It’s hard to believe that I’ve been living in Japan for just a little over 2 months, and since I’ve played with monkeys, been to the 2nd largest building and aquarium in the world, and much more. I’m coming to the part in my trip when things are winding down and there is less thrill and excitement. I’ve been so fortunate for all the things I have gotten to do, and opportunities I’ve been given. I appreciate everyone’s support and know I couldn’t have gone to Japan without this support. I think I have achieved my initial goals, but also have added to them along the way. Before going into my reflection I want to share the process I went through to study abroad in Japan.
I never could have imagined that I would one day study abroad in Japan, it’s truly a once in a lifetime opportunity and I’m so grateful that I’m here. I started this adventure about 2 years ago; after going on a YMCA Tsunami Relief trip last May to Japan, and had been studying Japanese for 2 years, but I knew that I had to go to Japan to really understand the language. I then began the process of searching for the right program in Japan, and with help from my advisor and a little luck I chose IES Language Intensive program. However, choosing the program was only the initial step, the whole process took a lot of work and was a very long process. After filling out all the paperwork that was required, getting my visa, and replying to last minute emails, I was weeks away from going. Throughout all this process I was always super excited, until anxiety and nervousness hit me the day before I was leaving. It was just for a moment when I was thinking about all the “what ifs” that could happen. All was relieved after getting off the plane and realizing that I was in Japan and had a huge adventure awaiting me. This is just the short story of how I came to Japan, but lets get to where the adventure begins.
It seems so long ago since that first day I got off the plane and met my Epal Yumi, so much has changed, myself included. The first 2 months here went by super fast, but at the same time there was so much that I learned and gained. The first week in Japan was orientation, which we stayed at a hotel near my school, with my future classmates in the IES program. Those first weeks were completely foreign to me and everything was new, from the city of my school, to all the people I was meeting and the things I was trying. However, I was still excited and it was at the end of this week that’d I’d meet my host parents, which I was pretty nervous about. It was at the IES center where I was first introduced to Yuko-san, and shy little Karen-chan. Followed by Hiro-san later, I truly lucked out and was welcomed with open arms into such a wonderful family, I can truly call them a second family, and Karen is far from shy now.
After about 4 weeks I had finally settle into the groove of things and was getting used to living in Japan, then came the month of May. This has by far been one of the busiest months in my life, from going to Kyoto, having Lil Kate visit, then ending it with a trip to Okinawa, and having school on top of all this. I wouldn’t have it any other way though; each of these experiences will be a life long memory to me and has broaden my view of Japan. Kyoto was a really unique experience with the traditional tatami house we stayed and all the tourist spots we got to enjoy. Then a few days after Kyoto, I got to see my sweet girlfriend Katie who was eager to see Japan. With this came another packed full week of adventures and seeing more of Tokyo. Finally I ended May with an IES trip to Okinawa, which has a culture of it’s own. All these were lots of fun, buts it’s the memories and new perspective on the world that I hold dearest from these.
I have observed a lot from these two months and I definitely feel that I’ve changed or at least gained new perspectives. I know it is cliché to say that I’ve changed, but it’s the truth, I think this is one of the main reason people choose to study abroad. Living with a host family has been a huge part of understanding Japanese custom and I’d say it’s almost a must if you have the option too. I see how family dynamics are the same and also how they are different, with the surprise answer often being that people are more alike than they think. I know that I’m really fortunate to have gotten such a great host family, but it’s made me realize that there are people that are similar and nice all over the world. That it doesn’t matter what you believe or what they believe in, it’s the moral that we all share and the goodwill that brings everyone together. I know that you can’t judge a culture by what they do, and that things you found weird or bizarre; there is general a good reason for doing it and people rarely do things arbitrarily. The trip so far has opened my world views, but it’s also given me something I want to take home and share.
There are a lot of things that I’d like to bring to Japan, as well as many things from Japan that’d I’d like to bring back to the US. I realized how globally connected we are and all the possibilities of success in international markets. I hope that I can one day have a company of my own or work with one that does global trade in Japan and around the world. I really want to make a difference and I know this time in Japan is going to forever affect me. I’m really optimistic about the future and what I’ll gain in these last two months in Japan and I can’t wait to get back and share all my experiences. I just want to thank everyone again who has helped in this process, especially my family and Katie, and the incredible amount of support I’ve received.