I didn’t know what to expect when I first came to Akita International University. I kept being reminded that I would go through the dreaded "culture shock", which I don’t think I really ever got.
I expected things to be different, and some things were hard - like trying to figure out what laundry detergent I should buy because I can’t read the labels - but otherwise, I just took things how it came. I tried all the different foods, I copied mannerisms I saw, and tried to learn things I didn’t understand.
AIU life is definitely a unique experience, one that I didn’t know I would have. Honestly, I underestimated the world "International" in "Akita International University". I had no clue the whole community was from all over the world. It wasn’t just a few exchange students. I spend just as much, or even more, with international students from places such as Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, France, China, Korea, Czech Republic, Britain and Italy as I did with Japanese students.
If I had any sort of “culture shock” it was from living with these students. They spoke my language, but we had different hearts, minds, opinions, and lingo that provided a challenging learning environment and growing experience that I would have never received anywhere else. I learned how to be more open-minded and thoughtful of the people around me and about what I said and did. Being with them has sometimes been a love and hate relationship, but one I wouldn’t give up for the world because it has taught me a lot of myself and how to work with and interact with people of different cultures. Most of all it has given me a new family whom all I will never forget.
My favorite memories while living in Japan and Akita have been the changing of the seasons. I’ve loved exploring the breathtaking beauty of the Japan’s nature especially the sakura blossoms and 紅葉 (koyo, foliage) of the fall. The mountains, hidden shrines, and sounds of the cicadas have made for some very beautiful memories.