Coming to AIU has given me something that even a year ago I could have only dreamed of. This university has allowed me to meet so many people from all over the world and shown me a part of Japan that so few get to experience, I feel as though my worldview has expanded exponentially. Even though I am only here at AIU for one semester, I already feel so attached to this university that the thought of leaving makes me tear up. I think that this is due not only to the wonderful learning environment I find myself in, but majorly due to the dear friends I have met in my short time here.
Making Friends from Other Cultures
When I was young, I thought it would be amazing if I could just have more than two friends who lived outside of the United States. Now, I can say that I have met people from every habitable continent, and that these friends have been the key to surviving the vast cultural differences between the United States and Japan.
Not only do I have a group of exchange students from the U.S. with whom I am particularly close, but I have degree-seeking friends from Uganda, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Japan who have supported me so much. Having never lived outside North America and Europe before, I have often felt extremely out of place in Japan on many basic principles, both ethnically and culturally. However, my new friends have not only been amazing listeners, but also given me new perspectives with which to view my situation and help myself integrate into Japanese life.
Acceptance and Belonging
I feel that this notion of support and closeness really started to develop after these people I had barely known invited me on a chance occasion to travel to Aomori prefecture with them. Being stuck in a car for five hours with seven other people, the majority of whom I had only met a week and a half prior, gave me the opportunity to grow closer with people I had thought would not even look at me a second time. I had assumed, ‘Oh, when they find out I’m American, they won’t want anything to do with me.’ But instead, they welcomed me into their lives, and we have had adventures since, had emotional times, and helped each other in some way almost every day. I could not imagine my life here at AIU without the beautiful people I’ve met.
To those who are unsure about cultural differences, I promise the students at AIU will be here for you. Even if you feel like you won’t be here long enough to matter to them, you do. You will meet people you’d never imagined could be so kind.