Thursday, September 10, 2015

Last Week in America (Ari)

In that one week between the intensive 8-week Japanese course at the Center for Language Studies (CLS) and my journey to Japan, I attempted to partake in as many “American” activities as I possibly could. You can see them in the pictures -- I went to Taco Bell, since there is only one in Japan. That was a relative success. The other activities were comically hopeless. My parents took me to Broadway to see a magic show one night. I took the time to enjoy New York City, my home away from home, but for dinner, I was staring longingly at the ramen shop across the street from our sad little vegan restaurant. And when we reached Times Square, I was instantly lured to the Sanrio shop. I guess that “American” activities have never really been a favored pastime of mine.
And yet, even as I got on the plane to Narita International Airport, it still never occurred to me that I will soon be in Japan. I’ve longed for this day for years. It started when I was in second grade, and we took an entire quarter of the school year to learn about Japan and Japanese culture. Ever since then, I begged my dad to take me there, and for many varying reasons, I never had the actual opportunity. To me, Japan was always a distant, magical land where my dreams would come to life. Of course I know now that Japan is by no means perfect, and every moment abroad will not be that of pure euphoria, but these things make me wonder… What if my dreams are crushed? What if I’m ostracized because I’m foreign? What if my language skills are insufficient? What if my roommate treats me poorly? What if I don’t get the classes I wanted? What if my classes are too difficult and/or stressful? What if I don’t make any friends?

What happens if I start to pine for home?

I remember a few years ago, when I first went to study abroad. It was in Costa Rica, where I was to learn to do field work with monkeys. The country and the food were beautiful, but the academics were too stressful, and it was impossible to relate to my classmates, with whom I was forced to spend time with 24/7. I had a mental breakdown and had to be sent home three weeks early. Now I am not suggesting that I have not grown and changed since all those years ago, and that I cannot handle the stress of new experiences and potential isolation, but that summer in Costa Rica still haunts me.

I do not want Japan to be everything I hoped for. I just want to be happy.

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