One on One with KCP Alumnus Abigail Dunn, Part 1

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ABIGAIL DUNN

Abigail Dunn, recent Western Washington University graduate, reflects on her year at KCP International Japanese Language School learning and living the Japanese way. The Communications and Japanese double major’s enthusiasm for studying Japanese in the intensive way KCP teaches it was what she calls “life changing.” The once-homeschooled student from Woodinville, Washington, discovered Japanese when she was just 11 years old and is excited to discuss her journey and her passion for Japanese. She has a few tips for those who want study the language intensively and also shares memories from her 2016-17 year at KCP in Tokyo.

How did you get interested in studying Japanese?

Abigail: I was watching a classmate at my new school who was really into drawing in a unique style. She called it manga, or anime, and said there were things I could watch, too. I started watching anime in English online. I didn’t even know it was Japanese at the time. I was 11. Eventually, I was in the middle of watching one and they hadn’t finished subtitling it, so I watched it in Japanese and immediately fell in love with the language. I started watching a lot more and never went back to watching in English. I started to pick out words and use them in random situations that, now looking back, made no sense at all!

(By 6th grade Abigail started listening to Japanese music as well and found herself wanting to know more about the language’s context and nuance.)

Abigail: The only person who was into it with me was my friend. We’re still friends. She’s my oldest friend.

(By her sophomore year, because the Japanese teacher had just left, she wasn’t able to take it at her school in Bellevue, Washington, so she took Spanish. But she found a way to incorporate Japanese: taking Spanish during the day in high school and Japanese at night at the community college.)

Abigail: I was so excited! I loved learning languages so much and being able to also start studying Japanese – well, the long schedule was worth it. I wanted to start learning how to read and write it, instead of writing most of it down from English phonetically. As I was learning the actual grammar and how to put together the words, every day was an epiphany! It made sense to me.

What were your first classes like?

Abigail: First-year Japanese is a huge mix of learners. I was always the youngest in all of my classes. I struggled with becoming friends with people my first year because I had severe social anxiety, so for me it was a huge deal to be driving myself to school and attending school. But I just wanted to learn Japanese so badly, I pushed through my anxiety and terror. Which was great, because I learned that if you push through the anxiety, you find that it’s not as scary as you thought.

That same year, I met a girl at my high school who was studying abroad from Japan and she was really quiet and I thought “I’m quiet, we can be quiet together” except you’re learning English and I’m learning Japanese so let’s support each other. We became close friends really quickly and then she invited me to come visit her in the summer in Japan.

Stay tuned for more in the next few weeks, from Abigail Dunn’s interview!