I'm keen to make the most of my time here by actually spending time talking to local people and making friends, rather than alternating between the English- (and German)-filled school and the linguistic anomaly that is my apartment. As such I was pleased to note (during my application) that GenkiJACS has a language exchange scheme. In fact, I discovered when I arrived that there are multiple conversation schemes going on, which was a little bewildering.
As far as I can work out, there's a scheme where local students turn up at the school every Wednesday afternoon to chat; the scheme linked above, which tries to match up people and leaves you to make your own arrangements; and at least one option to travel to local schools and do some language exchange there. I'm not quite sure why the first two are separate schemes, though I assume there's a reason; the third type I think are arranged by the Japanese schools, and GenkiJACS just let them leave flyers for students here to peruse.
Sorry about the link being only Japanese, but as far as I can tell, there's simply not an English version. The information here is considerably more than I knew about the scheme, though!
I signed up as soon as I arrived, knowing it would take a while to process. Apparently something important happened last night, because within the space of a couple of hours I suddenly got emails from not one, but six people.
Now what I'd imagined from the scheme (partly in the belief that it was part of the Wednesday avvy convo group) was that you would sign up, a team of Trained Experts would match you up with someone vaguely appropriate (or potentially hilarious) and then you'd hang out and see how things go. It now seems like this works a lot more like my impression of a dating site, which is to say, they stick up your details somewhere central and people find you? I dunno. It's also possible that for some reason I was introduced to an unusual number of people, or I suppose, it may be that there's usually a low match rate and so they always make multiple introductions, but this time lots of people wrote back.
Um, I suppose it may also be that this is what always happens: lots of people get in contact enthusiastically, but either most of them drop off quickly for various reasons, or the GenkiJACS student is expected to pick and choose. Only people at the school also seemed a bit startled that I had six replies. A mystery, really.
Anyway, it's all a bit stressful to be honest. It feels like I now have an obligation to write back to all these people and try to arrange some kind of meetup with each of the six, which is quite a commitment. None of them is obviously terrifying or anything, so it's not like there's anyone I immediately feel the urge to hide from. Ignoring most of them is... not really within my set of social skills, sadly. It just feels like rather a lot to deal with all coming at once, because I ought to try and answer all the emails within a fairly short time if I'm being polite.
Let's just see how this goes. Fingers crossed I'll end up with a manageable number of people in the longer term, because with the best will in the world, I don't think I can meet six people once a week. I might post some general updates on here, but for obvious reasons (i.e. politeness) I'm not going to be giving detailed assessments of any meetings I have.