Archive for October 2009

A Waseda Dorm Room, Life in Tokyo Part I

October 18, 2009

So what is it like to be a university student in Tokyo? Well, usually it involves long commutes and living with your family. But if you are an exchange student… especially at Waseda… you generally get lucky with 1) a dorm room (very likely a single) and 2) a short, short walk to campus!

So I am living in a dorm for international students and I get my own room with fridge, desk, AC, bed, etc. and bathroom. The kitchen and laundry room is shared on each floor. There’s no curfew, like some of the 4-year student dorms have, and it’s in the middle of Waseda Street, equidistant to campus and Takadanobaba Station, which is the main train station that will take you anywhere in Tokyo. I have a really nice dorm room. I would even say it’s bigger than the singles at Georgetown…

Here's what you see upon entering

Here's what you see upon entering

As you can see I’ve bought a ton of stuff. The drawers, the mirror, the piano (yes. a piano).

My bathroom

My bathroom

I have a shower/tub… A lot of the guys have been complaining about the small size but it’s fine for me haha. And it’s really nice to have my own bathroom!

My desk, fridge & dresser

My refrigerator and dresser

My desk

My desk

I moved the fridge so that my desk can be closer to the window… not sure if I was allowed to do that.

View from my room

View from my room

I like looking out my window =) That road going up the hill takes you straight to Nishi Waseda Station, a 3-4 minute walk.

My bed

My bed

My dorm is only 7 minutes to the front gates of the main campus, walking fast (I’ve timed it). So it’s almost like Georgetown where I can roll out of bed and into class… but not really.

This is what you see turning left from my dorm on the way to campus

This is what you see looking back to my dorm on the way to campus

Busy street on the way to campus

Busy street on the way to campus

It doesn’t look that busy here but Waseda-doori is packed with students coming to/from Takadanobaba Station just before each class period begins. The whole street is jam-packed with ramen restaurants and used bookstores. A fun place to be =)


Working, Studying, Living in Tokyo

October 6, 2009

My life is finally falling into a routine here at Waseda. It’s very different from Georgetown in that I have SO MUCH I am involved in. I’m going to do some posts in the upcoming days on these different aspects of my life here…

  • My dorm room: small but happily a single
  • Classes: in Japanese and English
  • Work: I am again working at Five By Fifty
  • Clubs: “circles,” where the fun stuff happens
  • Egyptology work: don’t ask. You’ll find out soon.

I’m not exactly your average Japan exchange student, and it’s really led to some crazy things here for me. I want to talk about that a little….

For one thing, I have the confidence to look around Tokyo and take risks most people new to the city don’t. The reason for that is that I was here last year on a completely unstructured internship, which means I was on my own in Tokyo for 2 months. So, it was really necessary for me to be able to explore Tokyo on my own. And I did. Now I feel perfectly fine figuring out how to get somewhere, meeting people I haven’t necessarily met before in random places, trying like crazy to use my Japanese to communicate, etc. etc. It’s often an embarrassing and painful experience, but never boring. I really love the independence my internship last year has brought me in Tokyo.

Also, my Japanese is at the level where it is opening up opportunities for me. I can take classes in Japanese. I’ve gotten in contact with a professor of a field I’m interested in. I’ve been able to make Japanese friends in club events. These sorts of things are really making a difference in my every day life compared with other exchange students here… And at the same time, it keeps rubbing in my face the fact that I am so far from fluent. So I am striving to learn more.

I think most important, though, is the fact that I was here last year. There isn’t really an “OOHH TOKYO IS AMAZING THIS IS SO FUN!!” phase for me. It’s more: “There are so many opportunities here, I love this city, how am I going to get involved?”

Add to that the fact that my internship focused on marketing in Tokyo – trends, new products, innovation, etc. – and I’ve really been exposed to how Tokyo, as a city, works. I can step back and focus on Tokyo from a marketing perspective… which has thoroughly deepened the sense of fulfillment that comes from living here. I can appreciate my surroundings in a way the average visitor can’t.

But at the same time I am meeting other foreigners who have been here for years and years, and it’s a very interesting experience to see how those people have let Tokyo shape their lives. Whether it be learning Japanese, paving a career path, or just enjoying the city… I respect all of these people and it is humbling think that they have been here so much longer than me.

That’s not to say I want to live in Tokyo in the future – I really don’t know yet, and that’s partly what this year is for. Honestly, if you were to ask me, right now, “Do you want to live the rest of your life here?” I would say NO. Yet my life experiences have become so entwined with “Tokyo” that I can certainly see myself becoming attached to it (and I already have). So I’d love to be here some of the time. But all of the time? Right now, I don’t think so.

Anyway, I’ve been in Tokyo more than a month now. I have 10 months to go. I want to make the best of it!!


At last weekend's international club barbecue by the river

No Really, I Can Speak Icelandic

October 1, 2009

So after an epic 5 month summer vacation classes have finally begun.

It’s really quite ironic because when I came here I had thought the academic side of Waseda was going to be REALLY, REALLY easy… but it hasn’t ended up that way at all.

The reason? I am taking 2 classes taught in Japanese, auditing another, and of course some language classes as well. So in the end, while I had sort of come here resigned that I wasn’t going to be working that hard (OK, I was pretty excited about it), it seems that I’m going to have my hands full.

OK, do you guys want to hear a joke?

It’s actually very serious for me. But I’m sure it’ll be funny to you.

I signed up for a class called “Iceland, Language and Culture” taught in Japanese. It’s more like a language class. I knew that when I signed up for it. I figured it’s probably easy to learn a new language with my level of Japanese, and I’m interested in Icelandic too since I did a linguistics project on it once. Anyway, I know there’s probably no other time I’m going to be able to learn some Icelandic (Georgetown definitely does not offer it), so I signed up for this course.

But guess what??

It’s the CONTINUATION of last semester.

As in, the people in this course have already been learning Icelandic for 1 semester.

Add to this the fact that I don’t exactly know the vocabulary for conjugations and declensions in Japanese, and you can see why I may have screwed myself over JUST a little bit.

Well I was basically freaking out through that whole class this afternoon and was GREATLY relieved when at least half a dozen other students came up with me at the end to tell the professor they hadn’t taken last semester, either, we’re screwed over, can you help us?

So yes, I am taking PART TWO of basic Icelandic language. In Japanese. I’m really going to have to catch up somehow. And here I was thinking it’d be easy after Russian… hahaha.

I am going to the international club BBQ this Sunday and meeting another club that I might join on Saturday at a global festival thing. Also I have my first day back at work tomorrow. Should be interesting!!