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Connecting to my Japanese Identity Studying Abroad in France

January 22, 2024
by Stephanie Rosenberg

My Experience as a Japanese-American in France 

Growing up as a first-generation Japanese-American, my Japanese culture was always an important part of my identity and something I felt would be difficult to continue connecting with in France. One of the most surprising parts about studying abroad in Grenoble was how much cultural diversity the city had and how many opportunities there were for me to not only connect with my own culture but to also explore a wide range of other cultures. 

A group of study abroad students posing for a photo in the snow

Meeting students with diverse cultural backgrounds and learning about their identities let me learn more about and appreciate the unique qualities of my own culture.

What I Captured 

A plate of food on a table

I visited a cafe owned by a French-Japanese couple with my mom. She talked with one of the owners in Japanese and it was such a special moment to see the instant connection they had over their shared culture and language.

One of the main ways I connected with Japanese and other cultures while studying abroad was through food.

a shelf with food on it

My first time visiting a local Asian grocery store. I was excited to see so many familiar ingredients I grew up with that allowed me to recreate some of my favorite Japanese dishes.

Whether this was through trying new restaurants or cooking familiar recipes, getting to recreate a little taste of home always helped me get through the homesickness and made Grenoble feel like home.  

A plate of food with a fried egg and rice

One of my favorite comfort dishes that reminds me of my culture is Japanese curry rice and cooking and sharing this dish along with my roommate and others reminded me of home.

People sitting at tables outside a sushi restaurant

This was a Japanese restaurant I saw during a CEA CAPA excursion in Annecy and it was very exciting to see Japanese cuisine being appreciated and popularized abroad.

A dessert on a plate

Mille-feuille, a typical French dessert, flavored with Matcha, which is a traditional Japanese ingredient.

I anticipated a majority of food in France to be traditionally French, but was surprised to see more integration of various cultures like the dessert pictured above.

During my semester abroad, I met students from all over the world with various backgrounds and learned about the defining characteristics of various cultures through my classes. Interacting with a diverse group of people and experiencing a new culture allowed me to better understand what makes Japanese culture unique and how integral being Japanese is to my identity.  

A study abroad student standing in front of a large building

Through my travels and getting to explore various cultures, I learned so much more about myself and the ways in which I connect with my own culture.

Studying abroad was an invaluable experience that allowed me to learn more about myself and my identity in four months than I had in twenty years.

A wall with graffiti on it

During a street art tour of Grenoble, one piece was created by a Japanese artist and featured very clear Japanese imagery which was unexpected yet very exciting to see.

Putting myself in a new environment so far away from everything familiar to me really pushed me to understand what components of my identity were most important to me and how I could continue connecting with these parts of myself no matter where I am.  

A sign on a wall in multiple languages

Signs in multiple languages on buses and train stations.

I visited Paris and was surprised to see these signs on buses and hearing announcements in train stations in Japanese, as I didn't think there'd be that large of a Japanese community there.

My Pictorial Purpose 

The purpose of this photoset is to visually represent how I connected with my Japanese culture while studying abroad in Grenoble, France and through my travels elsewhere. Despite being thousands of miles away from my family in an entirely new country, trying to maintain my connection with my Japanese culture and the other important facets of my identity allowed me to feel at home during this time of adjustment and exploration. 

Two people sitting and eating at a table

My mom and brother visited Grenoble.

I shared what I learned about the new culture I lived in while also getting to connect with my family in person after so many months of being away from home.

Stephanie Rosenberg is the Spring 2023 Alumni Ambassador in Grenoble, France, and is currently studying at Boston University.
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