Hello, everyone! This is Steven Crowder, and welcome to another diary entry from my time here in Japan during the 2012-2013 school year. I apologize for this being a little late, but the new school year at Rikkyo (which is the new semester for me) just started and I have had a lot of homework to take care of. At least I did not forget for three months this time, right?
This past month has been something else. On the second of the month, I had my placement test to determine what level of Japanese I would be taking for this semester. At Linfield, one would normally just move on to the next level of Japanese language studies, but that is not the case at Rikkyo University. Instead, if you do better, you are placed in the appropriate level. If you do not do well, they send you back to the level you took during the previous semester. At least they don't send you back to the most basic level, so count your blessings. I got my placement test results back four days later. I got placed into the mid-upper intermediate level of Japanese language studies (J-4 for reading comprehension and J-5 for everything else), and started registering for my classes. Unfortunately for me, many of the classes that were available for me were 1 credit courses, so I had to choose more classes to get a decent credit amount for when I return to Linfield. In total, I am taking 13 classes and the total credit amount I have is 15 credits. As a result of taking this many classes, I have a fairly large size of homework to take care of every week. Since my major is Japanese language, I refused to take any business courses, but I decided to take a physical education course to blow off some steam once a week. I must say that it is a great stress reliever, and I recommend taking at least one while you are here. However, in order to take a sports course, you need to be at J-4 or higher, so I recommend hitting the books before you come abroad.
I also had an unpleasent experience during the last weekend. I just got home from my first full week of school, and I decided to check my mailbox to see if there was anything interesting. I took a look, and saw a slip of paper from the Asaka Police Department saying "Patrol". I did not know what was going on, so I decided to talk to the dorm manager about the slip of paper. She said it was talking about patrol of some sort, but she had not received any word about the police deciding to do a patrol of the dorm. I told her that since I have been in Japan, I have not done anything illegal and have avoided any and all situations that would endager my status as a foreign exchange student. She said she would call the police department and ask them what was going on. For nine hours following my conversation with her, I was nervous beyond comprehension. I called my family and told them what was going on, and sent Michele in the International Programs Office a note about what happened. My mother also called Michele and asked her if anything like this had happened in previous years (to which she replied "no" and that this was something new). I told Michele that I would keep her posted as to details surrounding this mystery.
The next morning, I talked with the dorm manager during breakfast, and she told me that everything is okay. It turns out that the slip was regarding a neighborhood patrol and that everyone in the neighborhood received one, but the slip got placed in my mailbox instead of the dorm manager's mailbox. I felt like an immense weight was lifted off of my shoulders, and just gulped down my coffee with a sigh of relief. I told Michele about what the dorm manager said, and I decided to put this disaster behind me. When you are abroad and something like this comes up, ask your dorm manager, host family, or whoever for help, and make sure to tell the IPO office ASAP. They are there for a reason: to make sure that you enjoy your time abroad and that everything is going well. I was the first to experience this mess, and I am sure I won't be the last. I hope you're taking notes.
Later that day, I went to an international students gathering held in Ueno with international students from various schools in Japan, ranging from Waseda University to the prestigious Tokyo University. I made several new friends and was invited to an event that is being held on Wednesday at 6:30 in the evening. Later that evening, I met with some friends in Ikebukuro and we went to an amazing Chinese restaurant in Ebisu and had the most delicious Chinese food that I have had during the entirety of my time here in Japan. One of the exchange students from Germany named Paul and I ate more than anyone else, but that's a way of saying that we loved the food and that we made sure to save our appetites until then.
The next day, I met with some of the exchange students that just recently came to Japan within the last month, as well as the IFL members (IFL is another international club at Rikkyo. I like this club a lot. The people in it are nice, and they have amazing events) and we went to Asakusa. While we were in Asakusa, we went to the Kaminarimon and took a tour of the area. Since the weather is getting nicer, I purchased a blue and gold kimono with gold dragon and phoenix patterns on it. I currently use it as my evening wear, and I just love it. The exchange students this time around are very nice, and many of them are first-time visitors to Japan. As a result, I am something like their senior, and I answer many of the questions that they ask me.
In regards to the language courses for this semester, I am taking two courses at the Niiza campus (one on Tuesdays at 9 A.M. and the other on Thursday at 9 A.M.) and the rest are held at the usual Ikebukuro campus. The homework is a little more difficult, but at least the homework is only due at the beginning of the class during the following week. As a result, there is more time to learn the material and get a better grasp on many of the vocabulary words and sentence patterns. I am also taking a course with several Japanese students who will be going to study abroad during the next semester. In this class, I am one of the two exchange students from outside of Japan and we have to talk to the class about how we have noticed the similarities and differences between our home country's culture and Japan's culture. My professor for that class is British, so that makes things very interesting.
That's all I have to report for this month. This is Steven Crowder, signing off. I want you all to take these lessons to heart when you're in a foreign country for your study abroad program: 1) Keep in touch with IPO, especially when things go south; 2) Make new connections with other students, including those from other countries; and 3) Have fun. Until next time, dear readers!