Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why Japan? (Dylan)

As I’m setting out for Japan, I’m not really sure that I’m ready to go. In fact, I’m probably not. My Japanese isn't very good, for one thing. But for some reason, and I cannot seem to tell what, I’m not really nervous at all. I suppose some of it’s the prep work that goes into international travel – there really doesn't seem to be time to be nervous when there hardly seems to be time to pack everything. And it isn't like I haven’t tried to prepare in other ways; I've read everything and talked to everyone I could find about the little cultural things I should know, the quirks, small differences, and basic assumptions that can easily trip up even nigh-fluent speakers. I doubt that will actually be enough (or that, at least in the earlier parts of the trip, I’ll remember everything) to avoid a faux pas somewhere, but at least it should indicate that I’m trying, and lay groundwork for getting better with time and experience. 

The other reason I’m not sure I’m ready to go is that I’m not really sure why I’m going to Japan in particular. I mean, I have a small set of stock reasons and answers to give, because not being able to answer is awkward and sometimes an answer is more or less mandatory, but I can’t actually come up with a full answer, even to myself. I just sort of decided to take Japanese in the Center for Language Studies (since they didn't offer German, which was actually the language I was looking to study further at the time) as opposed to Russian (the other language I considered) for vague reasons that were probably connected to my level of exposure to their respective cultures and friends with familial ties to those countries (that latter point also supplies one of my stock answers), and once I’d done so I guess I sort of felt committed, especially when I transferred to Beloit.

This isn’t to imply that I’m doing this purely out of a sense of duty; I love Japan and the Japanese language (even if I’m bad at it and kanji are at times physically painful). But it is true, and so I feel it should be included in a self-reflection essay. It’s not an issue of whether or not I like Japan, it’s that I’m less sure of why I like Japan in particular or why I picked it out from the list of countries I am fascinated by and would love to study in.
But, here I go.

1 comment:

Crystaline Hoover said...

I can definitely relate to feeling unsure about exactly why you chose Japan. I also chose the language more or less at random, and I don't have any great love for Japan. Learning about new cultures in general is something that interests me, but there's not really anything about Japan in particular that draws me in.

But I don't think that it matters. It doesn't have to be some huge, meaningful experience. You don't have to start out thinking that this is going to be the trip that completely changes your life. Relax, take things as they come, enjoy the opportunities you have. Maybe you'll have the most significant moment of your life, maybe it'll be more of an extended vacation. I may never use Japanese again after graduating, but that doesn't mean that I won't learn valuable things about the world just by being immersed in another culture, even if they're a bit hard to quantify.