I can't believe it's already been two weeks since the other Linfield students and I arrived in Japan. There is a total of 10 students attending KGU this year for a semester of study abroad (6 from Linfield, 3 from Arkansas, and 1 from Minnesota). We've become fast friends and act as a sort of surrogate family for each other. The study room at our dorm, Hayama Seminar House (HSH), has turned into a place where we all gather to do homework, use our laptops (it is the only room with internet), eat, and just hang out. Hayama is a quaint seaside town and the people are friendly. There is a shrine near the beach, and we got to attend a festival (matsuri) that the shrine holds to pray for the fishermen. We've been adjusting to life here at HSH, but the hardest thing is actually getting to school. As riding the bus is rather expensive, we have decided to walk to KGU, meaning our commute, from Hayama to Kanazawa-Hakkei (where our KGU campus is located), is over an hour (50 minutes of walking, 10-minute train ride). Comfortable walking shoes are our best friends.
Our first week in Japan was extremely hectic since it was orientation week. We were also feeling the effects of jet lag, so we often felt like we had to fight to get through the day. The humidity of Japan is something that I have to mention. Orientation was a bit of an ordeal as most of it was in Japanese and difficult to understand. We learned about our classes, applied for train passes, filled out our "alien registration" forms, and got a crash course on living in Japan.
Class actually started at the beginning of the second week and we have finally begun to settle into a sort of routine. For our Japanese language course, our group is split evenly between the upper and lower classes (this was determined by the dreaded placement test). Unfortunately, the upper class (known as B class) moves really quickly and those of us in it, myself included, feel like we're floundering most of the time. Our class times change every day and periods are an hour and a half long. The hardest period is the one before lunch when everyone starts to get really hungry and attention spans wane.
Although classes are difficult, we are lucky to have our buddies! KGU has a "buddy" program with Japanese KGU students that volunteered to help study abroad students, like us, learn to live in Japan. They teach us about daily life, what stores to go to, what trains/buses to catch, and a little bit about school. Some of them have very long commutes but still go out of their way to spend time with us and make sure we're all right. We've already had a surprise birthday party for one of our buddies and have become fast friends with all of them in such a short amount of time. They've even taken us to Yokohama and Ueno to shop and go sight-seeing. We are certainly fortunate to have them as they help make life in Japan even more enjoyable.
The humidity of Japan is something that I have to include in this post. I'm from Hawaii where it's more humid than Oregon, but Japan's humidity is on a whole other level. I woke up one morning and found that my calendar had curled. The passport of one of the other students had even warped in the humidity! We begin sweating the moment we step outside and, this part is a little gross, it's so bad that we sweat through our deodorant! Hopefully, the coming weeks will provide some relief as it gets closer to autumn, but for now, we have to deal with being constantly sticky.
I've left out so many things in this post, but it would go on forever if I tried to include everything. Even though classes are tough, we're giving our all and still having fun!
Until next time,