For my CIP activity, I participated in Kyoto International Club Klexon, a conversational club where English speakers come to speak with Japanese participants who would like to practice their English. The club met once almost every week from 7 to 9 PM at the Wings Kyoto Center. The two hours were split into parts; for the first one, I usually got a new partner every ten minutes in a way similar to speed dating, where I talked with them about anything ranging from our daily lives to our opinions on recent political developments. For the second hour, several Japanese participants and I made a group of five to six, where we got to speak in a way similar to friends on a group outing. Although we were usually given topics to talk about, I found it more helpful to talk about things that often come up in conversations to help the Japanese participants improve their English.
Participating in Klexon was a great opportunity to make native Japanese friends and feel more like I’m participating in the community. I was a bit sad at the beginning thinking that I was not going to get much of an opportunity to practice my Japanese, but luckily after the first week, I got to go to the local bar with newly made Klexon friends where I spoke with them in Japanese while sharing a nice drink. After immersing myself more in the club, I began to think of Klexon as more of a social place where one meets friends rather than a place where one comes to do work. The more I participated in Klexon, the more I bonded with friends I made there. Eventually, several KCJS student participants and I got to make a group chat with our Klexon friends where we scheduled meet ups and outings on some weekends. On one Saturday, we all got together and went to the Kyoto Shibori Museum where we learned different dying techniques before we each got to dye our own scarf in wonderful patterns and colors.
Even though English is my second language while Japanese is my fourth, participating in Klexon really helped me understand my progress in Japanese, further showing me what I needed to focus on to get better. For example, after seeing where Japanese people commonly made mistakes, I was able to reflect on expressions that were difficult to say since they did not translate between the two languages very well.
Needless to stay, Klexon was a significant part of my study abroad and language study and I’d recommend it to anyone who is willing to go out of their comfort zone to make friends. My tip is – if you want to get to know someone, ask for their LINE! It’s easy and most people will say yes. Klexon is really the experience that you make out of it!