UPDATE (12.03.15) : Upon seeing this published, I realized that my pictures were not showing up. I will be adding new pictures of my new home by the end of January and have this post up and running again. Sorry for the inconvenience.
Things I did to make time go by a lot faster and make my transition easier.
1. Explore Your New Home.
I was living in an apartment complex called the "Exchange Student Building". The one good thing was that a LOT of us were new and just moved there at the same time. It meant that a whole flock of us would go explore Saitama and Tokyo together and it was really helpful because I didn't have good Japanese but a few of the students had exceptional Japanese skills that came in handy.\
2. Journal/Blog/Keep a Diary
I have to say that this is a VERY crucial part to your whole experience because if you are very diligent about your journaling, when you go back to it after some time has past, you'll be able to look back at everything you're felt and did and realize how much you went through.
When you move to a new country, you'll find that you're sad and lonely and miss home but you can also talk about the random market of plants and animals that you passed and it shocked you and made you forget about your sadness.
I've found that writing is VERY therapeutic - hence why I have this blog - and it also help you sort out and realize some of the things that you are currently facing.
You're stressed? Why...? Maybe it's the constant bombardment of a language you don't know how to speak and it's frustrating and confusing and makes you wish you were home. What do you do to solve this? Well, that's for you to decide but 3-10 should help you decide what course of action to take.
That sort of thing.
If you're curious, I have my clothes hanging indoors this particular weekend because a typhoon was going on outside. If you journal, you can remember random things like that :P
3. Make Friends
This helps to make #1 VERY easy because sometimes, no matter how safe a place is - and let me assure you, Japan is REALLY SAFE - I tend to like the buddy system when exploring. It also makes for a great time if you can experience things together rather than alone.
4. Stave off Home Sickness by Keeping BUSY.
Sometimes when you're in a new place, it can be daunting to try and do things, especially if you move to a new place where your first language is not the predominant language. As I mentioned in #1, a few people would have great language skills and it would help us get around but that doesn't mean hole yourself up in your new home if you or your friends don't speak the language.
I had some really great experiences going on excursion and exploring places by myself or even joining a group to meet new people.
Sight See, Running in new locations, GeoCache...Anything!
5. Learn the Language and Culture of Your New Home
If you're just moving to a place that speaks the language, GREAT! You're ahead of the game!
BUT if you move to a place that is speaking a different language and has a different culture, I think it would be silly not to explore that. Maybe even arrogant as well and you owe it to all the people you're going to be interacting with to learn about them.
It's great to know why people are the the way they are. What is their history? Does a religion heavily influence their daily life? What holidays are celebrated and why?
TRY their food! It may be odd or too different but slowly test your comfort zone and expand your horizons. You never know. You just may like what you eat.
Your new neighbors and friends will be grateful that you took the time to learn more about them, too!
6. Join a Club/Activity of Interest.
This was actually one of the best advise I got from my mentor. She told me to join a club and STICK with it for the full duration! I was the only foreigner in the Kyudo club and yeah, it was difficult but at the end, I made such great friends and learned a REALLY old skill.
I have some of the fondest memories in that club but I wouldn't trade it for any of my other experiences because it made such an impact on my personal growth.
7. Talk to Random People
It may sound weird but random people will likely strike up a conversation with you - so hopefully you did #5 - and make a new friend #3. It's a curious thing when you're talking to a foreigner or in this case if you're a foreigner and they are the local, there is usually no shame to ask a complete stranger any questions you may have. Whether it's where is the nearest supermarket or why are those people dressed like that? I found that there seems to be an understanding for someone seeking knowledge and someone that has it and there is no shame between them.
It's best if you ask in the local language but if you must ask someone in your first language:
A) Talk REAL SLOW. Just as you're having a hard time with how fast they talk, keep in mind they will with your language as well.
B) Be prepared to write it down because sometimes they may read better than they speak and they can also be shy.
BONUS: Ask an older person. Most times, if it's someone around your age or younger, they can be shy and may not have the confidence to talk to you and may just tell you, "I don't speak" or the like just to save themselves the embarrassment. If they look to be in their mid to late 20's and older, I'd say it should be fine to approach them.
Getting back on topic, if you talk to random people, they may tell you something that only a local will know. Like great places to eat, a hidden sanctuary, etc.
It's work it.
8. Join Couch Surfing
If you like to adventure or just meet new people - whether it's locals or other expats - this is the group to join! I always recommend that people join, especially if they like to travel. It's a cheap way to travel because you stay a complete strangers homes with the understanding that it's just plain kindness of their heart.
It's also a great way to do #1-7 all in one meeting. You'll learn from one another and have a network of other travelers or friendly people that will offer you advice or tips for your new home or for a place that you maybe visiting in the near future.
You're in a new place and enjoying your new home but I think you should travel around the different areas by or outside your new home. Compare and contrast it to your old home and your new home. See if there are any famous locations that all the locals recommend and also just wander and get lost in a new area.
You being in a new place is like your extended travel until it becomes home but one of the odd things I found out about traveling was looking forward to coming back to your new/current home.
It's an odd realization that you've finally started to relate your new place as "Home".
10. Take Pictures and Enjoy Yourself