Working, Studying, Living in Tokyo

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

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