PREPARING FOR NEW ARRIVALS/ Yuta Totsuka

While spending my long summer vacation, I had an ambition to try something new. Although I decided against it earlier in the year, I thought again that starting a part time job would be a fascinating challenge for me. In the spring semester, I was quite busy working on my studies. Moreover, in one book I read previously it said, “It is more worthwhile to study hard and get new knowledge than to do part-time jobs. You can get the same amount of salary after you have got a job in a short span, so it is better to study a lot and gain knowledge.” I agreed with what the author said, so I did not feel like starting a part-time job. However, seeing lots of friends working, I began to envy them and wanted to work hard and earn money by myself.

Thinking of what to do, there was one e-mail from Sophia University. It was about a part-time job for greeting new study abroad students for the upcoming autumn semester. The e-mail said that there was urgent need for students to do the part-time job. Thus, I decided to contribute to the university. Considering about the diversity of students at Sophia, it was a big opportunity to interact with students from different backgrounds. I gradually felt excited at the idea of helping newcomers. The following week, I went to university joyfully to take part in a guidance for the part-time job. Actually, the work was harder than expected. I first imagined that I would be leading a group of study abroad students with some senior students at Sophia University. However, the reality was I had to guide them myself. I needed to prepare before I met them. Even the staff members supervising my position said, “This job is a great challenge for a first-year student, but it will be a very precious experience that you will never forget. This job can be done only through an environment involving lots of students from overseas. Sophia has a big advantage in such perspective. Just go for it!”

Given the courage to stay passionate about my work, I started to figure out what I should do. One of the jobs was to confirm the layout of the airport including the location of the immigration exit gate, the currency exchange in the lobby and the luggage delivery service counter. Another was to make a handmade poster so that all the newcomers could easily recognize where we should meet. The last thing was to check the route from the airport to the dormitory. I thought that I had full responsibility to make the person’s first day in Japan very memorable.

My working day finally came, having a little worry and excitement to meet the person. I checked Haneda airport’s official website knowing that there was a 40-minute delay of the plane from Charles de Gaulle airport. I decided to stroll around inside Haneda airport. There were lots of foreigners visiting a variety of shops. At the arrival time, I waited in front of the immigration gate eager to meet with the student from France. I waited more than an hour for him to come out of the gate. When he finally did an unexpected thing happened again. What do you think it was?

In my mind, I thought I was going to meet a tall white French man, but actually he resembled one of my best friends from high school. It almost made me laugh. I asked him where came from, and he said that he was from Reunion Island and moved to France later on. Reunion Island is on the Indian Ocean and it also used to be a colony of France. Moreover, what makes Reunion Island more unique is that part of the island is made of lava according to a documentary film which I saw afterwards. He showed some photos of the moon eclipse there and it was spectacular.

Going back to the job, I first took him to the currency exchange. I was astonished by how he was eager to use Japanese by himself. When he got stuck, he asked me for support. Next, we went to the luggage service desk to send his heavy luggage to the dormitory. There, he was also passionate about using Japanese. He tried to ask the airport staff member how to write the necessary information for delivery. However, it was still difficult for him to write the address of the dormitory in Chinese characters, so I wrote it instead.

Heading for the dormitory, he was surprised to see how the Japanese trains are packed. He must have felt like he was an inconvenience since he had a large suitcase in one of his hands. Especially, the Yamanote line from Shinagawa to Ikebukuro station was, without a doubt, a catastrophe for him. I asked what it was like taking trains in France since he was coming from a university in Leon. As I had expected, the situation on the Eurostar and other French trains were completely opposite to that of Japan. It is never packed, he told me. He also taught me an interesting tip about how they deal with luggage issues. Imagine that you accidentally forgot your important belongings on the train. Considering Japan, as the train reaches the final stop, the lost luggage will be sent to the station’s office and kept for several days. If the owner isn’t found, the luggage will be transported to the nearest police station according to JR east. However, in France, such lost luggage will be thrown to the station’s platform roughly and a soldier will come to the platform and simply explodes it regardless of what it is inside. Can you guess why this happens? It’s a security measure to prevent terrorist attacks. Thus, most of the things left alone on the trains are suspected for having poisonous or deadly substances inside and are destroyed. I wondered what if the bag had some important documents like passports or ID cards. I asked him about it and he replied, “You can’t do anything about it. It is going to be your fault. You need to have full responsibility of your belongings.”

It was quite interesting to know that France is sensitive to terrorism. It also made me think the Japanese train services are so kind and the safety is guaranteed. Having a chat with each other, at around 8 p.m., two hours later than expected, we finally arrived at the dormitory. I checked whether the equipment was properly installed and told him about the orientation and the reception party. That was all for my job. After that, we went out to eat dinner to get rid of the fatigue, even though I was dubious of whether he felt like eating dinner at that time because of the jetlag. But we were both starving so it was a good opportunity to say the least.

Since then, we became good friends and we went out together during the summer vacation. I decided to show him around some famous places in Tokyo. One of them was the Diet Building. We could see inside there free of charge. Although it might have been hard for him to understand the history of Diet Building being founded or why the ruling party’s room is located on the east side of the building, still he said it was good to know about it. It was meaningful for him to understand about politics, because knowing about it enables him to be more aware of what is going on inside the country. The other place we visited was the state palace. Reception parties between the Japanese imperial family and foreign royal families are held there. In other cases, the Japanese prime minister and the foreign prime minister or president meet and have assemblies. As we looked inside, the guide emphasized that the technique for building the state palace was taken after the Versailles Palace, so he seemed happy that there was a deep connection between Japan and France.

Sophia University is a sophisticated place for having interaction with people from other countries. Keeping in touch with study abroad students is the best way to bring about benefits in terms of language and the variety of knowledge I am exposed to. When I am with those students, I try to speak English a lot whereas they are eager to speak in Japanese. It leads to both of us to teaching the two languages to each other. I hope to apply for this part-time job again.

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