Ruston on my Mind
A one-year campus life in the United States from 1979 to 1980 gave me a huge influence on me.  I write about my life in Ruston, Louisiana, where I spent the years.

A Campus Town
Ruston lies near the state boarder between Louisiana and Arkansas and is about four-hour bus ride up from Baton Rouge, the state capital of Louisiana.  It was a typical campus town.  At that time, its population was about 8,000, but once its university courses started, it swelled up to 18,000, adding students and faculty staff.

Within a walking distance, there was a snug shopping street; the only bookshop in town, a boutique, a barber and a restaurant stood side by side.  In the suburbs, there was a large shopping mall; I usually did my everyday shopping there.

As is often said, you can't live without a car in the United States.  Students walking with some paper bags of the suburb supermarkets were maybe from overseas; they had to because they didn't have a car.  However, walking in the shadows cast under big street trees along the sidewalk was quite refreshing.  Looking around, I found most houses were one-story.  Because of low heights of them and wide front yards stretching from a sidewalk to doors, I felt the areas along the road much wider than they really were.  Once I asked an American student why people here were in favor of one-story houses.  He answered:  "Why do we have to build two-story houses on such large blocks of land?"  I think you would fully understand his answer if you actually stand there.

Following a lane from the main street, I saw smaller houses scattered along it.  Most dwellers in them were black people.  As it might be a rare case for children there to see Orientals, they followed me shouting, "Chinese, Chinese!"

The campus was so large.  It took me about twenty minutes to walk from one side to the other.  Some buildings for classes and research, dormitories and a library were scattered around on the leafy campus.  On my way to classes, I often saw small animals, such as birds, squirrels and armadillos.  I have never seen an armadillo in my life after I left the campus.

Campus Security
It is often said that security in the United States is poor.  So was security on campus.  Students kept a rifle or a shotgun in their dormitory rooms, though possession of guns on campus was strictly prohibited.  Unfortunately I had two unpleasant experiences there.

After school, I dropped into a post office on campus and collected a parcel from Japan.  With it I went to a cafeteria.  I put it on a table at the entrance, and I fell into line to take my supper.  When I returned to the table, it was gone.  I didn't even unpack it.

The campus was vast, and I didn't like to walk all the way to classes.  I usually traveled around by bicycle or roller-skate.  I carried roller-skate with me into classes, and I parked my bicycle at a parking area, binding it to a steel bar with chains and a lock.  Though equipped with all those protective tools against theft, my bike was stolen.  I reported the theft to the police, but officers handled it as routine work, and they went as far as to say that my bike would never be found.

It seemed to me that in the United States both teachers and students were quite laid back in classes.  I saw quite a few students chewing gum in class.  Moreover some teachers gave lessons sipping a can of Coke!

In Japan, it was common teachers talk and that students only listen: one way classroom activity.  In America, both teachers and students talked interactively.  They seemed to have learned from their childhood how to form their opinions and make them understood.

It is often said, "American university students spend four years in studying, and Japanese students spend a four-year-vacation on campus."

There in the United States, teachers gave students scores of reading and writing assignments.  The university I attended employed the quarter system; each quarter lasted for ten weeks.  In an English course, for example, three books were given for tests and to write impressions on them.  Sometimes given was a topic on which students would write an essay for the last half an hour of a class.  Some students would finish it and leave the classroom in about fifteen minutes or so.  On the other hand, I was always the last since I was not accustomed to writing in English, not to mention how to develop my thought.  My teacher used to ask me, "Are you writing a full-length novel?"  And on my returned essay, she often wrote a big red K, which stood for "awkwardly written."

My experience was very valuable because I learned an American way of thinking, that is, how to think logically and develop opinions accordingly.