走る白人: The Backstory

So some of you might be wondering as to the title of the blog, and it roughly translates to “the white person that runs.” I usually wouldn’t identify myself upon such a basis, but being one of maybe 3 foreigners in an entire city, I can’t help but be made more conscious of my ethnicity. For those who don’t know, I’m an avid runner, and on my daily runs through Hokuto and Hakodate, I have yet to run into a single foreigner, in general only seeing fellow 外国人 at school. Of course I don’t believe there to be any inherent malice towards me nor do I feel that way, but I imagine that it must be something of a novel experience for many in the area and their guarded reactions seem to support my belief. Regardless, let’s get into my story:

I expect the majority of the readers of this blog will be from my friends and family, and if you qualify as this please go on to the next post, as this will be rather repetitive and uninteresting. But if for some reason you’ve stumbled on this blog, perhaps after a long link hopping journey or maybe looking for a bit of insight into the study abroad experience, I’ll give you Ben Saunders in a nut shell.

I’m a student at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service, majoring in International Economics, and in order to graduate proficiency in a foreign language is required. I guess you could say I’m a bit behind the curve in my Japanese class, my strengths seem to lie in other areas such as mathematics and economics, but on top of that I’ve become painfully aware of the short-coming of my study habits.

I suppose it may have stemmed from an excessive concern for grades and measuring myself with a GPA, but my current study method can be broken down simply into “memorizing quickly, and forgetting just as fast.” Especially for learning a foreign language, this technique is not terribly effective, but in general I am force to face the fact that despite attending great institutions and on the whole being successful, I really know relatively little in the way of practical knowledge. But I’m getting ahead of myself, and should perhaps leave the personal reflection to my journal.

The reason I say this is to better illustrate my reasons for doing a summer abroad. I’ve studied Japanese for 6 years (4 relatively unserious years in high school, 2 fairly serious years in college), but I have quite a ways to go before I’ll be able to pass as a proficient speaker. I’ve never really spoken Japanese outside the classroom (in the few instances my friends and family have goaded me into greeting our waitress or other in Japanese, they have been without fail of a different ethnicity). As I really don’t like being thought of as a rude American racist, I’d for all intents and purposes ceased trying to engage foreigners in Japanese conversation. However, the convenient thing about Japan, is that I can safely assume everyone to be able to speak Japanese, and the practice has already greatly helped along my proficiency.

Other than a student of Japanese, I also run. A lot. I do a lot of other things normal of young college students, but for the purposes of this blog I believe this to be sufficient. In the words of Forest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”

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