Orientation week in Osaka was both similar and very different to orientation week at Carleton. There were no large social events for students coming into the program directly on campus through the school, but there were tours and orientation packages. The seminar houses (residence) is where everyone lives, whether you were going to stay there, move into a house or the homestay program. After orientation week, everyone who was not staying in the seminar houses left. They had a program for people doing homestay where they met their host families at the school.
One of the girls I met loved her host family but had a hard time staying with them because it was so far from campus. So, after a few weeks she moved back into the seminar house. For other people, it worked out really well where their host parents even invited us (friends of the student being hosted) over for dinner. I suppose it depends where you are placed. For people who are unsure, I think the home visit program is awesome. My friend Jasmine did it and I think I will sign up for it next semester. Funny enough she was actually paired with my speaking partner’s family! We would jokingly argue about which of us my speaking partner liked better (It was me!)
The seminar houses had activities hosted by the RA’s to meet the people they would be living with. For the most part, everyone was so nice and happy to meet the people they would be sharing this experience with! After I got to the seminar house, I spoke to two Japanese girls that were paired with foreign students as Japanese speaking roommates. I’m so happy I met them! Momo is still my go-to for fashion advice and Rika is always down to do yoga with me!
It was the middle of Japan’s summer/typhoon season when I arrived so it was insanely hot out! 36 to 38 degrees was the norm! Unfortunately, the air conditioning in some of the rooms ended up being broken. Until they could be fixed, people had to be shifted so we had an extra roommate for a bit.
After we got settled into our rooms on campus (a 20 minute walk away) we had presentations to listen to about what to do next such as registering at city hall and bike certifications and so on. The fun part of this and during the move into the seminar house was meeting everybody! Classes hadn’t started yet so I took day trips to Osaka and Kyoto. I must have gone to Osaka at least every second day at that point!
This all being said, all the foreign students I met spoke English but not all of them spoke Japanese. I was a little disappointed because I wanted to keep practicing beyond my Japanese friends.
At Kansai Gaidai there are 8 levels of Japanese with 1 being no experience and 8 getting ready to take the JLPT N1 test (academic level). I tested at level 5 which means that I was at a point where I would begin to study for the N2 (business level) if I chose to take it. After level 6, I’m told you should definitely be able to take the N2 and pass. You finish one level in a semester. To figure out what level you are they have a date and time set aside for when you will take a test in one of the computer labs on campus. Depending on your skill level you may be asked to do a written portion or to sign up for an oral interview. You’re told your official Kansai Gaidai Japanese level later. After that point you can register for your classes.
I didn’t care so much for the class registration process because there is less freedom in schedule planning and adding and dropping of classes than at Carleton. However, Japanese students don’t get to choose their schedule at all so coming from that point of view you could say that I have a lot of freedom of choice.
Overall, I think the most challenging part of orientation week was not having full use of the seminar house kitchen! You could only use part of it until the end of orientation since non-seminar house students were living there too. I was so happy when I was finally able to use the stove!
On my way to Japan, I experienced a typhoon that resulted in turbulence. Some flights were delayed getting to the seminar houses due to unsafe flying conditions. When I arrived, it was the middle of rainy season in Japan and a few typhoons passed near where I was staying. Having an umbrella is a must at this point! Classes were only cancelled once due to typhoon warnings so it wasn’t too bad though. I think my first earthquake here was far more shocking.
I was on the fourth floor of the house when I heard a groaning from outside. I went towards the elevator when it felt like the whole floor was shaking and swaying! When I went back to my room, my chair was even shifting!
We were warned about natural disasters during orientation, but I was still surprised.
Since then I don’t really know how many earthquakes I’ve experienced but there’s been a few where I hadn’t even noticed because I was somewhere like on the bus.
There was a huge earthquake in Fukushima and we were barely affected in Hirakata. At that point I was surprised when I got messages from my friends asking if I was alright. By then I was used to small tremors and didn’t really give much thought as to how I would be affected. I think most of my friends just heard Japan and huge earthquake and panicked!