Coming to the U.S. for Study Abroad


This was the beginning of my 20 years life in the U.S. It's been a quite while so I don't think I can remember the details, but I tried my best.


Today is the special day for me since I am heading to a place called Wichita, Kansas located in the center of the United States of America. Since after I got my first passport last summer, time flew by and now here I am. It is only 5 days ago when I graduated from a high school. From the last spring, I have gone through many paperworks, lectures, and a little bit of English education. During the preparation, my parents bought me so many things for the study abroad and pretty much all of them are in a suitcase.
I was mentally ready so I did not have trouble sleeping last night. As usual, my day starts from listening to Zip FM (an FM radio station in Nagoya, 77.8Mhz) as my alarm clock. Today is the March 5th, 1996. After greeting my parents, we had breakfast in Japanese style as usual. Steamed rice, Miso soup, Rolled eggs... I do not recall much things what I did in the morning. I probably be rechecking the contents of the suitcase.
I remember I measured how much the suitcase weigh in a night before. It was quite heavy, maybe around 40kg...?
This is it, so we left home by a Taxi, maybe around 10:45am. My parents, my brother, and my grandma, and I rode a Taxi to JR (Japan Railways) Nagoya station. We got there a little earlier than we expected, so we spent time in a restaurant. Until the Super Express to Tokyo arrives.

At JR Nagoya Station

My friends gave me this at the train station...

I do not recall what time the train left the station, but it was around noon and the train stopped at Nagoya for two minutes. My friends came to the platform of the Shinkansen (Bullet Train, Super Express, whatever you call it), bid the final farewell. They gave me a card like shown above. I wanted to cry but I guess it was supposed to be my happy time. The train arrived on time. I said goodbye to my family member and friends.

My friends. Thanks for coming...

When the train shuts its doors, that's the time I have to make up my mind. My friends followed the train until they could no longer follow. It was kind of joke we always do... If I think about it now, I am not sure how my family member felt and also the friends at the time. Going to some place in Japan is easy since I can come home in a day but if the place is in the U.S., it takes forever! (well, not quite, maybe about 14 hours)

Finding a seat was easy in the train during the weekdays, especially in the early afternoon. Everybody looked at me like I am a stranger, since I was carrying a big suitcase. I hope I could get a ticket from Nagoya Airport, but I guess it was way too expensive.

The train made several stops on the way to Tokyo. I listened to a radio Station, Zip-FM 77.8, until I could no longer hear it. That the time I finally felt lonely but I did not want to turn back. I could see Mt. Fuji to left. I must have had lunch from home?

Arriving Tokyo Station

Tokyo, with 11 million people of population by the day and one of the largest city in the world. They are so busy and I had hard time walking around with a big suitcase. When I arrive in Tokyo in the late afternoon, I thought the place is quite hot. I had to get on Narita Express, which is an express train takes me to the Narita International Airport (At the time, it was called the New Tokyo International Airport). The regular train takes more than 2 hours while this one takes only 1 hour and 15 minutes. After going down few floors down, I was there. The suitcase rack on the train was already full, so I had to take everything with myself. The train ran underground for a while, then came out to the ground. For a while, train runs in populated area, then the number of houses decreased as I started to see more rice fields. In about one hour, I began seeing many airplanes flying in the sky. I was getting closed to the airport. The train went underground again it must be very close to the airport. Arriving to the Narita Airport is quite a rush. There are two terminals so I had to be very careful which one to get off. The American Airlines has the gates at 2nd terminal. so I had to get to the very last. (I think I took a Hikari Express)

Arriving Narita Airport, Farewell to Japan

Getting off the Narita Express, then I started to carry my baggage, used an escalator to the upstairs. Another step closer to the United States. (The time was around 4:00~4:30pm?) I arrived to the airport. I was not quite sure what to do but I had my paper ticket, so I needed to go to the check-in counter. I took several escalators to the departing floor. It was quite a view. First time seeing an airport terminal. I just thought an airport is so cool since the ceiling is so high and bright. Not like a train station, there are many companies from all over the world . If you come to the airport frequently, that's something you don't care much, but for a guy who comes to the airport for the first time, it was a big deal. I stopped by at ICS counter to receive my boarding pass, I walked to the counter and I checked in my baggage and moved on. I had some money which I know I won't be using it once get on the plane. I bought some drinks, snacks and cold medicine and eye drops. One thing I did something stupid was to drop my boarding pass. I got paged and report at American Airlines booth. The lady says, "this is very important, please don't drop it." Oops, now concerns me a lot. Anyways, I waited for a while for the boarding. maybe about 3 hours. When the boarding starts, I called my home to let them know that I am going. I felt so sad, but I started to walk toward the gate. (The gate was #23, still being used by the AA? I have to check). I sat on the seat, looked up the safety guide, but I did not understand, only thing I knew was to wear a seat belt. I got a seat by the right window side. I am getting nervous...

The ticket to the U.S. ()

Around 7:05pm, AA60 took off from the airport. Since I have never been on a plane so it was such a big time. I think the plane was one of those MD. The roaring jet engines accelerated the plane strong, taking off in the dark air. I think the plane took off to the south so it started to turn left, so I watched the lights of cities near by the airport, as well as the total dark area, which is the pacific ocean. At the time, we did not have any entertainment system like LCD monitor or Air-phone, so only thing I could play with was some audio program with headset made out of rubber tubes or something. It was weird.

The dinner was served but I am not sure what to say. I could not even ask for a cup orange juice. Only thing I could do was pointing at the menu which flight attendant brought up. I am very concerned now. I DO NOT UNDERSTAND ENGLISH! I tried to read magazines placed in front of the seat, but I could not, because I had so much hard time. (Nowadays, I knew they are quite boring...)

I know it's night time in Japan and I should be sleeping. Well, quite successfully, I fell sleep... There were slight turbulences but I did not care.

Next thing I woke up was in the middle of somewhere, over the land. I saw the circular farm land which I have seen on the magazine somewhere. It was huge and flat. I watched the things on the ground slowly moving.
(AA 060 19:05 NRT, 15:35 DFW, 31H)

Arriving at DFW, Welcome to the United States of America

The date was still March 5th, 1996, since Japanese standard time is well ahead of time.
Arriving at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is not that easy. I had to fill out papers and forms in order to have everything in order. The good thing is that the paper required was provided to me in beforehand from ICS. (I had a series of documents in a envelope attached to the passport. right next to the page of my visa.)
I was instructed to say certain things (to not to screw up). Because I could not understand English much. The Japanese students who come to the U.S. for language study tended to hang out too often and never learn the language was already a problem. I just needed to say, "To Study at Wichita State University", "Wichita, Kansas" and so on. Well, I passed the check and I was welcomed (or maybe not).

The next thing I had to do was to get on the connecting flight. I picked up my baggage at the baggage claim, then go though custom, give my baggage to an airport baggage handler. I headed to the next gate, which I was not quire sure. Brave enough, I used the TRAACK system for the first time to the next gate.

AA3747 should be the flight number. The gate number was at Terminal 2E. I got to the gate, met with the representative, she asked me something but I did not understand at all. She wrote a BIG RED "NO" encircled. I felt bad because I thought it was telling me that I do not understand English. (and maybe it was true) That the time I met with one of another Japanese student who was coming to study. Yoko Taguchi was her name, I think.
This one is a quite wild ride too. Not like a jet airliner, it has a couple of huge propellers. The airplane took off in the late afternoon. I was sitting on the right side of the plane. The flight was only about two hours but I fell sleep again. Airplane keeps flying... The thing I remember was the interior of the plane was illuminated by the light of sunset. It was quite beautiful, I thought.

Ticket to Wichita, Kansas

(AA3747 17:10 DFW, 18:50 ICT, 11C)

Arriving Wichita, Going to the WSU campus

Arriving Wichita was a kind of shock. First, the place was already dark so I could not see the airport much. At least I felt safe because I traveled for such a long distance without getting killed. Everybody getting out from the plane so I followed through the jet bridge. Stepping into brick build building with large glass windows, my first step at the destination, Wichita. According to the document given by the ICS, there has to be a Japanese person to pick me up but not showing up. Me and two others waited for a while. However, there was a black guy named Ridge, was looking for three Japanese students instead. So Yoko, Ryotaro and I must be the three then. I think he says something about understanding English, all of us did not. So I think he says okay. He helped us picking up our baggage, then we ride to the campus (the brown colored Chevy (Dodge?) Van from the IELC). I could see the lights of the downtown to the left. (I thought, is that it? The downtown area is so small. THIS IS TOTALLY DIFFERENT FROM MY IMAGINATION! Maybe having a thought of all American cities are big and advanced... And at the same time I am more concerned, this place may not have anything... and sure enough, I will find out tomorrow.) I am so shocked, and confused. I also thought the place is colder.

Checking in to Fairmount Tower

I have paid for the board already but they have not processed my application so I did not have my room assigned. They assigned me a room at first floor at north tower, but it was a mistake. So I moved into a room on the second floor. It was going to be my guest room. I will have my room assigned later. I needed to go buy stuffs. I don't have anything to make my bed, or do laundry. After waiting in the room for a while, one of Japanese friend (Ryotaro) came to the room to get me for shopping. It was past 8:00PM(?)

Wal-Mart shopping trip

I have been to the famous "Wal-Mart" for the first time. The location is at North Rock Road and 29th street. At the time, it was a "regular" Wal Mart therefore they did not have groceries at the store. (I think the place got upgraded to Wal Mart Super Center in fall 1997 or before).  The place smelled like laundry detergent. It was strange. I bought a pillow, blanket, mattress cover, laundry basket, laundry detergent (I bought one with bleach in, by mistake...), plastic hangers, (I had soup, shampoo from Japan so I did not have to buy any of those). At the cashier, I used traveler's check to purchase. The only identification I had was my passport and I had my traveler's check signed in Chinese characters. They had to call manager and accept it with suspicious look. Of course, I don't expect anybody understand Chinese characters in "Kansas".

Dinner at Denny's

After the shopping, we went to Denny's. Mike, and his girl friend took care of us. There used to be a Denny's at east of Kellogg at Rock Rd. I think it was almost late as 10:00pm, I was tired but I needed to eat. Orange juice and some sandwiches. They tried to help me some. It is good that I got chance to speak in Japanese.

Made bed, which Ryotaro helped me. The temporary roommate had a friend who could speak Japanese so it helped me a lot but worried me to know the fact that I do not understand what they are saying at all. It has been a long day. Now I am away from my parents by 7,000 miles. Good night.

Let the journey begin!

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Copyright 2001 - Kosuke Ishikawa / Unauthorized copying of contents, partial or whole, is not permitted.