My voice was dry and my palms were sweating. What had I gotten myself into? Or rather, what had my mother gotten me into? For it was she who had signed me up for a program at Ohio University called Go International! According to the pamphlet, it was an experience of a lifetime in which American high school students would interact and make friends with their Japanese counterparts. This would take place in six days, during which all the students would take classes, sleep in dorms, and experience college life. In no way was this my idea of a vacation.
Therefore, on the first evening, I remained awake pondering just how terrible the next five days would be. By morning, my pessimistic attitude wasn’t much better. In fact, after my first Japanese lesson, it had worsened considerably. Fortunately, the day was not over. Once the classes had ended, we were free to do whatever we wanted for the next eight hours. It was during this time when I had a complete attitude adjustment.
In those eight hours, I talked with both the Japanese and American students. A group of us became instant friends. I learned more Japanese than I could have ever imagined and I think the Japanese students had a mutual feeling about English. As time progressed, our group became tighter and tighter, and the days became more and more fun. Together, we played uno, Twister, and Apples to Apples. We watched the RIng, rode on a sternwheeler, visited a museum, toured a haunted building, bowled, shopped, swam, and even played tag. There was never a dull moment.
Undoubtedly, the most fun day was the fourth. As we were all doing our homework in one of the common rooms, somebody brought their iPod. One thing led to another, as one thing always inevitably does, and somebody started dancing. Within minutes, everybody in the room was on their feet. The lights were turned off and for the rest of the evening we danced. In Japan, dances like homecoming and prom are uncommon. So this truly was a unique opportunity for them. It was an unforgettable experience for me too.
Of course, the trip had to come to an end, an end for which I don’t think anybody was ready. In that one week, I felt almost as if I had a second family. And as I think back to that first day, when I was consumed with so much pessimism and doubt, I almost want to laugh. No matter how many times I was told to “look at the glass half full” or “not to judge a book by its cover,” I still expected the worst from this program. I couldn’t have been more wrong, but I couldn’t have learned a greater lesson.
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