I woke up in the morning to the voice of construction workers outside. I stared at the ceiling just 2.5 feet above me and realized they were not talking in Japanese. I felt displaced and lonely.
I heard the turn of the door nob, and my roommate came through the door slowly and quietly, a considerate gesture so as not to disturb me. I got up and introduced myself. Clare was short, a little plump, and had curly blond hair and green eyes. She told me she specifically asked for a Japanese roommate because she wanted to go to Japan after college to teach English. Her Guatemalan mother and twin sisters lived in Los Angeles, so she often visited them and went to church with them on Sundays. She also had a boyfriend who graduated Oxy a year earlier and worked in an insurance company downtown. I had imagined a loud, inconsiderate roommate who would make my life miserable, so I felt lucky to have Clare as my roommate.
In the first week, I developed a friendship with another Waseda student, Maya. I approached her because she was the most vivacious girl. She was very excited about the program, and I thought if I hang out with her, I’d also feel as enthusiastic about it as she was.
There were 9 Waseda students. Shiho was from the law department, smart and capable. She seemed to be doing a great job plunging into the new life. Yuka was from the Chemistry department. While she was timid and awkward, she acted the bravest of us all sometimes. Jiro was from the Economics department, confident and righteous, and never showed his vulnerability. Shinji was from the Politics department, a son of a famous scholar, whom we often saw on TV commenting on the situation in North Korea. He had a little sadness in his traits and had a very strong belief system, though he never pushed it on others. Hiro was also in the Politics department. While he was incredibly smart, he deliberately acted goofy and made inappropriate sex jokes. Mitsu was the only person I had known before, as we were both from the Business department. He was smart but often surprised me as he was capable of being honest about his vulnerable feelings. I don’t remember Kai’s department, but he separated himself from us so that he could immerse himself in American life.
We also became good friends with the Taiwanese girl from Vienna, two Japanese girls, and a half-Japanese boy, all of whom were in their freshman year.