest difference is that in Japanese classes, we don’t discuss anything, we just listen,” he said, “Japanese universities are easy to graduate, we just listen and take exams, so we don’t have much homework.”
Homework is not the only educational difference, though. Deeper differences are noticeable to Yoshikawa as well, like the relationship between students and professors. “I think the mental distance between student and professor is closer in America,” said Yoshikawa, “In Japan, we use ‘keigo,’ so there is a bigger distance.” Keigo is a style of Japanese honorific language that is used when speaking to someone superior, like a teacher or boss.
Overall, Yoshikawa has had a great time in the United States so far, and he is excited to spend more time here with his new friends. “The International Buddy Program was very helpful, my two buddies introduced me to their friends, so it was easy to make new friends thanks to them,” he said. With so many new experiences, it is difficult for him to choose a favorite. “Everything is interesting to me,” he said.
Keep up with Yoshikawa’s daily life and new experiences by following his Instagram!
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