Just a few days before the start of the spring quarter, a nervous yet excited young woman from Japan stepped off a plane into a whole new country. But coming to America was a requirement in order for her to complete her program in Japan.
Haruka Akiyama is part of an international exchange program between Daito Bunka University and Whatcom Community College. She moved to the United States from Saitama, Japan April 4.
In Washington, Akiyama has found a love for the outdoors. Being in such an outdoorsy state has introduced her to many forms of exercise, like hiking and mountain climbing. Back in Saitama, she was involved with her community and with her social life.
Akiyama has found relief and entertainment through exercise. She frequents the gym on campus and plays lacrosse.
“I go to school, hang out, go to extracurricular activities,” Akiyama says, “for example, swimming, dancing, gymnastics.”
Back in Saitama, Akiyama participated in an extracurricular called “Soroban.” Soroban, also known as Abacus, is a wooden frame with wires in the middle with balls on them. It is used for calculating and other beneficial results. For example, Soroban helps with making quick decisions for complicated arithmetical calculations. It is said that children who “start beginning with soroban abacus training during the formative years, develop amazing skills in understanding and logical thinking.”
Akiyama likes being in America because everyone talks to each other, even strangers. She feels less lonely and more welcomed by a diverse group of people.
The spunky, outgoing athlete explains that her personality is much more outgoing than other Japanese students, making it a little harder to make friends with people she has never met before. In America, she says, “people are so talkative here. They are not afraid to approach and make conversation. People at the dorms have been so friendly!”
“I feel happy,” Akiyama continues. “I have met some amazing people at the dorms.”
Compared to Japan, she says, “Americans respect individual freedom, which makes it easier for me to live in America. Japanese people seek to be the same as those around them.”
At Whatcom Community College, the Student Recreation Center is open to all students. It is a convenient amenity for those who live at Cedar Hall. Many international students, including Akiyama, do not have a car and relish the access to a gym only a two-minute walk away from the dorms.
“I love the gym!” she said. “It is so close, not to mention it is free for students. When I have a hard day of school work, the gym is a nice place to let myself relax.”
This summer, Akiyama is moving out of the Whatcom dorms to a host family’s home in Bellingham. “I like the dorms, but I want to speak more English. At the dorms, I only talk to my Japanese friends in Japanese.”