All posts by Riina Haapakallio


Yamanashi, but believe or not, I managed to get lost between the Sakaori station and school grounds… You can see the school from the station.

Finally I found my way to my new school. I signed myself in and went to my room, my future home for 4 months. I slept first 2 days before my school started. First weeks we had orientation studies, how to enroll to courses, what are the rules, who are the teachers. As a typical Finn I found it hard to find people to connect with. But after a week or two, things started to work out for me.

My first class in iCLA was Elementary 1 Japanese. The teacher turned out to be the sweetest and most helpful lady named Akiyama Maki. In this point I have to praise her and thank her for all the help and encouragement she has given to me. Arigatou gozaimasu! I ended up taking a literature course with Romanian professor, George Sipos. The course has been a lot of work, but 10 traditional Japanese books and history papers later, I feel very happy that I ended up taking this course. Knowledge indeed increases the pain you feel but it also opens your eyes for certain things. In the end of semester George will move back to USA, so sadly the future students will not have the possibility of taking his classes. My drawing teacher Kristen Newton was half Icelandic half Californian. What a strange but talented lady. She believes that everybody can draw, we just need to learn the best way to do it. And in the end of her course I agree with her. Last but certainly not least… Professor Alex Wilds, USA. There is a character, I ended up taking 4 of his classes during my stay in Japan and I have never met a teacher like him. The amount of positive energy this teacher has… even a Finn starts to smile. It is thanks to him, that I found my love towards ceramics, clay and sculpting.

What is different compared to Finland? First of all most of the courses are very different. Of course my teachers are all from different backgrounds, while in Finland most of my teachers are actually Finnish. Lectures are shorter in here than in Finland, 75 minutes, after that 15 minutes break. Also classes are smaller and a lot about the interaction between the professor and the student. Of course there is a lot of work to be done, but at the same time the students are fairly free to choose the themes of their work themselves. This makes it very interesting.

Differences between Japanese and international students can be seen in dormitory life. It has been great to see how some of the Japanese students open up to new cultures and friends. But where there is light, there is shadow. Japanese students tend to take way more pressure of their studies. Also not all of them are quite as open minded as they could be.

But in the end, I have enjoyed every second of my stay and to be honest I am not ready to go home. But as all good things, this experience has to come to its end.

Best regards

Riina Haapakallio