So today it’s really sunk in that I’m actually in Japan (and for a long time as well). I guess that’s what happens when you stay at a Campus University. The past week has been a bit hectic (when is it ever not?), so I’ll break this up into little sections 🙂
So classes begun this week and they got off to a flying start – especially Japanese. My teacher, Kamei-sensei (not Kame-sensei – turtle-sensei) and the lesson is solely in Japanese….we also have a very mixed group of students: several from Taiwan, a few Norwegians, a German, a couple of Americans, a couple of Singaporeans and me…..although the class is still a nice size.
Japanese Literature class is taught by a very monotonous Russian guy (Professor Dolin). He spent the first 10 minutes of the class telling us all the books he’d written/translated. He seems a little full of himself, but he knows what he’s talking about 🙂
Pronunciation class is taught by this tiny elderly Japanese lady called Ayusawa-sensei. She also teaches us mostly in Japanese, but she’s also teaching us the correct intonations and pronunciations.
Unfortunately I haven’t actually had my International Trade class yet since the teacher decided to be away (and not tell us….). Ach well, it meant I had a free afternoon on Thursday!
COS is our community outreach opportunity at AIU. They offer the chance to go out into the community (sometimes paid) and do activities. I had my first experience of this when I signed up to help a group of middle school students practice their English. They were so cute!!
This semester I’ve joined two clubs and one committee (although one of the clubs has yet to materialise). I have Aikido – a Japanese martial art – twice a week. It’s quite strenuous on the wrists (because of the self-defence we’re learning) and the legs….
My other club is supposed to be a Bible Study group (because the nearest church is too far away), but we haven’t got a venue yet 😦
I’ve also joined the ‘Campus Art’ group which is supposed to be doing all the decoration for the school festival we’ve got coming up in October. The group is mostly Japanese students, so I’m gonna have to get my casual Japanese up to scratch!
This is the postman, if you can believe it! He has a little red van like at home 🙂
Other homely comforts include BBC world news being on in the cafeteria, listening to BBC Radio 2 on my laptop (Last Night of the Proms tonight!) and being able to watch iPlayer. “How does she do this?” I hear you ask! Well, there’s a controversial programme called Expat Shield that enables you to create an artificial IP address. Now as I said, it’s controversial and the BBC have refused to comment on it (here’s the article about it, if anyone’s interested: http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2010/11/03/software-cheat-lets-people-watch-bbc-iplayer-abroad-an-update/). For someone who’s away from the UK for a while, it’s a godsend – I can watch the Great British Bake Off and Sherlock Series 3 (when it starts).
This was where being in Japan really sunk in….we were put on a meal plan (where we get meals from the cafeteria) for the first two weeks. After that it’s pay for meals, or cook for yourself – unsurprisingly I chose the latter of the two. However that meant I had to go food shopping, as well as getting starter items like oil and seasonings, which meant I actually had to navigate a Japanese supermarket. Being immersed in solely Japanese products while trying to decide what you need to survive for the next few weeks was definitely overwhelming. I did make it out of there alive, though (with my sanity vaguely intact – they had the same song on a loop the entire time I was there).
Well, I’m surviving here and got a bus trip tomorrow to Kakunodate (an old samurai village), so I’ll be reporting on that during the week. Until then, またね！
So this is going to be a little round up of my first week in Japan and I have one word for it – hectic! Basically it was Orientation Week which means we had countless lectures on student life, courses, sex ed (yeah, we got a lecture on that one – by a 60 year old male gynaecologist), harassment prevention, cell phones…oh and a Proficiency Test! Yeah….that one was nasty – the questions were supposed to get progressively harder, but they just jumped from easy (Q1,2,3) to stupid (Q4 onwards) in a matter of seconds….not nice! My score worked out alright, though! I got into a class higher than what I was aiming for, so I’m going to have to do a bit of self-study to catch up, but you know what? I’m just happy that I don’t have to repeat 2nd year….
I’m sharing with a Japanese roommate, called Chino (she’s a little reserved – like me on a normal day). The layout is a little weird – there are two cabin beds (with desk/shelves and hanging rail underneath), a small kitchen (with hotplate, sink and tiny fridge), a toilet and a bathroom (shower/bath). It’s definitely bigger than my room back at University….
Some of my ‘up there’ moments from this week:
– A rather poignant speech by one of the lecturers (Darren Ashmore – a brit and not-so-closet Otaku) about how he got into Japanese. His uncle was a PoW in the war and lost a lot (including a leg and an eye) under torture; his mother never forgave the Japanese for what they did to her brother. However, the uncle could see past the propaganda and to the boys guarding him, who were of a similar age to him and seemed to have no idea what they were supposed to be doing, or why. He went back to Japan after the war and got to know the real Japan, not the one from the posters. It was very touching.
– My favourite meal so far at AIU – curry rice (カレーライス). I have to say, after a day of lectures and little sleep, eating a bowl of curry rice really hit the spot. Nothing better (although I may stand corrected as this adventure carries on).
– There is an advantage to your body deciding to wake up at 5am every morning – I go for a morning bug hunt. So far I have been chasing the Cicadas who disguise themselves into the tree bark. Also managed to surprise a janitor this morning when he found me lying in the middle of the path, trying to photograph a caterpillar….The bugs here are pretty cool – I also managed to get some photographs of a huge green cricket just chillin’ in the middle of the road!
– The library. What can I say? It’s got a huge selection of English language research books and fiction books (I’m already on my second Stephen King in 3 days), Japanese DVDs (including Disney ones – so I can go on a Disney Binge). It’s a beautiful woodwork decorated library in a semi-circle shape, so you get a beautiful panoramic view of all the books. Plus – it’s SILENT (or at least until they let all the international students loose on it…) which is a plus, because the UCLan Library is….ridiculously loud. It’s not for studying so much as socialising!
– Callum’s hilarious fail at reading Kanji (sorry, Callum, this had to go on here!). The words “what’s はん まえ ちゅう (han mae chuu)” were uttered while staring bewildered at a text containing the kanji: 午前中（ごぜんちゅう – to be read gozenchuu)….Oh, Callum….well it certainly gave us reason to have a proper laugh this morning!
Some icky moments:
– For some reason, my body has decided to wake me up at 5am EVERY MORNING! Breakfast isn’t open at the canteen until 7am, so I have to amuse myself with bug hunts and morning exercises until then 😦
– As much as I love thunder storms, having them wake me up at 4am twice in one week wasn’t exactly not I wanted…there was some fantastic rain, though – it was so loud!
After the Matriculation Ceremony today (in which we had lots of speeches and a beautiful performance of Saint-Saens by Keiko Watanabe – the violin teacher), I can now officially call myself a student of Akita International University. I hope that it will lay the path for a series of adventures and a genuinely wonderful experience here in Japan. Until then – またね！
(This is our ‘how white do we feel?’ photo with “Wan-chan the University Mascot)