Let’s jump right in, shall we?
Do any of the IES kids have new local friends or does that not happen?
First, a bit of clarification – I am an IES student studying at Nanzan University through that school’s Center for Japanese Studies. There are about 25 IES kids that I went through an extra orientation with and, on the whole, know much better than the other 100 students who are studying at CJS through various other programs. There are exceptions – I know some people in my 400 level class better than I know the IES student who I never saw again after orientation and nevers comes on the IES field trips.
In any event, I’ll speak to my own personal experience and make a few generalizations.
I have no Japanese friends. The Japanese college students that I am closest to are my co-workers at the elementary school. After that, probably the Japanese people in my dorm. The thing is, it was so much easier to make friends with the other foreigners from CJS and IES. We all had a fairly common background, usually a common language, extremely similar interests and goals, and had just been thrust into a stressful situation that drew attention to our outsider status.
Part of this is because, while Nanzan has an excellent Japanese language program, there is very little integration with the Japanese student population. Even when we do interact, it’s in a classroom setting (like my Education class) and poor language skills all around can make things awkward, especially if your interests run towards things that are seen as typically male, or typically nerd.
Obviously, there are students who have managed to make the leap to having Japanese friends, joining Japanese clubs and so forth (they tell you to make friends here, you need to join a club, but the success rate’s about 50/50 from what I’ve seen), but almost no one I know spends more time outside of school with their Japanese friends than with friends they’ve made at CJS.
People who do have a large number of Japanese friends seem to fall into two categories – they are male and/or they are in the 500 or 600 level classes. Obviously, my sample size is only about 125, so don’t take me too seriously.
How’s the cafeteria food?
Pretty bad. You’re told when you arrive that Nanzan has multiple cafeterias, all serving varying kinds of hot lunches for about 400-900 yen, which is a good deal for a meal here.
Except that the meals fall into two categories – some sort of noodles with way too high salt concentrations and not enough protein (though plenty of veggies) and lunch sets (which are more expensive) that are usually cold and unappetizing. Neither one provides enough nutrition to get you through your afternoon, but almost religious devotion by most of CJS, including myself, did result in a precipitous drop in waistlines through September and October.
The school does have an on-site bakery, though, as well as a convenience store, where a more nutritious lunch can be had for not too much cash.
How’s dorm life?
Not bad, but I’ve only been here two weeks and my noted charm hasn’t had time to make many enemies.
The rooms are pretty nice, with your own wall-mounted heater/air-conditioner, toilet, and sink. The storage is also pretty impressive – a desk with four drawers and a cabinet, a dresser, a closet, a cupboard full of shelves, and a nightstand. A mattress, blankets, and sheets are provided, though I would recommend getting your own pillow. The provided one is filled with plastic pellets.
The kitchen is communal and you get your own cupboard and refrigerator space. Kitchen cleaning is divided among everyone and done every day (and not very stenuous). There’s a TV and waaaaaaay too many video games (N64 is a favorite). There’s a washing machine and a dryer on each floor (2nd floor’s dudes, 3rd floor’s chicks) and bathing is communal, wia private shower, or a Japanese style personal bath tub, if you prefer.
There are occasional events, such as when we challenge the other dorms to video game tournaments and your average dorm meetings. Last week, a resident organized Thanksgiving dinner for 25 people.
Upsides – complete, American-style dorm freedom. No curfew, you make what you want to eat and stay up as late or get up as early as you want. There’s no commute for two of the dorms, Nagoya Koryu Kaikan and Yamazato Koryu Kaikan, both about five minutes from campus.
Downsides – there’s no ‘family’ to depend on. You’re dependent on CJS and its operating hours for any problems you might have. You have to buy and cook your own groceries (and I do not recommend trying to live on cup ramen).
Next up, miscellaneous topics, such as shopping, Nagoya, and the US election results.