I arrived at Occidental College in mid-August. The program organizer welcomed me in the lobby of the administrative office, and I joined the rest of the Waseda students and other international students. We were going to attend one week of the orientation program together.
Besides Waseda students, there were Japanese students who enrolled in the four-year program. Most of them had finished high school in the U.S., and one had come from an American school in Switzerland. We met a sister and brother from Hong Kong. The sister had studied at a boarding school in the U.K., and the brother was a genius kid who had skipped a couple of years. A girl from Taiwan was the daughter of a diplomat who resided in Vienna. She was a native Mandarine and German speaker and spoke English and French fluently. A tall girl from Bulgaria said her father owned a computer-related company, but she loathed materialism. Boys from the Philipines and Germany, both of whom were also wealthy, were going to study for the full four years.
The rest of the international students were to stay shorter-term, from one semester to one year, as we did. They were from U.K, Sweden, France. We naturally split into white and non-white. While we Japanese students developed a rapport with each other and with the girl from Taiwan, white Europeans formed a party. It’s not that we didn’t try to connect with the white students, but they acted as though we were invisible. The exception was the two French guys. One of them, Marc, was the chatty one and connected with both white and non-white students. He observed us Japanese with awe and excitedly pointed out to me that we tended to sit straight wherever we were placed, while Europeans tended to slouch in a relaxed manner.