Going to a new country is definitely a stressful experience, especially when your home is literally on the other side of the world. While we try our best to prepare and form reasonable expectations, there are always going to be shocks that come from unexpected angles.
Yet, in my experience, rural AIU somehow feels less alien and overwhelming than the largest cities in Japan.
A World Unto Itself
If there is one thing that I wish I knew before coming to AIU it would be to truly understand just how much the school feels like a world unto itself. I thought I understood it before coming here, but there really is just no way to describe it to someone who hasn’t been here. There really is nothing around the campus for miles; and the extraordinarily small student body can make anyone feel like they’ve been left on a deserted island.
None of this is a bad thing, though.
Campus and Local Community
Yes, AIU may feel like it’s shut off from the rest of the area, but that isn’t true at all.
There is a unique cross-culture at the school that I really don’t think you can experience anywhere else in Japan, or the world. Not only are there people from every corner of the globe in such a small area, the local population of Akita comes to AIU because they are interested in whichever corner you call home. They are some of the friendliest people I have met, and they want every international student to fully experience Japanese culture. It can seem daunting at first, because even those students with confidence in their Japanese speaking ability will be pushed to and then past their limits.
Making New Friends
When you find yourself overwhelmed, there are always other students at AIU willing to lend a hand. With just over 1,000 students at AIU, there is this feeling of a very tight-knit community that forms within the first few days on campus. By the end of your first month, you usually stop seeing new faces because everybody knows everybody by then; whether it be through classes, clubs, or just mutual friends. This might sound scary, especially for people who come from bigger schools (my home university has over 25,000 full-time students). I’ve found that AIU is the easiest place in the world to make new friends. Even just walking through campus between classes, I usually end up running into and greeting a handful of people I know.
Coming to AIU, I was anxious about being in a foreign country where I didn’t know anyone. That anxiety was quickly wiped away and the friends I’ve made in the short few months here are some of the best I’ve ever had.