The Japanese Jumble

Here’s the story of my most embarrassing moment in Sweden so far (I’m sure they’ll be many more to come).

I was excited as hell for my Japanese course to begin. I have always had a soft spot for the language and I couldn’t wait to get back to learning it again. A webcam and microphone in place, I logged on to the Connect portal (Japanese at DU is entirely online) fifteen minutes before class. Yes, I’m the Monica Geller of a Japanese lecture (remember when she went with Phoebe for literature classes?).

I waited as everyone logged in one by one. Soon, with a unanimous ‘Konnichiwa!’, class began and that was the only word I understood throughout the lecture. The class was much more advanced than what I’d anticipated and I swear – I now know exactly what writers mean when they use the phase ‘all the blood drained from my face’. It’s quite a mortifying feeling, especially when your husband is next to you and has tears in his eyes from trying to not burst out laughing.

It was impossible for me to keep up with the steady stream of Japanese that was shooting out of everyone’s mouth and I quickly realized that I had bitten off much more than I could chew. My thoughts jumped from an embarrassing i-dont-understand-a-word, to a terrifying omigod-i-wasted-a-course, to a melodramatic my-life-is-over-i-wish-i-could-be-sucked-into-the-face-of-the-earth.

Luckily, it took me only five minutes to see the humor of my situation and before I knew it, I’d muted my mic and was laughing my head off. Which brings me to the point of this rant (aka blog) that things are bound to go a bit haywire when you come into a new country, a new culture. You’re out of your comfort zone and there will be times when you just don’t know what to do.What’s important though, is that you step back, take a deep breath, and understand that any problem has a solution. All you have to do, is ask!

I quickly emailed my professor (after emailing Michael, of course – I think he has the equivalent of an Elder Wand, he makes problems go away with a swish). The Head of Department for Japanese and my professor understood my situation and more than willingly helped me figure out what I wanted to do. I informed the university of my decision to drop the advanced class and took up a lower level, more in keeping with my prior knowledge of Japanese. In my homeland this wouldn’t have been an easy process at all and so I was pleasantly surprised to see how supportive DU was in making this a comfortable decision for me.

Thus came another lesson for life in Sweden – there will be many things here done differently here and there will be times when I feel like a fish out of water.

But the thing to remember is –  don’t ever be afraid to just ask for help!

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