One thing that really surprised me when I got to Japan was how much support I was provided with. Right off the bat, I was introduced to my RAs Hinako and Yuka, who have been a massive help to me in so many ways since I’ve arrived in Japan. From translating important documents to helping me not get locked out after curfew, these two have been so crucial to my new living adjustments. ‘Where is an ATM? Where can I buy toilet paper? What’s the best route to get to school? Where can I buy food? Does this have mayonnaise in it?’ These are all the things you don’t think about beforehand and then panic about when you arrive. And this is where your RAs save you're a**. Kids, take note: be nice to the RAs. You will need them.
In addition to the RAs, Aoyama Gakuin’s International Exchange Center has been exceptionally helpful in getting adjusted to the school. During orientation week the staff members introduced themselves to us personally and walked us through the registration process for courses at Aoyama Gakuin as well as presented us with a wide variety of extra curricular options. Nao, the program coordinator, has been especially helpful in keeping in touch with me both over the summer and during the first few weeks of adjustment. I had a major issue with being able to pay my dormitory fee and I was able to work with IEC to make staggered payments for my invoice both in America and Japan. She was a godsend. The dormitory payment on the other hand, was probably the most difficult money exchange I’ve ever experienced in my life, and I 10/10 do not recommend attempting without guidance.
Outside of IEC, there’s a club/organization called Lingwave at Aoyama Gakuin run by students that focuses on hosting events for exchange students. Basically, these people really love foreigners. And in a country where you aren’t competent in the language and can be easily isolated, it’s pretty fantastic to have people that actually want to talk to you. Lingwave hosts weekly events like bingo games and chat sessions where Japanese and foreign students come together and essentially have a reason to talk to each other. It’s a pretty nice change of pace from the seriousness of classes and studying, and has allowed me to meet some of Aoyama’s Japanese students as well as get to know the foreign students a bit better.
I was also assigned a tutor when coming to Aoyama who I’ve met up with a few times since arriving. During the first few weeks, she took me and some of the other exchange students to Karaoke for the first time. While the Japanese students were more reserved, most of the foreign students went all out belting beautiful and not so beautiful interpretations of classic American and Japanese songs. Basically, drunken westerners are animals, and things got really bizarre. I’m pretty sure we mortified our tutors, but I like to think they secretly enjoyed watching the show. They still talk to us when we cross paths in the hallway, so I’d call karaoke night a success.
|Karaoke with tutors and fellow exchange students in Shibuya, Tokyo.|