September 1, 2016.
I took a taxi from my hotel to International Christian University, suitcase in tow. On my way to the school chapel for the matriculation ceremony I met some other study abroad students, including one who had offered to help me find the key store today.
The actual service was conducted in both English and Japanese, with singing, speeches, and a roll call of every incoming, exchange, and graduate student joining ICU this autumn.
Photo from http://www.icu.ac.jp/en/news/20160905_1.html
The person in the pink shirt in the back right corner is me.
Following the ceremony was a brunch in the dining hall. I knew it was supposed to be an opportunity to mingle with faculty, staff, and new students, but I was hit with the terror of trying to find my apartment key on my own when I knew, last night, that I couldn’t find it even with the help of Google Maps.
I ended up sitting on the side and once again using that precious, valuable cell data to write a desperate email to ICU’s International Office. After hitting send, I tried to find taxi information while weighing the possibility that maybe I’d have to skip the Japanese language exam to actually get into my apartment. However, after being reassured I would have time to take it in an email from the International Office, I decided to stay.
ICU Dining Hall in front of Dialogue House, one of the dorms.
A Japanese friend of mine offered over Facebook to travel from hours away to go with me to the apartment key store, but ultimately, I ended up receiving a different message that changed my afternoon.
In between breaks during the placement exam, I got a second email from the International Office, saying that an ICU student who had studied abroad at my school would help me get to the key store office after the Japanese exam. Tremendously relieved, I messaged my friends back to tell them they didn’t need to worry about going with me, and continued with the test with my mind much less preoccupied.
After the exam (which consisted of vocabulary, grammar, reading comprehension, and a brief, low-pressure conversation with one of the professors in Japanese), I went to the International Office and spoke to the woman who had emailed me. She contacted the bus service and the ICU student to make sure I could meet her on time at the train station, and they let me leave my suitcase and bag in the office so that I did not have to continue navigating them through the streets of Tokyo.
The pathway from ICU campus to the bus stop.
Startled by the amount of kindness I had run into after so much stress, I met up with the ICU student (who I had never actually met but whose name I’d seen pop up on Facebook many times) and we were able to make it to the key store. I realized I had walked right by it the night before. The building stood across and over from the shoe store that Google Maps had pointed me to.
In the apartment offices, thankfully, my ICU friend was able to listen to the extensive Japanese explanations and rules for the apartment and tell me the most important parts, including rules about trash, how to return the key when I move out, and so on. They served us iced tea, a small thing that meant a lot on another hot day.