I suppose when I first was put in class with strangers from across the world at Intakaruto Nihongo Gakkou in Taito-ku, Tokyo, we all looked at each other with blank stares, choosing to stay safely with those from our own countries. Those first few classes were spent being ruthlessly drilled by the teacher about both the names and country of origin of all our classmates. And we hesitantly ventured beyond our shyness, adding each other on LINE (the Japanese version of Skype).
But as time went on, it was clear that we would all become friends. Good friends, in fact. I can remember being surprised to learn that not all classes were as close as ours.
"Oh yeah," said my friend from a different class. "We never really talk, most people just show up five minutes before it begins and complain about the homework."
I was shocked. Just about everyone in my class was driven to do extra work, study extra, and work extra hard. Most of us knew the material before it was taught. A lot of us came ten, fifteen minutes early, chatting in Japanese and English. We organized fun outings, such as karaoke one Sunday in Akihabara.
In the middle of class one time, Taguri-sensei, our usual homeroom teacher, announced that we would be visiting a shrine. We left class, and walked around the corner to visit a local one, and practiced asking "Kore wa nan desu ka?", or "What is this?"
And of course, there was this Monday's party. All of us cooked food from our countries and brought it into the Intercult Lounge. Taguri-sensei and Ichikawa-sensei came too.
Later on this week, the girls in my class are having a "Girl's Night Out". That is, we're going to the movies in Ikebukuro to watch the Magical Girl Madoka Magica Movie. It's only 1000Y ($10). That's like, half-price. And I thought that movies in the USA were a rip-off ranging from $11 to $15. It's something I'm definitely looking forward too though.
The best thing I would have to say about Intercult is gaining so much exposure to other countries and other people. Before coming to Intercult, I didn't know too much about Sweden, or Russia, but my classmates are predominantly from these areas. I found it interesting to learn about their hometowns, their food and their culture in Japanese class.
"Anata no furusato wa donna tokoro desu ka?" What type of place is your hometown?
Many said that it was too small, or too noisy. Something we all have in common is that we all definitely appreciate the change in scenery. One classmate wants to be a rockstar in Japan. Another wants to go to Waseda University. We are all kids with big dreams, and even though we come from different backgrounds, have different beliefs, and our ages range from 17 to 32, we can bypass these differences and be friends. And I think that's amazing.