Living & Learning: Japanese students overseas / Bisous (kisses) from Paris

Courtesy of Momoko Nakayama
Momoko Nakayama, center, on a school trip with her friends to Marseille, France

By Momoko Nakayama (New York University Paris) / Special to The Japan News This column features reports by Japanese students currently studying overseas on their lives on and off campus.

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“D’ou viens-tu?” When people ask me, “Where are you from?” I respond, “I’m on a study abroad-abroad.”

Born in Osaka, raised in the United States for two-thirds of my life, and now spending my junior year in Paris, I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to take full advantage of the study abroad program New York University offers at 14 different campuses that span the globe — one of the deciding factors that led me to NYU.

Before coming to Paris, I embraced the premise that studying abroad was all about rediscovering myself, changing and perhaps even becoming someone new. As an embodiment of Western philosophy, Paris seemed like an ideal place for me to pursue my Global Liberal Studies major, where I could integrate what I’ve been learning in New York for the past two years — politics, international human rights law and philosophy — into the European perspective, a different twist. After a year, I wanted to depart from Charles de Gaulle speaking fluent French, with a new mind-set and a vastly different understanding of the world. Basically a matured, cultivated me. The past four months have been exquisite. NYU Paris’ affiliations with Sciences Po and Universite Paris 1 Pantheon-Sorbonne have completely demolished the concrete perception I previously had of notions of national identity. The heated conversations I have with my Moroccan and Greek dorm neighbors on French Republicanism and laicite (secularism) are so stimulating they often leave me in awe at 3 a.m. I love the close proximity Europe offers, allowing me to hop over to different countries, languages and cultures by train for the weekend.

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While my aspiration to become more eclectic continues to grow, I’ve realized that studying abroad isn’t about redesigning my life into something it isn’t. I know that one year isn’t long enough to squeeze every last drop out of la ville lumiere, the City of Lights. My Japanese-accented French makes me distinctly foreign. I’m still uncomfortable with the French greeting accompanied by bisou-bisou, kisses the French love to impart, even to strangers. But I’ve come to understand that studying abroad doesn’t have to be a complete assimilation, it can be a comfortable disorientation. Also, I know that I still have a whole semester left, so I’m looking forward to whatever Paris has in store for me.

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New York University Paris

New York University Paris is a Paris-based academic center of New York University, one of the largest private universities in the United States. Courses at NYU Paris are offered in French and English.

In partnership with Ryugaku Fellowship


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