Joe: First Impressions

My first flight abroad in almost three years. Though it wasn’t my first time in Japan, it was my first time staying for an extended period of time. I couldn’t wait to experience what it would be like to live here, as I’d only ever come to visit family and friends before. I came early so that I had time to travel, adjust and settle before moving into university accommodation and starting my study abroad!

I was already familiar with the stark contrast between Japan and western societies like New Zealand, but it never gets easier adjusting. I was welcomed by all the Japanese I could see and hear, not to mention the high level of social order and etiquette. People lined up on the platform waiting for trains that are punctual down to the minute, unbeaten levels of customer service, and so much more. It was nice to be back. But at the same time, it made me anxious. It was my first time back in ages, and this time I was here as an adult with responsibilities. Could I communicate effectively and meet all social expectations by myself?

I had mostly just blown things out of proportion in anticipation. As soon as I got myself out there during my trip before study began, I became certain I’d be just fine. I travelled for ten days in Hiroshima, Himeji, Kyoto, and Osaka. I’d only been outside of Tokyo a couple of times so this was also very exciting. It was just me and my camera, and I couldn’t wait to see what the rest of Japan was like. I got to reflect on the importance of world peace in Hiroshima, at the Genbaku Dome building (site of the atomic bombing in WWII). I also witnessed Himeji castle, also known as the white heron castle for how bright it shines. The countless historical sites in the old capital, Kyoto, took my breath away. I even tried on a traditional Japanese attire called ‘Hakama’. Then my last stop at the kitchen of Japan, Osaka, famous for its Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki dishes in particular.

I found myself making conversation with other tourists. Nerve wracking at first, as I’d almost never use formal Japanese at home in NZ. But I grew confident and comfortable as people started to compliment how natural my tongue was, and that they wouldn’t have known I was from overseas if I hadn’t mentioned it. I became all the more excited to meet my peers once I got to university.

I checked in at my accommodation, Hiyoshi International Dormitory, on 21 September. The living arrangement was units of four flatmates, two each of domestic and international students. By the time I’d arrived there were already other students from across the globe, mainly from Europe and Canada. I was quite nervous, maybe even more so than the time I checked into accommodation for my first year of university at Auckland. It was just the same as Auckland, everyone else was in the same boat as me, and naturally everyone was extremely approachable and kind.

I’m very excited imagining how I will spend my time here over the next few months.

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