Feeling at Home in Japan: Michelle Linker, Marist College, USA

Chureito Pagoda Mount Fuji Akita International University study abroad

Michelle at a visit to Chureito Pagoda near Mt. Fuji

My name is Michelle Linker and I am an exchange student from Marist College in New York.

Why Japan and AIU

Spring 2017 was my first time studying abroad ever in my life and also my first time being in Japan. A strong interest in the culture, food, and language is what brought me to Japan, but a genuine interest in other cultures and meeting people from all sorts of backgrounds as well as a desire to know the rural or “non-Tokyo” side of Japan is what brought me to Akita International University.

Coming to Japan and AIU was one of the best decisions of my life.

Arriving in Japan

I remember first boarding the plane and the excitement I felt, but also the anxiety at the thought of being in another country for four months without my family or friends from America. The anxiety immediately dissipated after arriving; somehow, I felt more comfortable and natural getting around Japan than I did back in New York!

People were always friendly and polite to me no matter where I went and the cleanliness and efficiency of Tokyo and other cities like Nara was something that has left a deep impression on me. Being able to use my language skills, see Mt. Fuji, and try onsen for the first time was also an amazing experience for me when I first arrived.

A Strange Welcome

When I finally made it to AIU, I remember the first thing they said on the bus was “Welcome to AIU! Oh yeah, there’s also a bear on campus so be careful!” I initially did not know how to react other than kind of laugh a bit because that was how we were hilariously welcomed with a bear warning, yet I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

AIU Friendships

Any existing anxiety I had left in me was completely out of my system when I met the students. I have met almost 100 people since I came to Japan. Many friends here see me as an outgoing and approachable person, but back home in America, I am usually a lot more introverted and shy. However, AIU made me feel so comfortable that I was able to open up very quickly and make so many wonderful, lifelong friendships.

AIU students are definitely amongst the most friendly, diverse, and interesting people that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. Never before in my life could I say I have friends from every continent and hemisphere until now.

Learning about Myself

From the Japanese students to the international students, I have learned so much from everyone about the world, other cultures and languages, and also about myself. Students at AIU have inspired me to strive for the best, understand my own flaws and work on improving myself every day.

My only regret I have about AIU is that I could not stay longer than a semester. I will truly miss this university and hope to return and visit someday.