I could talk about all the places I’ve visited while living in Tokyo, but for this post, I have decided to stay on campus and address my life at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.
The school is a language school. In Japanese it is called 東京外国語大学; The literal translation is Tokyo foreign language university. The school teaches more than 20 different languages, and since the school is a language school, I’m not sure that math or science is even taught here.
“During my time here, I’ve met people from 37 different countries — some countries which I’ve never even heard of before. Every day I learn something new about a different culture just by talking to other foreign students.”
The campus is rather small for it to be university. It reminds me of my community college, but in fact it is much smaller. The school is quiet and essentially has a mini forest in the center of the campus.
The school is surrounded by trees and has a little pond like area where ducks go to take a swim.
There is no parking garage as everyone rides their bikes to school, so there are a ton of bikes on campus. I’ve never seen so many bikes in one place before.
I live on campus with several other international students. During my time here, I’ve met people from 37 different countries — some countries which I’ve never even heard of before. Every day I learn something new about a different culture just by talking to other foreign students.
Honestly, most of my culture shock came from interacting with all the international students. I’ve noticed that people from the west side of the world tend to resemble similar personality traits and habits, and the same goes for the people on the eastern side of the world. Culturally speaking, I found that I have more in common with people from Colombia, Brazil, Ghana, Mexico, Canada than I do with people from Russia, Singapore or Thailand. With all the different countries represented here, I feel like I’ve traveled the word.
But my favorite thing about all the diversity is that there is no discrimination or preconceived notions about a person based on where they come from; everyone gets along just fine.
My daily life isn’t all that exciting. I still wake up at 5 in the morning, for the sun shines as just as bright as it would in the afternoon. I usually hear the police doing their training exercises, since there is a police academy right next to the school — that is also another reason why I wake up so early. After I get up and get ready, I go to my classes.
My class schedule is quite interesting. First of all, I have seven classes for a total of 16 units. The way the school is organized is quite different from any school I’ve been to. The classes are sectioned off into periods, kind of like high school, and there are a total of six periods and a lunch break. There is even a chime that sounds, similar to the bell in high school.
My schedule is different every day. I have Japanese language class every day, either first or second period, but each class the teacher is different. My remaining six classes, I only go once a week, going to a maximum of three classes a day. There really isn’t any pattern to my schedule, so it prevents the week from becoming mundane.
Academically, the courses here are pretty simple. I’m used to having a ridiculous amount of homework and having it be a large portion of my grade, but here there is practically no homework here. The assignments are basically just studying because they are not graded — they are only checked to see if you did it. Or the homework is an essay with a 500-word, minimum with complete freedom on what to write about.
This came as a complete shock to me. I honestly didn’t know what to do with all the free time I had; In America free time does not exist because of the amount of homework given.
However, in most classes the majority of my grade is class participation, which is hardly valued in American classrooms. This too was a shock to me as I really didn’t know what that meant, outside of just showing up to class. Also, in few classes the tests are a large portion of my grade. Considering that homework is hardly given, I can understand why, but I’ve never taken a class where an exam was worth 58 percent of my grade. It’s really difficult to assess how I am doing in my classes since the concept of a grade is really abstract here. In only one instance have I seen an actual grade on something I’ve turned in — every other time it has just been an acknowledgement that I turned it in.
I’ve gotten used to living here. I’ve mastered using the art of using a pot as a skillet, cooking in a tiny space and using a knife and fork as a spatula. I, like everyone else in Japan, now hang my clothes outside to dry after washing them, and like everyone living on campus, I gasp at the price of the electric bill and rent every month. It’s all good, though. But I believe that the biggest victory is figuring out which trashcan to throw my garbage away in.
Establishing a life here proved to be new and difficult at first, but as long as I keep standing firm until the end, I will be just fine.
Dalayah Baker is a third-year transfer student majoring in Japanese. She is studying abroad spring semester in Tokyo, Japan.