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  • My Search for a Japanese Game School Part II: Inside

    - Andrea Rubenstein
  •  It's been a little over two months since I started as a student at a Japanese school for video game development, and I've settled into a routine. I get up, go to class, go home, take care of my non-school related stuff, and then sleep. When I have homework, I do it.

    On the weekends I relax and sometimes hang out with my friends. It exactly the same routine I've had since high school -- except this time, I'm doing it all in Japanese.

    Some of you may remember me from my previous article, "My Search for a Japanese Game School." Here's a brief summary of my situation: I want to be a video game designer and in April 2008 I took a big step toward making that dream come true. I began attending a technical school called HAL in Osaka, Japan, and became one of the many students studying video game design in the hopes of one day working in the video game making industry.

    First Impressions
    In the months leading up to April, it felt like I spent all my time fretting over something. I worried about school, about moving, about whether I would make friends, about whether I could hack it in a Japanese environment designed for Japanese people. No matter how many times my Japanese language teachers told me that I would do fine, I couldn't help that, "Oh crap, what am I doing?" feeling from rearing its ugly head.

    As it turns out, they were right. I have been doing fine. I don't know if was because the teachers and staff at HAL have gone the extra mile, or that I simply didn't remember going through similar things in university (or perhaps didn't attend them), but every effort was made to ensure that all the students had an easy adjustment.

    In addition to the opening ceremony and orientation, the first week of school was full of special classes in which we did things like set up our computers and brush up on our basic Word and Excel skills. Although it was an easy transition, there were more than a few times when I thought, "Okay. I get it already. Can we move on now?"

    Academic Life
    While my Japanese language school reminded me of high school, HAL reminds me very much of university. Like university, we aren't in school the same time every day, but rather our schedule is determined by what classes we have. This term my entire schedule is set, but next term I will be able to take some elective classes.

    However, there are some notable differences between this school and a North American university. The most obvious, of course, are the cultural ones, like how at the beginning and end of every class we have to stand, greet the teacher, and then bow. Also, we're divided into classes of about 40 students each with a tannin (sometimes translated as "homeroom teacher," but I think that "main teacher" is more fitting in this case) in charge of us.

    In addition to teaching most of our classes, the tannin is there to answer our questions; and anything we hand in goes through him first before being collected by the teacher who gave the assignment. The final difference, but possibly most important one of all, is that attendance is important -- extremely important! If we fall below 80 percent on either attendance or assignments, we could be forced to repeat the class or even the entire year.


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