A.M. (ICC Student Staff Leader)

Reading this blog post, I think you will know which one of us student staff wrote it, but I have never been shy about sharing my thoughts or my feelings, so this is my love letter to internationalism.

I first came to Japan in 2017, straight after the most bizarre, jam-packed month of my life. In my last 30 days at home, I made Christmas dinner with my friends in the lingering heat of the summer, had minor surgery, and one week later ran my first marathon. The truth is, I pushed myself to do as many things as I could before leaving my home country, because I was scared. I was scared about moving to the other side of the world, not knowing what to do if something bad happened, being so far from friends, from family. It was totally different to times when I had left home before, as I wouldn’t be able to fly right home if there was an emergency.  

My 留学生活 , however, did not disappoint. It was 10 months of great change. I made friends from all over the world, improved my Japanese to a level I never could have achieved at home, visited all the places I wanted to go, stayed up and watched the sun rise more times than I could count. I had made my new home, and my new home was Tokyo. 

Until it was time to leave again. No matter how much I wanted to, I had to go back to finish my undergraduate degree. I was fresh off the plane from Tokyo, so fresh in fact that I was still waking before the sun, when I scheduled a meeting with my professor. It was finally time to start thinking about what I was going to do after finishing my Bachelor’s degree. I knew I wanted to do a Master’s degree, continue in my field of language and cultural studies,; I wanted to focus on Japanese, but was at a loss as to how I could have it all. That’s how my story with Waseda began.  

A grueling 21- month process of researching, writing, applying for scholarship, finishing essays, panicking before oral exams, graduating, finding a full- time job, and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, all the while, dreaming of Tokyo. The email came at the end of February 2020. A scholarship and an acceptance letter. I was going back home!  

Sometimes it seems that there is a cruel irony in the fact that I have come here during the coronavirus pandemic. Yes, I was able to come to Tokyo, and start the graduate student life experience… from the comfort of my own home. I have not met most of my classmates, nor very many people at all for that matter. It was not until I started working at the ICC, that I began to feel as I used to.  

The ICC has given me the chance to cross paths with so many people, the gift of hearing their stories, and courtesy of sharing a small part of their lives. I have relearned what I knew to be true before this pandemic;: the value of interaction. I don’t believe in the archaic ideas of borders, or nationalism,  these are silly categories that confine individuals to a certain set of expectations which they may or may not live up to. And when you sit behind the counter at the ICC, this is what you see. Not groups of students that can be neatly separated by country, but a bricolage of culture, identity, and personality.  

And this never fails to remind me why I love living in Tokyo. There is a vast, never ending expanse of people just waiting to have their story heard. There is a constant flow of those moving away, those moving in, those moving around. There is always a new road that I haven’t followed, a train line not yet taken, a building I have never seen. The permutations are limitless.

Of course, there are times in which it feels too much. Being so far away from home and everything that I know. I don’t have much of a community, nor a place to remind me of home. Sometimes I long for someone who will give me that familiar feeling. 

But every morning and every evening, as I look out at the view of Tokyo, framed by my kitchen window, I remember why I worked so hard to be here, and why this is truly a freedom like no other. 

Image from Imgur