Moving Into Japan as a Foreign Student

Moving into japan has had its roller coaster rides from my own experience. I remember the mellow and anxious experience of first landing in the country of the sun for the very first time. With two big trolley bags and a light backpack, to put my personal documents and necessities close, I landed at the airport none other than being very excited to be a foreign student. I got onto the Shinkansen for the very first time and everything was bright, new and interesting to me. As the bullet train zoomed near Ikebukoro, I stared outside it’s windows to see greenery, small cute houses and sometimes caught glimpses of the city’s modern landscape. It was baffling honestly. For the first time ever, I soon tried out Japanese food from it’s famous affordable restaurant chains, like Saizeriya, Sushiro and Gusto. To be very honest, whatever I ate in those first few days, melted in my mouth. I loved the new taste and it was a fresh change of pace; the mild sweetness and sourness of the soy sauce, and carefully handled stinging wasabi. Yes, I was in my honeymoon stage, and it did not last very long.

Soon, my classes started and a few weeks passed by. I could feel the hype and excitement dying down. Thus began, the stage of frustration. One thing that really bothered me was the garbage sorting. I just could not figure out the routine to dispose burnable waste, plastics and cardboards. You would have often caught me swearing trying to figure it out, in those days. I am ranting, but with very little understanding of the language itself, it was actually very odd to visit the convenience and grocery stores. You always had a weird interaction with the cashier, no matter how much you tried to anticipate and prepare your moves. Sometimes, it was even hard to pick up grocery items, because first, you did not know how to differentiate the packaging with little comprehensive ability, and second you could not usually find the vegetables and spices necessary for country specific cuisines. Everything was no longer bright, new and interesting. The soy sauce and the wasabi was getting boring and repetitive.

A month or two after, everything was about being emotionally intelligent. I was taking Japanese classes at the university, watching youtube videos to understand the social norms here, and soon laughing with my friends about all the previously experienced difficulties. I finally got used to sorting garbage, and the disposal schedule. Moreover, I could finally interact properly with the staff in the Konbinis and grocery stores. Quite suavely, I would use my very own Japanese accent to ask “ikura des ka?”, “doko desu ka?” and say “Arigatou gozaimaus” “Daijoubu desu”. On the other hand, I was also successful in finding a small store to find all the spices and ingredients from back home. I was finally adjusting to the lifestyle here. It was not, I would say happening subconsciously but rather, a bit of effort here and there, was necessary. Since, I had friends who were going through similar phases, I guess it was becoming a bit easier to grasp everything.

After a year and at this time, reflecting back to those first days, weeks and months, I got to say I have come very far. I am working part-time in the very konbinis, I used to have nervous break downs at. I can speak some Japanese necessary for daily life and I think I know more about the social norms here now, than I used to. Yet, I do agree that there is still a lot left to learn. I have accepted that it’s a learning process and I am not afraid to adjust at all. I can bravely say that these past hurdles had necessarily changed me, but for good. I am indeed much more open minded to change and difficulties than before.  The honeymoon, frustration, adjustment and acceptance stages are the typical phases that anyone moving into a new a country should expect, but I did not. However, corrected and experienced, I attest that these stages are thrilling, depressing, overwhelming and overly necessary for a growing mindset. Every international student should take this trail for the sake of growth. This other day I was waiting in the queue to checkout my protein bar, and just at front, I could see a young lady, an international student maybe, being all jittery as she was handing out her items to the cashier. She dropped some coins eventually. I laughed internally, couldn’t help it. You’ve got a lot to learn new soul, a lot to learn.