Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Strangers in a Strange Land

Someone once told me that I would have experiences in my life that would leave me speechless, whether that be in shock or awe. Being in Japan, even for a short a time as I have been, has given me opportunity to have more of these experiences then ever before, almost back to back, in fact.

Against my original intentions, I've fallen in with a group of other exchange students. When I was preparing for Japan, I told myself the only way I'm going to improve my Japanese is to spend every waking minute with Japanese students, but now that I am here I see that it just is plausible. The sense of isolation one can experience in a crowd of other-language speakers is crippling, so I decided I would continue to be as open to others as possible. With that in mind, allow me to introduce my friends at AIU in no particular order:

Benjamin Strickland. A fellow Oregonian, attending AIU for one semester to improve his Japanese. He is already a high level Japanese student, but one of those that needs someone to push him to speak what he knows.

Tomas Larsen Høisæter
. No, that's not a typo or your computer going screwy. Tomas is a student from Norway, here for one year. He is at the same level of Japanese language as me as well. He is a lot like me where he doesn't give a damn if his Japanese or correct or not, he says what he knows, and hopes for a positive response. His catch phrase at AIU is "Well, in Norway..."

Charlotte Faber. You probably can't pronounce this last name correctly either, friends, because Charlotte is from France. A young woman with an incredibly charming accent, she doesn't appear to need any Japanese language, everything she has said in English so far has been understood, so far as I know, perhaps she has some sort of special power of being understood. She will be here for one semester as well.
From Japan Pictures

Spending a large chunk of my time with these students has not stopped me from meeting the Japanese students of AIU. As a matter of fact, I'm in a particularly favorable position here in the Komachi Dormitory.
From AIU

Every incoming freshman from Japan is required to stay in Komachi Dormitory for their first year. This means that I am sharing this experience of social awkwardness with them. We are all thrust into this new and unfamiliar setting together. There are a ton of opportunities to observe, and join, the activities of normal Japanese college students.

I have made friends with both my roommate and my suite-mate as well. I am lucky enough that they are both eager to speak with me, and help me with my Japanese:
From Japan Pictures

Yusuke Kodama. Seen on the left in the picture, is my roommate. He is not only the Captain of the local baseball team, but a member of the Kento team, which is the act of lifting incredibly heavy poles, covered in lanterns, and balancing them on one's shoulders. All this, coupled with his girlfriend, leaves him little time to mingle, but he has found time to help me in every way he can, including calling the hospital on my behalf, showing me where things are on campus, and moving furniture around.

Yusuke Onuma. Seen on the right, is my suite-mate. He lives in the room next door, and we all share a bathroom. Unlike Kodama, he is a new incoming student, so he is not yet a member of any clubs. He also suffers from a lack of "free time" because of the constant barrage of English tests the new students must take. Also unlike Kodama, he speaks primarily Japanese to me, falling back on English for only the critical details. He has also been incredibly helpful with just about everything, including picking things up for me at the mall when I was to busy with International Student orientations.

I have met a huge variety of people since arriving at AIU, every one of them incredibly interesting in one way or another. The campus itself seems to be alive and in constant movement, the likes of which I have never seen before. Perhaps it is due to it's isolation, but it seems there are always people moving in and out like breath in the body of our school. Here are a few pictures I have taken of places around the campus, in no particular order:
From Study Abroad: AIU

The view from the library. On the left is the student hall, and on the right is the administration building.
From Study Abroad: AIU

This is one of the connecting passages from the library to the student hall. When the snow passes 4 feet, the students take these to get from class to their dormitories.
From Study Abroad: AIU

The giant Pepsi you can buy at the vending machine in our cafeteria. It's something like 36 oz. of Pepsi.
From Study Abroad: AIU

Walking out the front door of my dorm building, you cross the campus's main road, which is a very pleasant scene at dusk.
From Study Abroad: AIU

Here we see a view of the library on the right, the inside of which can be seen in my previous entry Within my Means. On the left is D building, where a majority of my classes are held.

Having gone on too long already, I will end this entry here and begin collecting my thoughts for the next. Over the past week truly wild things have happened to me, but the story must be told correctly, so it may take some time to compose, so stay tuned for that in my next entry, and thank you for reading.


  1. This is very super cool Abe! I'm glad you're having such an amazing experience. Are you going to try the post and lantern thing?

  2. Over 4 feet of snow?!? Wow!

    It is so awesome that you're doing this - I just saw a link from your FB page, so I'll have to look through your old posts.

    xoxo Chelsea