My name is Alexandra-Ecaterina Petre, I am 21 years old, I graduated from the “Ion Creangă” National College, and I am currently a third year student in the International Affairs specialization at the Romanian-American University, where I also take part in Japanese language courses, but also Korean language in the Department of Asian Studies. I also work as a volunteer in the same department.
Like any person in love with what Japan stands for, I have tried to learn Japanese on my own over time on the Internet, but the first interaction I had with its study in an official setting was the beginning of 9th grade at the “Ion Creangă” National College. I studied in a class with an intensive philology profile in Japanese. There I began to delve into the meaning of this language, which most Romanians consider to be "exotic".
Of course, my burning desire to learn Japanese began many years ago, at first fueled by the Japanese historical TV show my father watched when I was a child and my passion for anime and music, and later, as I sought to learn as much as I can about Japan, its culture and civilization.
I arrived at CSRJ-AH at the beginning of 2017, initially as a student and participant in the Japan 2017 Cultural Program, organized in collaboration with the Free Spirit agency, through which I managed to fulfill my dream of reaching the wonderful Land of the Rising Sun.
Since the fall of 2017, I have volunteered in the extraordinary team (which I would now call a family) of the Center, where I have only met wonderful, passionate people from whom I have learned and I am sure that I will learn extremely many things. What amazes me even now is the fact that I managed to discover CSRJ-AH thanks to my parents who at first thought that my passion would be a passing one, but over time, observing the evolution of my enthusiasm to learn more about "the country at the other end of the world ", they supported me and that is why I am very grateful to them.
My most beautiful memory related to the Center … hard to choose just one, because in all these years there have been countless unforgettable moments, but I can say that my last visit to Japan in 2019, but also the Haru Urara Grand Festa 2019 Gala was clearly memorable to me. During Haru Urara 2019 I had the opportunity to be the presenter of this wonderful Gala, but also the winner of the "Kazuko Diaconu" award for the second time, which came as a huge surprise.
The Cultural Program in Japan was another unforgettable experience, as I managed to rediscover Japan with some wonderful people and I am glad that I was able to get a little involved in the organizational part. The moments I often think about even now are in Osaka and Okayama, because in addition to the fairytale locations, the delicious food, we had fun with the Japanese students, but also with some friends from the Center who came to study there.
I arrived in Japan for the first time in the spring of 2017, together with CSRJ-AH. Overflowing with enthusiasm throughout the cultural program, for me the whole experience felt exactly like a very beautiful dream that I did not want to wake up from. In those moments I was finally in the place where until then I could only dream and admire from a distance and I can say that reality exceeded any expectations I had. The temples, castles, gardens and all the buildings I admired on the internet took my breath away when I saw them in front of my eyes. What I felt then and still feel is that the Land of the Rising Sun is the place where the traditional elements, which I love, harmoniously combine with all the modern elements brought by the new technologies.
Also, on my first visit to Japan, I was able to visit several partner universities, and the reception was so warm and the people very welcoming, so I decided to study at one of them a few years later. Who would have thought that my first experience in Japan would have such a big impact on my life?
One thing I can say that always motivates me to go back is the harmonious combination of old and new that you will find almost everywhere in this country. For example, in March 2017, in Kyoto, I had the chance to wear a kimono from the Heian period, and then, in Tokyo, I was able to cross through the famous intersection in front of Shibuya 109, considered to be the busiest in the world.
Also in Tokyo, if you venture on the side streets, you can discover both extremely beautiful temples and altars, as well as traditional restaurants.
I consider that both Romania and Japan have something to learn from each other given that they are so different. Thus, it would be wonderful if we saw a little more technological development and cleanliness in Romania. Another thing we could implement in Romania, although a little more difficult, would be the idea of kuuki wo yomu. Translated as "reading the air", this unspoken rule refers to the fact that it is important to analyze the atmosphere and the situation you are in so that you act in a way that keeps the element of group harmony, even if it is not always what would you like to do.
On the other hand, I think that the Japanese could learn from Romanians to be a little more flexible and open to change so that they can adapt much faster to any changes that may occur in the future.
In the end, I would like to say to all those who want to start or have already started learning Japanese, never give up, no matter how hard this language may seem! I know it's not easy, there will be plenty of times when it would be easier to stop, but as long as you have something that will motivate you to continue, and I'm sure anyone who has started studying Japanese has a strong motivation, you will be able to get as far as possible!
Photos: Personal Archive
Alexandra Petre ©