Tweet of the Week #45: The One Thing That Always Happens to Japanese Exchange Students in America

Learn how to use the expression ことがある thanks to this week's tasty tweet.

By 3 min read

Traveling abroad plays a really important role in gaining a global outlook on life. Just graduated high school or university, or in need of a sabbatical? Well, a year studying Japanese in Japan is a great opportunity to figure out what you’d like to do next while gaining some valuable skills.

And if you needed a reason as to why Japan should be high on your list when scouting study abroad opportunities, know that Japan recently ranked as the No. 2 study abroad destination in Asia AND No.1 for teaching quality, with three universities in the worldwide Top 100.

Beyond gaining a better awareness of what’s going on around you, international experiences are also the best way to obtain valuable skills for your future. A year well spent studying abroad can really strengthen your resume. Managing to pay your bills in a foreign language at a convenience store? Independence and the ability to adapt to a new environment. Dealing with your crazy international roommates and their peculiar lifestyle? You can count on honing your cross-cultural communication skills.

The delicious caveat

That said, moving to a foreign country to study can be stressful emotionally. Add to that the fact that you’ll be diving into a foreign — and college — diet and lifestyle, and it’s pretty likely that you’ll gain some kgs at least in the beginning. (There’s a reason it’s called the Freshman 15).

If Japanese students in the US should be wary of the customary culture shock and difficulties that come with living abroad, they should also be careful with how they adjust to the American menu — a situation artfully summarized in this meme panel using scenes from the Studio Ghibli movie Spirited Away.





An illustration of studying in America:

When I was in the US, I was eating less than in Japan, but exchange students around me kept eating at the same pace [as back home].

We were all busy, so we didn’t meet for months.

I can’t forget the shock when I bumped into them later.

Image #1:

留学生仲間なかま = University exchange friends
ワイ = Me, I (Osaka dialect)

Image #2:

数ヶ月 = A few months later

Apparently, weight gain is a common affliction among Japanese exchange students in the US who can’t help but dive into all of the tasty treats that many of us foreign residents here in Japan grew up with. (Still, we’d take a Starbucks cherry blossom-themed latte over a pack of Oreo’s any day.)

How to use the expression: ことがある

When you study Japanese, you’ll quickly learn that the language barely has tenses, certainly not as many as in English. Instead, Japanese people convey all the little nuances with set phrases like ことがある.

When preceded by the past tense, the expression ことがある indicates something that took place in the past. You are not focusing on when it happened or the context (you would then just use the past tense!) but on the experience of having done (or not having done) something.

To form it in the positive, we use the verb’s casual past tense (た) + ことがある or more polite ことがあります

  • 日本へったことがある = I have traveled to Japan (= I have the experience)

When you don’t have the experience of having done something, you should use the verb’s casual past tense (た) + ことがない or more polite ことがありません

  • 日本へ行ったことがない = I have never traveled to Japan (= I don’t have the experience)


Japanese Romaji English
アメリカ amerika United States of America
留学 りゅうがく ryuugaku university exchange
zu illustration
日本にほん nihon Japan
いる iru to be
とき toki when
くら to kurabe comparing
少食しょうしょくになる shoushoku ni naru become a small eater
mawari no ryuugakusei the surrounding exchange students
ずっと zutto always
おなじペース onaji peesu same pace
つづける tabetsudukeru keep eating
たがいそがしい o tagai isogashii busy
数ヶ月すうかげつ suukagetsu several months
au meet
偶然ぐうぜん guuzen accidentally, by chance
saikai suru meet again
衝撃しょうげき shougeki shock
いまでも imademo even now
わすれられる wasurerareru can forget
仲間なかま nakama friend
ワイ Wai I, me (Osaka dialect)
iku go

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