In August 2010, I had the chance to come to Williamsburg with my husband because he wanted to study at the College of William & Mary. I had wanted to live in a foreign country for a long time, but after the dream came true I found myself nervous in my new life. I knew little about life in Williamsburg before I arrived and did not know much English. I also was not feeling confident about spending my time without a job and friends. However, as soon as I got in touch with the Reves Center my worries disappeared. The Reves Center provides support and offers programs to spouses who, like me, are from other countries.
One of the ways the Office of International Students, Scholars, and Programs (ISSP) supports W&M’s international community is the International Spouse Network (ISN). This group meets once a week and we can do anything we want. Last semester we had many classes, including a language exchange lesson, hula dancing, cooking, ornament-making, a pot luck party and so on. For me, ISN meetings are places not only to learn about cultural diversities but also to share common worries and relax. The conversations I have with the other members always delight me, and I enjoy making new friends.
Another ISSP program that supports the international community is the Conversation Partners Program. The Reves Center arranges the conversation partners. My Japanese friend, Izumi Suzuki, and I were paired with two local American women, Anita Lowe and Carolyn Lodzieski. The four of us meet once a week. When we first started meeting, it was very difficult for us to communicate in English, but Anita and Carolyn were very kind and tried to understand what Izumi and I wanted to say. Though the meetings were like English lessons at first, gradually they became more like cultural lessons about life in America. I am very lucky to have been matched with my conversation partners, because they are very concerned with whether my friend and I are comfortable living here and if we are having a good time. They have taken us to many interesting places like museums and parks in Williamsburg, Richmond, and Norfolk. They have been excellent teachers, both of the English language and teaching me more about volunteering and taking care of others.
Before I came here, I hadn’t thought very much about the expats who live in Japan. When I return to my home country I want to find out more about them and learn more about how I can help them. I must do something to return the kindness that others have shown me here in Williamsbug. This is my very fond wish.
Tomoko Nakada was a co-leader of William & Mary’s International Spouse Network (ISN) from 2011 – 2012. The International Spouse Network is a program organized by the Office of International Students, Scholars, and Programs that seeks to support the spouses and significant others who have accompanied their partners to William & Mary and Williamsburg. Tomoko’s husband, Takao Nakada, is an MBA student at the Mason School of Business. Before arriving in Williamsburg, Tomoko worked at a travel agency and enjoyed international travel.