“Do not go where the path may lead,
go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
As I looked out the window, the runway strip stared back at me, I pondered why did I choose my first plane ride to be to Japan. The plane seemed to be much larger than it really was. The woman next to me, a pretty complexion and elegant glasses, looked down at the pamphlet resting securely in my lap and said, “Don’t worry, not many kids your age would be willing to go so far alone.” This woman that I had only met a matter of ten minutes earlier, managed to give me the courage I needed to fulfill my dreams with a single sentence.
Twenty-four hours later, I smelled the air, it was refreshing, I stood in front of the “Welcome to Japan” sign plastered on the wall. I never really thought about the saying “seeing is believing” until just then. The unpaved path I had just taken on suddenly seemed real to me. I never would have thought that one month would change how I viewed the world.
Experiencing their culture, speaking their language, and even living with a host family gave me such a great feeling of joy and excitement that it was hard to contain myself. I stayed in Tokyo and was able to experience the hustle and bustle of Japanese business men on their way to work. In Sapporo, I experienced Hokkaido's most advanced city, where I met life-long friends and learned to speak a great deal of Japanese. I stayed with my host family in Muroran, where I tasted their infamous yakitori (skewered grilled chicken). Last, but not least, I traveled to Kyoto where I saw the world reknowned Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine that was shown in the movie, Memoirs of a Geisha!
Now a traveler of great lengths, I have taken the next step to fulfilling my dream and so five times a week I self-study Japanese. I take my time opening the book, studying each page, and memorizing. Slowly, I practice writing each character again and again until my hand starts to hurt from the pain of perfection. “No pain no gain,” right. Studying hard brings me satisfaction and happiness. Learning just one new word a day, could bring me tears. I have a passion that can’t be suppressed. Unlike the average American teenager, I do not define studying as a tedious task, but as something that can help me in the future.
As I look at my Japanese Kanji book, I take a deep breath and think, I wonder if anyone else would be willing to do the same. Would anyone else have the courage to follow their dreams or would they choose the safe route and feel unsatisfied. Every note I take leaves a trail behind me, so I lead, and I leave behind a trail for others to follow.
Samantha Smith Class of 2011
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