Student Voice

2017.11.27Student Voice

It’s All Different; It’s All the Same: Lexi Dittrich, Alverno College, USA

Lexi Dittrich from Alverno College driving with friends from Akita International University

Lexi (left) with AIU friends she met during their study abroad at Alverno College.

Whenever one moves to a new place, there’s always a level of uncertainty, and many, like myself, want to eliminate it all. When I prepared to come to AIU, I researched endlessly about my upcoming experience to ensure that I would be well-read beforehand.

Preparing for AIU

There were a lot of things at AIU that I already knew about, things like the look of the campus, the school culture, and the Japanese culture outside of campus, among others. But I found that there was a lot more that I’d never imagined preparing for.

The Unexpected

I hadn’t prepared for the toilets to be so different; for the nature to be so vibrant; for fireworks more spectacular than I could dream; for more isolation than in my tiny home university; for a different bus system; for spending so much money on snacks; for rain to be so common; for meeting such a huge array of students from all across the globe; for the language barrier to be so thick; for being surrounded by so many historical sights.

As an international student, I quickly came to terms with knowing that I couldn’t have complete control over uncertainty and unfamiliarity, and that’s okay!

Most Unexpected: Similarities

The strangest thing I didn’t expect, though, was that, despite all the differences, almost everything felt exactly the same.

It’s true, I’m not at home, and I definitely don’t have an easy time at the grocery store or in small talk like I do at home. But at AIU, there’s a lot that seems so familiar to what I feel in the United States.

At AIU, the culture of clubs, circles, and sports are something that I experienced at home (although they’re a much bigger deal here), class routine and rhythms feel similar, friendships are just as abundant and easy to make, class work is just as much of a healthy challenge to manage, off-campus activities are just as common, and social interaction is just as common and necessary for us all.

Similarity in a Different Setting

It’s curious that things can feel so similar in such a vastly different setting. But this shows an important theme, to myself and to anybody else wishing to study abroad:

Wherever you go, there will always be people, professors and friends alike, who all have goals and dreams, who all want to be part of something bigger—a bigger global community, a greater cause, a more fantastic education—and it’s these aspirations that have brought us all together in a new, foreign land.

No matter where we roam, we will always find ourselves surrounded by people facing the same hardships as us, as well as those who will welcome us warmly into a strikingly new setting, invite us into a new, yet familiar community experience.

I’ve been in Japan for only a short time, but I can say by now I’ve found a new home in this excellent international community of people known as AIU.