We finally arrived at Kansai International Airport (KIX), where we were greeted by what some may consider one of Japan’s ambassadors of pop culture.
Soon after passing him and his friends, my group and I went directly to customs and it was a rather quick and familiar process, pretty much like in the US, except shorter.
After getting our bags, we easily located the Kwansei Gakuin University Staff who were waiting for our arrival; soon we were headed to the hotel where we would stay for the night, as the following day we were to participate in a placement test to measure our Japanese language skills so we could be assigned in the appropriate language course. The bus ride to the hotel was fascinating, as we could see KIX, a manmade island built exclusively for the airport; it was astonishing. Further down the road, I got a short glance of Osaka Castle, unfortunately, I was unable to take any pictures, as it caught me unprepared and we were going so fast that I did not have the time to take out my phone. But this was not my only chance, I did get to see it up close with my own eyes and with plenty of time to enjoy it. I will tell you all about it in another post, soon.
Arriving at the hotel
Once we arrived at the Sheraton hotel, we were greeted warmly by the hotel staff, and then started to mingle with other students who were also arriving for the same program from Countries all around the world. We greeted each other and I got to meet a few of them as we waited in line for our room keys. As soon as I got my key, I gave a friendly wave to the people I had met and rushed up to my room.
Hotel surprises and the view
The view from my hotel room was astonishing for me, I have not seen such beauty since I lived in Mexico.
On the other hand, neither I nor any of my hotel roommates had any idea how to operate the AC unit. The day outside was very humid, and inside the room, it was just as bad. For the longest time, we kept messing with a device that we thought was the AC unit but turned out to be a humidifier. Ha! Ha! However, we soon found the AC controls on the wall near the TV, and everything was fine again.
Next morning and a Mexican treat in Japan?
The next morning my roommates and I went to the breakfast buffet, which was amazing. I don’t recall exactly what I ate, I just know that it was excellent; there was a great variety of food. Two things surprised me the most: one was the drink I had, which looked like kelp but tasted amazing, and the other was flan! I later found out here it’s also called custard pudding. In Mexico, it has only one name, flan. It was a nice surprise seeing and eating a dessert that I love from my country, here in Japan.
Soon after, several of us got together for a last-minute Japanese review before the placement test.
Orientation and our move to our dorms
After the placement test we got a chance to socialize with one another; little did I know at the time that with a lot of the people I had met at the hotel so far, I would end up developing strong friendships that will continue to develop through my time here in Japan.
Some of the topics we talked about were: where we came from, scholarships that we had applied for, our degrees or majors, why we came to Japan, and many more. Then we had an orientation session and more time to socialize. Sometime after the orientation, we were asked to group based on where we were going to live the next few months so we could leave the hotel. I ended up meeting one of my dormmates who happens to come from Nebraska, a place I keep very dear to my heart. During the bus ride, we sat together and continued our conversation.
First night at the dorm
The bus took us near the train station that we would be using the majority of our travel and we had to walk another 15 minutes to our new home.
Once we arrived we walked with our bags to the common area. All of us were tired, even exhausted from the trip and the day’s ordeal; it was a hot and humid night, but very exciting. We were all given welcome packets with our keys and room numbers. There are four of us in each unite with our own room. I was assigned with my friend from Omaha, one guy from Norway and another one from Germany; great guys and great company to be around with. Actually, that’s true about everyone here: for the most part, everyone gets along well with one another.
After finding our rooms and dropping our luggage off, we all met up with our guides and went shopping for groceries. Along the way, I was chatting with other people and we discussed, yes, you guessed it, where we came from, scholarships that we had applied for, our degrees or majors, why we came to Japan, and many more. It sounds repetitive, but when you meet so many new people at the same time, and you are going to share your immediate future with them, you pretty much want to know the same thing about each one of them, and knowing the variety of different backgrounds makes for a richer life together.
After that, we came to our common area, which has a larger kitchen than the one in our units; we socialized for a bit, we talked about other topics, and we got some tips from our guides for that night, who are also international students, except that they have lived here one semester or more; the tips were simply about the area around the dormitory, and where you can find what. One of them was actually kind enough to show a few of us around the area for some shops that had a variety of goods that we need for our new lives in Japan.
Our journey was just beginning!