Reflecting Back on my Experience in Japan

Something that’s really been on my mind lately has been how much I learned from studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan almost a year ago: how it’s affected my personal, cross-cultural, and world view and how I’ve gained such treasures that will make me so successful in life, including my career. I found this letter I wrote to myself before heading off overseas about my hopes and dreams for my experience in Japan. It makes me so happy to read it now and know without doubt I accomplished everything I set for myself, and I’ve become such a better person because of it!

“Moving away to college almost three years ago was a significant step into adulthood for me, although physically the step was only about 100 miles away from home. I enjoyed settling into my own college lifestyle at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and the independence I felt, while still comforted by the fact that home was in short reach. I was having the time of my life with ample motivation to learn all that I could in school and about myself, meet new people, and take new risks. About a year ago, I realized I felt quite content with what I had created for myself, and with that a passionate craving emerged within me to explore something much bigger than myself, to make a significant distinction on who I was and who I was becoming. It was about this time when I discovered a quote by Thomas Szasz that inspired me to be as proactive about my future as I possibly could, and I will take its message with me forever as I continue to grow: ‘People often say that this or that person has not found himself. But the self is not something one finds. It is something one creates.’ I decided that to see the rest of the world for myself was essential for me to do before entering the real world after college, and the option to study abroad seemed very clear for my near future. I have always respected and been intrigued by Asian culture, philosophy, traditions and aesthetics, and my mind was set to choose a program abroad in Japan. I enrolled in a South and Southeast Asia class to learn all that I could about the region and started learning bits of Japanese on my own. After speaking with a former CIEE student through e-mail, I full-heartedly yearned to go to Tokyo. I was convinced that with what this program could offer, while having the opportunity to live with a Japanese family, I would develop the new world view I was longing for.

My ambition for my study abroad experience is to be more than a visitor of the country, but to be fully absorbed into the culture; to learn from and interact with local people and their lifestyles, and to understand and respect a culture completely different than my own. I’m eager to feel that magical sense of wonder walking into such a fascinating culture, to experience how it embraces the old and the new, and to see and experience new things every day. I’m honored to have the chance to live and study among local people, and to be able to make lasting relationships with them. I’m excited and confident that I will gain the most knowledge I can about the world first-hand, and I’m now more ready than ever to make this experience quite literally ‘the time of my life’.”

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