Awarded to an undergraduate who achieves proficiency in a foreign language, cultural understanding and enthusiasm for foreign language learning
First place: Lisa Nakano ’08, brain and cognitive sciences, Sunnyvale, Calif.
Second place: Vladimir Mirkin ’08, chemical engineering, Brookline, Mass.
Second place: Roxana Safipour ’09, earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences, Saratoga, Calif.
Below is Lisa Nakano’s report back from her trip to Japan.
On a trip to Hokkaido, I bought nine boxes of caramel – each a different flavor. After all, Hokkaido is known for its milk products. I was a little doubtful about the corn flavored caramel, but I thought I should at least give it a try. Over the course of three weeks, I opened one box at a time and shared each with my coworkers. As it turned out, corn caramel tasted pretty good, lavender flavor wasn’t so great, and beer flavor was downright awful.
Coming to Japan has been like those boxes of caramel. I didn’t enjoy every box of caramel, but after it was over, I was glad I tried them all. Every moment here is not necessarily enjoyable, but by experiencing new things I have learned more about Japan. In fact, trying things that I would normally avoid has lead me to some pleasant surprises.
One particular Saturday night, I was out in Tokyo with my friend. We weren’t doing anything special, just walking around outside admiring the buildings and lights. When we stopped to check the time, it was 11:35 PM. Whoops. Our last train left at 11:30 PM.
My friend started freaking out. People stranded after the last train can usually find a manga cafe to spend the night, so we began looking for one. The streets filled with people staggering out of bars and clubs, trying to make their last train. People were drunk, doubled over and vomiting in the streets. Some were sprawled out, asleep on the sidewalks. Others were peeing in gutters. Two were being arrested. The scene made me sick.
The inside the manga cafe was a safe haven compared to ouside. It was smokey but clean – definitely clean. We got a booth equipped with internet and TV. We watched a movie, made an unsuccessfully attempt at tackling the manga shelves, and settled in until the trains started running again. One of the best parts was the free drinks. We’d like to think we drank $13 worth of coffee, tea, and juice that night.
Although the night started out unfavorably, it turned out to be a good experience. I was glad I had the opportunity to spend the night at a manga cafe, and found that manga cafes are definitely someplace I’d stay again – even without the pretense of missing the last train.
My point is that we never know if we’ll like something until we try it. In fact, trying new things either accidently or purposely can have surprising rewards. Whether it’s missing the last train or eating corn flavored caramel, I would not have learned as much about Japan if I had always been playing it safe.