It has now been almost a week of living on campus at International Christian University, yet given its name is not a Christian school (if you don’t want it to be). There is a chapel that has a Sunday service and before we started our Welcome Lunch there was a prayer; but aside from those situations, the university does not impose the religion upon anyone. Japanese in general are very conservative when it comes to religion and politics and you’ll seldom hear either be topics of discussion over dinner or with friends.
So what’s it like living and studying at ICU?
I really enjoy it! The campus is not in Tokyo, but just outside of Tokyo in a city called Mitaka. So it’s actually a little bit of a hassle to get to the city but still accessible to Tokyo within 45 minutes (including the bus that leave campus). The campus is two stations west of Kichijoji; the city is known for having a youthful, artistic, and slightly countercultural reputation. My aunt said it’s the new cool place to live.
I live at the Oak House which is a (newer) student dormitory on campus. Living here is comfortable although the policies are strict and there are a long list of rules everyone has to follow.
Each student living here has a key card that has to be swiped first at the front door, a second time to enter your floor, then lastly a third swipe to enter your room (and a reverse of all three swipes when you leave). Oh and you need your keycard to turn on the electricity in your room. It’s a little painful for a forgetful person like me, although I haven’t run into any problems yet.
Each room is shared by two people (what they call a ‘twin’ room). There are three floors, the first floor is all guys and the second and third floor are for girls. No visitors are allowed into the dorm (ever, even family). Curfew is technically 12am but you can e-mail the dormitory supervisors if you plan to come home later. Again, it’s a little bit of a tedious problem, so it’s best just to be home before curfew. There’s a shared kitchen on each floor that’s always kept neat and has everything you need to cook a meal.
The studies I am participating in are part of a Summer Program here at ICU. The structure of courses are very different than those of the regular semester terms; however, some students do the Summer Program before entering a regular semester at ICU to familiarize themselves with campus and practice Japanese.
Everyone takes a placement test to determine your correct level (unless you are a beginning and are studying Japanese for the first time). I was nervous for my test because I haven’t had as much formal language training and have learned most of my Japanese from my mom and her side of the family.
The test was hard (むずかしい). I had to write for about three hours including an essay about myself. The whole experience was humbling and I realized I had so much more Japanese to learn. But I ended up being placed in the level I was hoping for, I wanted to be challenged but not feel like I was stumbling to keep up. At the moment, I am really happy with the level I’m studying at and I already feel like my Japanese is improving.
Meals (lunch and some days dinner) in the dining hall are my favourite part of the day! The dining hall is open from 10:00 – 19:00 and features several different Japanese dishes. The meals are about ¥300 – ¥400. So cheap and so good!
I am truly enjoying my time in Tokyo and finding a lot of value in spending time in Japan. I miss home, but staying busy always helps when I am away. I hope the next several weeks continues to be a balance of challenge in studies and taking time to experience Tokyo with friends and family.