Thursday, September 3, 2015

A New Perspective (Sarah)

As I set out on this journey I’m only just beginning to catch my breath. I spent the majority of my summer working a job that a few years ago I would never have believed I was capable of. I got to work at the language camp that originally inspired my love for Japan, languages and culture in general. Just like all the summers before as a camper, it was challenging, but it was also extremely fun! I worked to overcome doubts in my own language ability and began taking on the role of not only a teacher but also a caring and at times almost parent like figure to the campers. I found myself invested in each of the students, especially the girls that lived with me, much more than I had expected. I also found myself working side by side with people who had been my teachers as a camper, which made for some interesting first interactions. I was originally afraid that working at the place that had inspired me years ago would ruin the image I had preserved of it, but it did the exact opposite, it became something even better than what I had remembered it as.

However, only two days after returning from this great experience I nearly lost consciousness for no apparent reason and continued to feel strange for days afterwards. I received an alarming suggestion from the first doctor I saw who thought that it may have been a partial seizure, which as you can probably imagine sent me into a bit of a panic. Not only was that a serious diagnosis with life long implications I had no way of fully understanding at the time, but I also plain didn't have time for this. I was leaving for Japan in a month; I had no time for a serious diagnosis. But during the ride from that first doctor’s office to the emergency room, the following five hours I spent getting tested there (with no food mind you), and the ride back home I realized that as much as I wanted to go to Japan, if there was something serious wrong, I would be staying. I had a month to figure this out. For those next few weeks I felt like I was lying whenever people asked me if I was excited and ready to go to Japan because I answered that of course I was excited and my preparation were almost done! I didn't want to explain what was wrong because I didn’t really know what to say, so I did my best to keep preparing and keep myself busy. In between the MRI’s, blood tests, eco-cardio grams and doctor’s appointments I went to the embassy to get my visa, kept track of emails from Kansai, had various goodbye parties with relatives and unpacked my things from camp that had been briefly forgotten in the confusion.
Waiting at the doctor.
In the end it turned out that the cause had been nothing dangerous and nothing that would stop me from going to Japan. So now I can say, without feeling like a liar, that as I set out on this journey I am very excited because a week ago I wasn’t even sure this was going to be possible. In the past few weeks I’ve come to understand that not only are MRI’s some of the most terrifying and strange medical tests ever, but also just how much of a privilege being able to do this study abroad program really is. For seven years I have desperately wanted to go to Japan, and in those seven years my interest in the language and culture has matured a lot. In the end, my interest led me to applying for study abroad. But I don’t think even in this past year as I applied for study abroad that I fully understood how amazing the opportunity I was signing up for was. That is until this last month where it was no longer guaranteed that I could go.

Some time during the middle of the flight when we crossed the date line and I celebrated my 20th birthday thousands of feet above the earth.
So as I go to Japan I enter into it with a different frame of mind than I had when I originally signed up. This entire summer has been about challenging myself, growing and seeing things in a new light and I expect that to continue in all kinds of ways over the next year. I expect for things I assume to be universally understood to be misinterpreted and misunderstood, I expect that there will be misunderstandings and differences between me and my host family, and I hope for things I take for granted to be challenged and re-understood from a different perspective. As a result, I hope through these experiences, and many more that I can’t even imagine yet, that everyday I will learn numerous things, whether I realize them at the time or not. But lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I hope it is a whole lot of fun!


Kathy Landon said...

Hi Sarah, thanks for sharing your journey! I hope your year will be all you've dreamed of!!

All the best,
Kathy Landon and the OIE Staff

Sarah said...

Thank you! It hasn't been very long, but it has already been a pretty great experience!