USA/International Division (USTEP)/Undergraduate Exchange Student/My name is Arka Rao, and I studied at the University of Tokyo in the A1A2 (Autumn) semester of 2016-2017. I am a chemistry major from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, USA, but I'm from
My name is Arka Rao, and I studied at the University of Tokyo in the A1A2 (Autumn) semester of 2016-2017. I am a chemistry major from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, USA, but I'm from New York. I also swim for my college, and am involved with a student band.
What attracted you to Komaba, UTokyo?
I was looking to immerse myself in a new culture which I had no previous exposure to. I had never been to Japan before, and had previously never studied Japanese. I also wanted to take classes that were very different from what I am required to take at my home university.
How did you prepare for your journey to Komaba, UTokyo?
I started by learning how to count in Japanese! I was going to learn more Japanese, but I was very busy with summer classes and so I didn't get very far. Somehow, I was able to learn just enough Japanese to get from Haneda to Komaba, and from there, my journey as a USTEP student began.
Describe your transition to Komaba, UTokyo.
My transition was not as difficult as I thought it would be in the beginning. I was very excited to be in Japan, and so was one of my best friends from Swarthmore, who also was a USTEP student. The process of transitioning was made even easier when I started to meet all of the other students who lived in the Komaba International Lodge with me. We all became great friends very quickly!
Describe the adjustment to Japanese culture.
Admittedly, it took me some time to become used to using chopsticks, since I never use them in the United States. But everything else was easy to adjust to. It quickly became second nature for me to use the metro on a daily basis, and once I learned more Japanese, it became a lot of fun to try to speak wherever I went.
What have been your best experiences at Komaba, UTokyo so far?
Some of my best experiences have come from spending time with my friends. From staying in the International Lodge, sharing several classes, and traveling around Japan, all of my favorite memories have come from the time we have spent together.
Describe the friendships and connections you’ve made at Komaba, UTokyo.
My friend groups were somewhat divided at first. I studied and went out with a certain group of people, but traveled with another. But over time, these groups overlapped, and we all became very close. Towards the end of our time here, we began spending time with each other in larger groups. We had a lot of time to get to know each other and explore Tokyo together, and as we learned from each other and grew together, it became as if we had known each other forever.
What’s your favorite thing about Shibuya and Tokyo?
There are a lot of things to do every single day and night. I was never bored, and my friends and I never ran out of ideas! Shibuya is lively by day, vibrant by night, and one is never without something to do while there.
If you could give one piece of advice to a new international student, what would it be?
I would recommend that you push yourself to experience new things every day. Unless you stay in Tokyo for a full year, your time will fly by very quickly. It's very easy to make a great group of friends, and from there you can do a lot of amazing things together.