Conquering stage fright in Japan

USAC Nagasaki student delivers ceremony speech entirely in Japanese.

By Julian Macalma ’23, USAC Nagasaki

If you leave or lose something in Japan, things don’t remain lost for too long; it’s one of the things I personally attest to and was very much impressed with. One day, I mistakenly left one of my graded homework sheets somewhere. It wasn’t long before I received a message from the Nagasaki University of Foreign Studies (NUFS) main office, that it had been found and turned in to them.

After classes for that day, I headed right over to the office to pick it up and was immediately greeted with the Japan Studies in Nagasaki (JASIN) program coordinator. Words did not need to be exchanged, as it seemed she immediately knew what I came for.

“I haven’t e-mailed you about it yet …” she said as she handed me my lost quiz. “But, do you know about our completion ceremony happening in about a few months?” 

I was a part of the half-year JASIN program — arranged through my study abroad program by the University Studies Abroad Consortium (USAC) — which focuses on teaching Japanese society and culture to non-native students. The ceremony she was talking about signifies the end of the semester and, in turn, the end of our studies at NUFS. 

“Usually, at these completion ceremonies, we have two students represent the students and give their speech,” she explained. “We will have one from the NICS (a different study abroad program) students, and one from the JASIN students. Would you like to represent JASIN and give a speech during the ceremony?” 

It took a moment for me to process what she had asked of me.

I asked, “… Is it all in Japanese?” 

“Of course,” she said with a grin. “It will be in all Japanese.” 

This already confused me to some extent, as I was far from the best representative in terms of Japanese language. I could probably have named at least four of my colleagues that would fit the bill more than myself. I was just shy of being at the 3rd grade of Japanese classes offered here, and some of my colleagues were more advanced in the 4th level of Japanese. 

She continued, presumably detecting some of the confusion. 

“We felt that you were a good representative for the program. Would you consider it? It’s a great honor to be chosen!” 

I couldn’t refute that last point; it really was a big honor. I felt flattered for a moment, but also intimidated. Being asked to do a speech in front of everyone was one thing, but doing so in a language I was just barely getting a hang of made it even more daunting.  

I indicated to her that I would think about it and send my choice via e-mail. 

As I did not want to keep her waiting, it did not take long for me to brood over this decision. A couple of days later, I sent an e-mail accepting the request. While I was quite nervous about writing in semi-long form in Japanese, let alone speaking in front of the student body, this also posed a great challenge for my writing, Japanese skills, and personal growth. Studying abroad was already a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity; giving this speech would only make it more special to me. 

Soon after, I received the requirements for the speech: 700 characters, talk about your study abroad experience, be it studying or daily life, and keep it all in Japanese.

To say the writing of the speech was difficult was an understatement. There were so many things I wanted to express, but with my limited grammar knowledge, it necessitated that I did some independent study of more grammar points that went beyond my current Japanese textbook. Once I had settled on what to say, I had my Japanese professor assist me in editing the draft. I even had a couple of Japanese friends that I had made during my time there read over it a few times to give some pointers. I knew from the start that I could not take this challenge alone, and I still have nothing but gratitude for those who helped me in creating the speech.  

The day of the ceremony had come. To my shock, I learned that the university president would also be attending. I had only gotten over the pre-speech nervousness the night before and learning that made it creep in ever so slightly. Getting up on the stage and seeing the sheer amount of people in the auditorium was extremely frightening.

My mind eventually focused wholeheartedly upon reading my script. I spoke of some of my adventures in Nagasaki and of the mundane, uneventful days: watching a friend get something of hers stolen by a monkey at the zoo, seeing the views of the town atop the peak of Mt. Inasa. I wanted to have my program colleagues have a short period of reflection on their own experiences here, as I was on that podium.  




留学生の皆さん、大切な思い出を作れましたか?たとえば、ハウステンボスは、どうでしたか? また、稲佐山の頂上(ちょうじょう)から長崎の町を見たこととか、日本で初めて食事したこととか。面白い思い出もありますか? 



Good afternoon, everyone. This past half year has gone by in a flash. Many of you will continue your studies here in Nagasaki. However, for some of us, such as myself, this is the end of our program. Because of that, I want to recall this past half year together with all of you. While I speak, please look back on these past 6 months.

First, on behalf of my fellow students, I will express our gratitude to our teachers. For us, this was the first time we lived so far away from our home country. We had never experienced a different culture than ours, nor knew anything about life in a different country. We struggled with life in Japan and the Japanese language. However, at those times, our teachers, with their smiling faces, graciously gave us their warm support. Thanks to that, we were able to improve our Japanese skill little by little, and our life in Japan became comfortable. Teacher, thank you very much for everything until now.

Fellow study abroad students, were you able to create some important memories? For example, how was Haus Ten Bosch? Perhaps you saw the full view of Nagasaki from the peak of Mt. Inasa, or how about something you ate in Japan for the first time? Is there any funny memories? For me, I recall that at the Biopark Zoo, my friend had her hand warmer stolen by a monkey. Even now, I laugh whenever I recall that. I even recall mundane moments, such as going out late at night with friends to eat some beef bowls. It was because of these moments that my everyday life in Nagasaki was filled with happiness and fulfillment.

From ordinary moments to once in a lifetime experiences, these memories are very precious. No matter where we go, let’s never forget our time living in Nagasaki.

Everyone, thank you very much.

The speech was not long, nor was it short by any means, but it ended in a flash. As I walked off the stage to the applause from my colleagues, it still did not register to me that I had just given a speech in front of more than 100 students and professors. I was simply relieved that I was allowed to go back to my seat, but I was also quite satisfied with how it went. 

After the ceremony, I received some comments, some from students, saying that they enjoyed my speech, including the JASIN coordinator who asked me to give it. 

“Julian, your speech went well!” she said. “I could tell you obviously worked very hard on it!”  

Hearing that, I only then registered what I had personally achieved. I felt nothing but accomplishment, pride, and gratitude for those who helped me along the way during the creation of this speech and also during my stay up until that point. I took on a very intimidating challenge that I could’ve very much denied and came through the end with some academic and personal growth. It left me an unforgettable experience that many would probably not have, and a confidence that will only help me in my future Japanese language learning endeavors.