Tsuyoshi Saito, a Tokyo University of Foreign Studies student came to Cork to improve his English in our Summer School this year. Here you can read about his experience.
First of all, thanks for taking time to do this little interview Tsuyoshi Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? What are you studying?
I’m from Japan and my major at university is European study.
Why did you choose to come to take an English language course at UCC Language Centre?
I chose UCC because I wanted to study in Ireland, where few Japanese people pay attention to. While many Japanese look at U.S.A or U.K as places to study in, I wanted different experience.
Before coming to Ireland, what did you know about our country?
I knew a bit about Irish history. I knew that the Potato Famine killed many Irish, that there are many people all over the world who have Irish roots, and the story about IRA.
Except for the history, I knew that potatoes, beer and whisky are famous in Ireland. And that people in Ireland are really nice.
When you arrived what was the biggest surprise for you?
As soon as I arrived at the airport, I felt really cold. It was around 9 p.m. and the temperature was 9 degrees centigrade. Since in Japan it is around 35 degrees in August, I couldn’t believe it was so cold in Cork.
Did you stay with an Irish family or in student accommodation?
I stayed with an Irish old lady and her dog. There were three of us.
How would you describe it?
The lady in the home was really kind to me. She let me use my own bedroom and bathroom, and she cooked really well. She has many relatives and introduced me to them. She even gave my mother an Irish necklace as a gift.
I can’t write down everything she did for me, but I had no stress about the stay because she was really kind.
Is Cork a safe place?
I think so. Compared to Tokyo, my hometown, Cork is secure. I once walked around the City Centre about 11 o’clock at night, but I saw few stupid fellows there.
Are Cork people friendly?
Not all of them are nice. I saw some people who were prejudice against Asians. One day I went to a bus office to get my ticket, and one of the clerks spoke viciously to me. He even threw the card to me. I got really frustrated and told my host about it. She was sad about it, too. The next day she called the office and reported it. But only some were mean. Most people in Cork behaved properly to me. When I asked for direction, they answered kindly. When I was choosing presents for my family in a gift shop, the clerk explained to me which gift is popular.
Do you have any nice stories about Cork people?
One day I was walking around the City Centre and saw some students doing campaign. They are in a group named “Sinn Fein Republican Youth” and worried that the unemployment rate in Ireland is getting higher. I spoke to the female leader of that group, and it was a good experience for me to listen to their views. I only spoke to her for only a few minutes, but she kindly said to me “Enjoy your stay in Cork”. I’m impressed with their kindness and passion.
What were your classes and teachers like?
At UCC, I was in Proficiency, which is the highest class in Summer Course. In the class we studied about very difficult topics such as environment and psychology. I sometimes had difficulty in keeping up because the level of the class was really high. But I think it was worth it. Students in the class were all serious about their study and I had a nice interaction with them.
We had two teachers in the two weeks. One was male and the other was female. Olan, the male teacher, listened to each student seriously. He used to work in Japan and cared about me a lot. He seemed to be supported and trusted by all the students.
Jo, the female teacher, was really funny lady. She really laughs a lot. She laughs as if the Earth is exploding. Her explanation was also easy to understand.
What was the daily routine for you?
On a weekday, I would get up around half past seven and had cereal and toast for breakfast. I always took bus that left ten to nine. The bus took me to UCC in about twenty minutes.
At 9.30 our class began. I was in the highest class and the class was always fulfilling and enjoyable. From 11.30 to 12.00 we had breaks. During the break, I spent time in the common room and had chats with students in other classes. The later class ended at 13.30 and after the class I always had lunch at a restaurant in the university.
After lunch, I spent time freely. I really liked to walk around the City Centre watching the views and shops. We had Social Programme that UCC prepared for us twice a week, and I joined that, too. One day we went to Kinsale, and to a theatre to see a musical. Each was quite enjoyable.
Where did your classmates come from?
The class had seven students including me. Three ladies were from Spain, a girl was from France, one boy was from Poland and one guy was from Slovakia.
Did you make friends with your classmates?
Yes. They were so nice to me and I had no difficulty in interacting with them. I presented each of them with Japanese gifts I brought, and they were pleased with them.
I was really impressed because some of them already had works. I guess it is not easy to work in their own country while brushing up English skills. Also, the English level of each of them was obviously beyond me. But I believe that helped me improve my English.
Anyway, my classmates are all nice. I keep in touch with them through Facebook, G-mail, and WhatsApp. And I’m looking forward to meet them again.
Do you feel more confident in using English now?
Definitely. The stay greatly improved my English and I now find it quite enjoyable to use English.
While you were in Ireland, did you get to visit different parts of Ireland?
Yes. I went to Kinsale and Blarney Castle for social programme. Both of them were quite nice, but it was a bit disappointing that it was rainy when we visited Kinsale. At Blarney Castle, I kissed the stone and it was scary.
And I also visited Cobh with my host and her two grandchildren. I saw a huge luxury ship which was about to leave for Southampton.
What was the best place for you?
City Centre. The River Lee along the city was really beautiful. City Centre has a lot of things to see but it wasn’t too big. That’s the point I like it.
If one of your friends was coming to UCC Language Centre, what advice would you give them?
I would tell them to prepare jackets. It is much colder than Japan.
Other than that, I would want them to come to UCC when their English level gets high enough. I was in the highest class and my classmates were all from various countries, while lower classes were full of Japanese students. If they ever use Japanese or rely on their Japanese friends who come with them during their stay, they would learn nothing.
What did you miss about your Japan when you were in Cork?
Except warmth in temperature, I missed nothing else. The food I had was really good and I never missed Japanese rice.
What do you miss about Cork, now that you are back?
Now I miss people who I got friends with in Cork including my host, her family, my classmates and teachers.
I hope you will come back to Cork. Will you?
Yes, hopefully, next March I’ll get another chance to UCC. If I could, I’d like to see my friends and my host.
I look forward to you coming back, Tsuyoshi. Thanks for doing this!