While I have introduced the "International Student Dormitory" in this series, I have not yet had a chance to talk with international students. Therefore, this time, I spoke with Ms. Hillary Hardy (freshman, Faculty of Policy Management, hereafter referred to as "Hilly"), who lives in the Shonan Fujisawa International Student Dormitory (SID), through Nonaka-san's introduction *1.
Hilly came to Fujisawa City in Kanagawa Prefecture from Bali, Indonesia. She became interested in Japanese culture and began to think realistically about pursuing an education in Japan, partly because it is closer than the U.S. or Europe. Last fall, she started living at SID, and now she is busy with various things as she enters the last half of her second semester. She learned about the dormitories from the information package she received after her acceptance, and although she knew very little about life at SFC, the information was beneficial. Among the several dormitories in the vicinity of the campus, she noticed that SID is a newly built dormitory right near the campus, and the convenience of having utilities and other expenses included in the monthly rent made it an attractive choice for her.
While in Indonesia, she searched the web and decided on both admission and housing. When she first stepped foot in the campus area, she was surprised to see it. Perhaps she had a strong image of the urban regions such as Shinjuku and Tokyo when she thought of living in Japan (in the suburbs of Tokyo). Of course, she did not expect to live in such an urban center, but the tranquility of the campus neighborhood was quite different from what she had imagined. The only things near the SID are a convenience store and a hospital. For Hilly, who likes to cook for herself, shopping is inconvenient, and the buses run out early on weekends. Although she seemed slightly disappointed, she is generally comfortable in the campus area.
The Internet is now an indispensable part of our daily life. As mentioned above, selecting a university and deciding on a place to live were made possible by the network. In addition, especially in the past few years, there have been more and more opportunities to take classes online, so she has to attend classes by connecting from her dorm room. It is essential for a living environment along with electricity and water. Even on the same floor, the connection varies from room to room (I heard this story from another student). Fortunately, Hilly's room is relatively good, but her friends seem to feel a little stressed. Incidentally, when I studied abroad, the primary means of connecting with Japan were letters and postcards (this may sound like a long time ago). Of course, there were also international phone calls, but they were not that easy to use considering the cost and ease of use. Nowadays, we can talk while seeing the other person's face through a smartphone. Even if you are far from home, you can still feel connected with your family and friends. I realized how much things have changed in how we study abroad.
Dormitory security is essential. The fact that other students, as well as the dorm head and matron, live in one building is reassuring. A card key and facial recognition system control and maintain residents' access. Families living far away can feel secure with the neighborhood safe and the dormitory secure.
The first weekend in July was the "Tanabata Festival" at SFC. This year, it was held in person for the first time in three years, making the campus lively. Hilly's parents/family were visiting Japan, and she was able to give them a tour of the campus. However, it is unavoidable because of the rules set by the dormitory, inviting someone from the outside to one's room at SID. Her parents and family were no exception. Her family, who had traveled more than 5,000 kilometers to visit her, ended up spending most of their time walking around campus after admiring the exterior of the dormitory.
This semester, she has had more opportunities to meet people in person. I was happy that the students seemed to enjoy their classes and other activities on campus. In contrast, she likes to peacefully spend her time alone in the dormitory. When she first came to Japan and started living in the dorm, she had time to talk with friends and watch movies together in the common areas, but now that she is gradually getting used to it, Hilly would rather spend her time alone at SID. However, the socializing part is probably sufficient since the campus is nearby.
I had already heard from students living in the SID that they communicate on LINE and other means for small day-to-day matters. So SNS should be convenient for urgent contact and small things. Then, of course, there are RAs (Residence Assistants), dorm heads, and matrons if there are any problems. She said that she is generally satisfied with the dormitory so far. Still, she would like a way to communicate anonymously about things she notices or worries about in her daily life (a kind of "suggestion box"). Because with SNS, individuals can be identified and, depending on the content, it may be better to remain anonymous.
After talking with Hilly for about an hour, I felt strangely free from unique feelings as an "international student." She was just an ordinary university student with whom I usually interacted. Of course, I am sure there are some inconveniences and stresses in living in an unfamiliar environment, such as language, culture, etc. She was concerned about the speed of the network connection; she thought it was inconvenient for shopping; she enjoyed the comfort of having her friends nearby but valued her alone time. It sounds natural, and I think it is a sign of her "normal" daily life on campus. Soon it will be one year since she started living at SID. Hilly will return to Indonesia for the summer, but she has already decided to stay at SID for the second year.
*1:I spoke with Hilly for about an hour on July 12, 2022, with Nonaka-san. 😊Thank you very much for your time. It was the first time I talked with an international student living in a dormitory. Hereon, I will continue to write about "dormitory life" little by little.