Week 8: A Random Encounter

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Random encounters can happen to anyone at any time whether it be with a person or an event. Sometimes they can lead to some of the most interesting experiences of a lifetime.

In school we are doing midterms at the moment, so there are many students who are frantically studying so they can receive a good grade. Fortunately I have not have many midterms, so for the one that I do have I have been putting my effort into studying. Unfortunately, though, that exam is my Japanese midterm and while I am confident with the written portion of the test, the speaking exam is not my strongest skill. So I have been trying to have more conversations with those outside of the class and with locals at the shops. Most of the times I have been able to communicate without any issues, but those few times I have had a problem the person at the receiving end has been really nice.

With that being said, sometimes these can lead to me having to introduce myself to new people. And for anyone who has grown up alongside me know that I am often the worse at first impressions. It is not because I try to be mean, but rather I tend to not know what else to say or how to keep a conversation flowing naturally. And that is when I speak English, so one could imagine that when I speak in Japanese it is even worse. Yet, as time has gone on and my Japanese vocabulary/grammar continues to extend I have been able to expand my elevator pitch. See the basics of how I introduce myself is where I am from, age, school, major and other hobbies I enjoy doing in order to find a common ground with the other person. Although it seems as though where I am from is usually the number one topic of discussion.

It probably has to do with the fact that many Japanese people tend to like things in association to Hawai’i. So having a discussion with someone from Hawai’i allows them to pick their brains (at least that is how I felt). And I was well aware of this coming to Japan due to the amount of Japanese tourists that come to Hawai’i for vacation all year round. So it made sense that would be up for discussion a lot during the first few encounters I have with people. Definitely back home though it probably will change a bit more since I do not have to constantly say I am from Hawai’i. Although the only thing that would be added to my “elevator pitch” is that I have experienced living abroad for about four months.

Speaking of being from Hawai’i here is a funny anecdote. Usually on the weekends I try to get out of my dorm to try to explore the area and sometimes I end up taking the bus out to Sakae. This week when I went to Sakae Station to walk around and wait for the bus I catch to head back to the dorm I noticed something. There was a big stage and booths in the center and at first I did not think much of it. That was until they started playing music I would hear back home in Hawai’i. At first I thought I was crazy, but when I went to the area to investigate there in front of me was a big sign that said “Nagoya Hawai’i Festival.” So naturally being curious, I walked around the booths to see what they had and how do Japanese people perceive Hawai’i. For the most part it was not too far fetch like I saw dresses, tops, jewelry, and other goods that I would find back home at the local swap meet (or flea market as some people would call it). Although I did see a few items like the “I Love Hawai’i” shirts that really only tourist wear and the ever classic hula girl with the coconut bra and the grass skirt. For the most part though, it was still fascinating to see how my hometown is translated somewhere not in the United States.

Overall getting to interact and engage in different conversations has been truly an experience. Here is some advice if you find yourself in a similar situation.

First, write down either in your phone or in a journal at least five key points that you want to share with people when you first introduce yourself. I have found that even if I am not actually reading those points, writing it out helps me to remember and store future topics to talk about later. Often when I am meeting people there are moments where there is awkward silence because neither person knows what to talk about. During those moments I would start to over think and begin to panic about whether I am making a bad impression. But once I figured out what about myself (like interest, hobbies or experiences) I could share with others helped me to better connect with people. And this changed the way I socialized with people for the better because if there is something that I could get better at is breaking out of my social worries.

Second, if you are looking to making more domestic student friends do not go straight to the dorms after class. I understand how tempting it is to want to go back to the dorms when you have no more classes. Believe me I still do this on occasion; however, this is not the best way to interact with the students from the country where you are currently studying in. If you can I recommend joining clubs that are on campus or try to go to the language lounges offered at the school. Or sometimes, if you are the type of person who can do this, during lunch try to talk to at least one person. Most of the time the domestic students want to have conversations with the international students (and vice versa), but neither takes the initiative to do so and then they miss out on the opportunities that are presented to them. So during the breaks (like lunch) is often an ideal time to try and talk to people, though if they do not show interest in a conversation do not push your luck and just try to find others.

Finally, do expect to use your elevator pitch more than once. This was something I never really considered, but having to do an elevator pitch is not just reserved for the first week of classes or the first week moving to the dorm. Rather this is going to constantly be happening over and over again while you are abroad. Although I will say this is great practice for future job interviews once college is over. But the reason why I am forewarning those who choose to read this journal is because sometimes it would feel as though you are a broken record and often when you get bored of a repeating yourself it tends to translate through body and facial expressions. Now the best way that I have found to combat this is to tweak your elevator pitch every so often, and these changes do not even need to be that big. It can be replacing the order of how you introduce yourself (for example if you introduce yourself in the order of name, school, age, degree you could change it to name, age, degree, school). It sounds ridiculous; yet, when I tried this it tricked my brain into thinking that I am saying something new and I am less likely to look irritated.

Hopefully these tips help for your future endeavors and I hope you join me for the next journal I post!