Week One: An Introduction, an Overview, and a Lot to To

Mar Freeman
April 3, 2018
A large bloomed cherry blossom tree on the KUIS campus

Self introductions are a big thing here in Japan, so here I go:

Hi! I’m Marlow Freeman, Mar for short. I’m a mechanical engineering and computer science major from Tufts in Boston, MA. I like to cook and make music, though I’m more interested in improving my skills than the end result. I’m 21, I don’t speak Japanese, and I’m currently living in Japan.

At the time of writing this, week one in Tokyo is officially over. I feel as though the anticipation I felt before leaving for this trip is still sitting with me, though it lessens every day as I settle in to my new place. I live in a share house in Tsudanuma, a district of Narashino City in the Chiba Prefecture (around 35 minutes from the Kanda University of International Studies, or KUIS, campus). A share house is much like a co-op: rooms are individual, but most everything else is communal, including bathrooms, the kitchen, and the dining area. It’s how I’m used to living, and I can’t help but feel that the effort I went through to independently organize my housing was worth it (more on that later). Around 15 people live in the apartment-like space, though there are room for more, and I have yet to meet the couple English speaking residents. The Japanese residents I’ve met so far are undoubtedly nice, but my comfort level seems to be proportional to my skill in the language, and I’m still a beginner. I am motivated to make that change, and confident I will be able to do so.

To help with that, classes start in just a couple of days and I’m hoping it will at least partly assuage the guilt I feel about not knowing the language of the country I’m studying in. The privilege I have of speaking English should not be understated. Nearly every adult in Tokyo has taken several years of English, making my experience as an American easier than any non-English speaking foreigner. While I understand it is currently more of a necessity than a choice for the nation, I want to do my best to put energy into making people’s experiences with me as an American foreigner easier.

In a related fashion, the E-pals (volunteer KUIS student correspondents), have made the experience not only logistically smoother, but also incredibly fun right off the bat. I consider myself an independent person, but spending time with the E-pals has made me feel comfortable in only a week, especially with my E-pal, Kabasawa Maiko. She, along with the rest of the E-pals and IES Abroad Tokyo staff, has been more than helpful, going out of her way to make sure I’m alright and happy. My gratitude to her and everyone else putting work into this program cannot be overstated.

Even with the help of very dedicated individuals, that’s not to say there haven’t been any issues, though most were technical. Phone troubles, housing troubles, and medication troubles were all major hurdles I went through during these past couple months, including this past week. I’ll go into details of what happened and how to avoid it in a future post, but for now let’s just say that things worked out in the end due to a lot of hard work and emails.

I know this first post probably doesn't contain much useful info for most of you, but that will change with my future posts. As I said earlier, I plan on writing about the problems and solutions I found pre-departure, some talk about the classes I'm taking, how to practice your Japanese with someone who is trying to get you to join a religious organization for half an hour, some sightseeing photos and descriptions, and a whole lot about being trans. Also, as a fun little extra, I'm putting together a review of all the sour candy I try in Japan, to be released at an as-of-yet unspecified date.

Anyway, bring good shoes.

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Mar Freeman

<p>I'm an engineering student with a dedication to music, accessible politics, and supporting the communities around me. I am a&nbsp;trans person, I live in a cooking and art co-op, and I enjoy exploring nature.</p>

2018 Spring
Home University:
Tufts University
Los Angeles, CA
Engineering - General
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