Today marks the end of my orientation week at Akita International University. Our schedule included learning the campus facilities and how to use them, as well as many social activities. The first night, the RAs threw us international students a huge welcome dinner, which was loads of fun. Other fun activities included the campus scavenger hunt and the AIUlympics, which involved a series of gym related activities like tug of war and dodge ball. The social nature of these events certainly worked – I have meet students from all over the world and my friends list on Line (a popular messaging app in Japan) has nearly tripled since the start of orientation week.
Through one of the more recent orientation sessions, I learned about Research and Community Outreach Services (RCOS). RCOS hosts over 200 events per year for students to interact with locals and enhance their experience here at AIU. I was able to sign up for several community service activities, including teaching English to schoolkids and helping locals harvest rice. My favorite part of the week had to be the library orientation. I love books and I love the calm, meditative atmosphere that libraries provide. Akita International University is known for two things 1) heavy snow fall and 2) their library. Nakajima Library (named after AIU’s founder and first president, the late Dr. Mineo Nakajima) is absolutely stunning and rich in learning resources in both English and Japanese. Another notable event was the Activity Fair, where clubs and circles advertised their clubs to us incoming students. I got so caught up I signed up for 3 clubs, 2 circles, and a committee! Unfortunately trying to manage all of them, along with my classes, is impossible – so I was sure to sign up on a first meeting, trial basis.
The Matriculation (or Entrance) Ceremony was this past Saturday. The ceremony was about two hours and felt more like a graduation ceremony. Only about 200 students were matriculated, with international exchange students making up a large percent (roughly 90%). We heard speeches from the university President, Dr. Suzuki; the Vice-Governor of Akita Prefecture, Mr. Horii; and other distinguished guests. We were also treated to a classical duet featuring one of AIU professors on the violin and professional pianist, Itsuko Sakano. After the formal ceremony, AIU’s Kanto team performed on the lawn in front of the Hall, which was a sight to behold! Kanto is unique to Akita Prefecture and, to my knowledge, no other prefectures have a similar tradition. Members of the team take turns balancing 46 lanterns on a main bamboo pole on their heads, shoulders, and buttocks. It seems simple, but slowly, extension poles are added and the Kanto poles can get as high as 12 meters and weigh as much as 50 kilograms!
In the past few days, more Japanese students have been returning to campus, as their summer break is officially over. I have been meeting new people every day, which is beyond exciting. Classes officially start today. I am nervous, excited, and ready to start my academic work!
Wish me luck!