Life as an international student at Ursinus

Emina Takahashi, Courtesy of Rob Varney

Emina Takahashi

It’s been over a month since I first stepped foot into the United States. School started a week after I got here, and I’m not going to lie, the culture shock was hell. The first week was so depressing; I was the only exchange student here for a year and the campus was empty like a ghost town. I was expecting a roommate but had a single room. I was with two other full-time international students for my orientation and campus tour. I wasn’t on the same schedule as the freshmen even though I was experiencing everything as one. Overall, I had a lot of expectations about my arrival and first week but none of them were how I’d thought it’d be. I was very lonely and began to question my choice to study abroad.

However, things started to look up. I met more students as they were moving into my dorm, and went on a tour trip to the city with the TAs. One was from Japan too, and I felt happy I had some- one who I could talk and connect with, as I am an exchange student from Japan. But then I started getting anxious about making friends, starting my classes, and adjusting to my new life. I called my family and friends back home almost every day, and felt upset with myself if I didn’t go out to all the events because I didn’t have anyone to go with. Nonetheless, I gradually realized, yes, I should go to the events and meet people, but at the same time, I don’t have to push myself to the point I am constantly stressing myself.

As an international student, I’ve noticed a few things about the US that are different from Japan. Everyone jaywalks. In Japan, you’d totally get called out, especially in my area where there are a lot of elderly people. “What
do you think you are do- ing!” “Stupid youngin” and getting dirty looks are the usual response one would get. But that’s also because I live in the countryside.

Food is large in quantity (and calories) but expensive. It also depends where you go, I guess. I bought a bagel sandwich from Wawa for $3.50. That’s around 380 yen. But obviously since we import bagels, a bagel sandwich would be around the same price or higher. Sometimes I’m like, “That S size Pepsi is the equivalent to an M or L in Japan and its cheaper, but do I really need that much?” I can see myself putting on a few kilograms (or should I say pounds?) if I’m not careful with what I buy and eat.

On the other hand, I’m extremely happy that specific goods here are way cheaper than in Ja- pan. Cadbury chocolate bars are half price here; I feel like I’m at a constant bargain sale. Makeup is a lot cheaper, too. Maybelline’s Great Lash mascara is three bucks compared to 500 yen, roughly speaking. It’s great to indulge in goods that are imported from back home.

Lastly, everyone smiles and greets each other here on campus. You never see strangers engage in friendly in- teractions in and out of school back home. We don’t dislike everyone; we just don’t have that culture. I’m still getting used to it. I should smile more perhaps.

I asked my friend Eva, who is a Spanish TA here, what she thinks of her experience so far. “I felt overwhelmed be- cause there was a lot of new things and people, but I was very happy to be here. The campus is beautiful and you know you won’t feel alone because there’s always something to do or some event to attend!” Like- wise to Eva, there are so many things to do on and off campus, and I can’t wait to explore more of my life here in Ursinus College!