6: Newfound Appreciation


The first photo is of a newly planted tree. I believe it was around last year where they tore down a tree that was once there, that was probably around 100 years old, becoming a hazard in the case it were to fall. It was a sad moment, seeing that notice left behind on a stump, since this tree was something I had passed by almost every day for my first two years at this university. Seeing this new tree was a bit appalling and somewhat refreshing, although I think the contrast with the tree and the building is both jarring and intriguing. Hope you could understand that feeling by seeing this photo.

This is my third year at the University of Washington, and I think this is the first spring quarter I have finally come to appreciate the cherry blossoms here on campus. Like I mentioned before, I have somewhat made myself dislike The Quad just because it is only given attention during a short period every year, which is when the cherry blossoms are blooming. I decided to walk through The Quad with my camera in hand, and attempt to take a few photos. Of course, I had to weave through all the people standing around, taking their next Facebook profile picture, but it was worth my time and effort. I came out with a few shots I’m quite satisfied with, particularly the ones of the puddles and reflections.

Seeing the cherry blossoms on campus also reminds me that I will be looking forward to hanami in Japan next spring, along with the adventures that it ensues with study abroad generally. Which leads me to the next thing I wanted to talk about.

Today, I had a study abroad exchange orientation. I was looking forward to it only because we could talk to students that have done exchanges in the past. It started off as awkward as possible. I walked into the HUB Lyceum and there were numerous roundtables spread across the whole room. What was appalling was the fact that everyone sat by themselves, at their own roundtable. Huh. Doesn’t quite look right, but I wasn’t about to be the first one to sit next to a random person, so I did the same.

We had to go back outside to scan our IDs so we could take attendance, and this time we went back in and made nametags for ourselves with the school and country we’re going to, and then sat at tables according to the country we were doing an exchange at. I sat by someone that decided to not talk, and it felt pretty awkward. “Ah. This is why I don’t like these sort of events,” was the sort of thought running through my mind. I decided to talk to the rest of the people that came to the table after me, since clearly this guy was not interested in making new friends it seemed. Or at least, talking to me. It was a lot of shallow talk, “what school are you going to?” “have you been to Japan?” “are you excited?” which were all questions I was a bit uninterested in answering more than once in the same few minutes.

The proper orientation part of this event was definitely the most boring part… particularly since I had already attended a pre-departure study abroad orientation. That was my mistake, I guess. No one had told me that a study abroad exchange orientation would be happening, otherwise I wouldn’t have wasted my time. Well. At least I got to hear a few more anecdotes about study abroad. It was not a complete waste of time, but I will admit a lot of it went over my head since I had heard 99% of it before.

The best part had to be when we had a “Q/A section” with the previous exchange students. The Japan group was somewhat big so they told us to move to the back where there were more tables. Seeing as the people at my table didn’t seem to click very well, I took the initiative and just sat down first. It was a moment later I realized that the students that have done exchanges in the past that were coming to meet with us were also the current exchange students at our school, the ones from Japan. It was interesting and unexpected.

Although I sat down first, someone had suggested a table for the Tokyo students be made. I somewhat jokingly said, “Alright, I see! I will just leave then! I see I’m not wanted here.” Since I’m going to Fukuoka on the Kyushu island. I’m not a huge fan of Tokyo. I purposely didn’t choose any Tokyo schools. Unpopular opinion, I know.

What irked me is that most of the people here were going to Tokyo. It made this table ridiculously huge. I began to talk to some other students near me saying “Well I didn’t want to go to Tokyo anyways. It was a choice I made.” To which someone agreed that that was where he would have liked to go if not for his research. It made me feel a bit happy that others still saw it as a good place to be.

The rest of us finally sat down at another table, although they were also all students going to Tokyo.

It started off awkward of course. We all had just met. At least our common interest was Japan, and the fact that all of us will be there before long. Generally, it seemed these people have gone to Japan, just as I have.

I talked to a very interesting student from Waseda. Her English wasn’t Japanese-accented, and I had asked her how she had learned English. It turned out that she had lived in Sydney, Australia from when she was 2 to 10 years old. Huh. What an interesting background. She then moved back to Japan and then studied abroad in college. I started to ask about her experience overall inadvertently since I was very intrigued by her background. She moved around because of her father’s work. I asked about the demographics in Sydney at the time, and how it felt going back to Japan like that. It was really interesting.

Of course, we did end up talking about studying in Japan and whatnot eventually.

I started to speak with some other students at the table as well, as my ears perked up when the name of one of the Japanese language instructors was brought up. I know that people’s impressions of her were generally negative, but it’s precisely because it’s negative that I want to hear them out for a bit. I personally didn’t like her at the start, but I warmed up to her and her style of teaching.

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