How to make friends with local students during the LSA
When I first came to Japan, I thought that it would be super easy to make friends - just like Dartmouth orientation. But I was completely wrong. For the first few days, I was basically just hanging out with other LSA people, and none of the students at the Kanda University of International Studies approached and talked to us. It was likely because of the difference between American and Japanese culture - Japanese people are generally much more shy and they don't really "hit on" people. Anyways, after two days of no progress in making friends with our Japanese peers, my friends and I decided to be the ones to take initiative, and started actively looking for groups/circles of Japanese students to hang out with. I actually went out of my way a little bit because I considered myself the unsociable, quiet type; however, I want to make the most of my experience in Japan, so I thought it would be worth the effort. And indeed, by the end of the week, my friends and I already had a group of frequent Japanese kids to hang out with. How?
First, my friends and I decided to spend every afternoon doing homework at KUIS8 - which is basically like Collis at Dartmouth, and hoped that the students would approach us to practice their English or something like that. Our hope was never answered (sad) but it kind of made sense because even at Collis people don't really just talk to a random stranger and become friends (that only happens at Orientation, I think). So after that, Sydney and I went to the information desk in the building and used our limited Japanese to ask about clubs and communitites that we could join. And luckily, the girl I talked to was actually in the Tea Ceremony club, which sounded super super cool, and she invited us to join. We exchanged contact info and the next day, we went to our first club meeting where we got to watch and learn tea ceremony manners, the reason and cultural significance behind each move - and it was AWESOME! I felt like I was living in a Japanese movie (or anime) and we made friends with some of the amazing girls in the club. Two of them are even majoring in Vietnamese at Kanda - how cool is that??
Dorsey sensei (our very cool faculty director of the LSA) also spent a lot of work to make sure that we have a chance to connect to Japanese students at Kanda. Especially, every week we have one class together with a normal Kanda's students' class - we actually had a Skype session with these students before in spring term - and soon these students have become our best friends at Kanda. Every Thursday, we are always together - having lunch together, studying together, and even hanging out after classes. On Friday, we even went to karaoke and izakaya together after school, and it was really fun! I think generally, making friends with people from a different culture in your LSA or FSP may seem challenging at first, but if you really make the effort to reach out to people (and receive a little help from your amazing professor), then in no time you will make a really cool squad with the local kids (like we did!)