My experience in Japan was more than just a fun time in another country. My experience in Japan helped pave the path to my future, one step and sight at a time. When I first signed up to go on the two week exchange trip, I couldn't believe I was going to set foot in another country. It was something I had never dreamed of, and I was extremely excited. My journey as a first year Japanese student not only made it slightly difficult, but all the more special to me in Japan. I knew a bit of the language, and it was enough to help me to survive, but the language barrier is what made things so special, and my favorite part of the experience. My first host attended a regular high school and my second host attended a private school. My first host's name was Yui, and she was my pen pal the previous year, so we were excited to finally meet each other. I remember our first meeting in front of Koma High School, it was an amazing feeling, and the first real sign of home in Japan.
Being in school in Japan is a whole different setting than in America. I loved experiencing Japanese school and classes. We took different subjects from Physics to Culinary, and we even took a Calligraphy class. In the Calligraphy class the students looked up any Kanji we asked and they gave us paper and showed us how to prepare our ink and brush. They even taught us our name after we practiced with it for a while. I personally learned a lot of kanji from this class that I didn't know going into the trip from my first year in Japanese. I had also begun to pick up on a lot of dictionary forms of words, which I had no idea I would be learning at the beginning of year two Japanese.
Another Amazing experience in Japan was teaching English to the students in English class. We were put into groups and my partner and I had a skit that we taught them and had them preform in front of the class. We had to teach them the proper annunciation of words and the meaning of what they were saying. Since I was only a first year, the explanation fell to my partner most of the time, but we still would our group in half and my partner would take half and teach them one part and I would teach them the other. I met so many great students through these English classes, and many of them are friends I will have for a lifetime.
I had many cultural experiences, one of which was going to a shrine and doing Zen meditation. I really fell in love with zen while in Japan, and actual take time every now and then to practice it. It helps to calm the mind and clear stress when you have the build up. We were taught a strange concept; we were asked, "Where is Mt. Fuji." and the students would point in the direction of Mt. Fuji. The instructor would shake his head and say, "Incorrect, Mt. Fuji is here. Where is America?" and when we finally caught on, we realized that in zen meditation, when you think of something, it is with you. Where is America? America is Here. Where is Japan? Japan is also here, with you.
One thing I dont know what I would have done without was one of my best friends Ashley Barron. She also signed up for the trip shortly after I decided to go and she found out there was room for one more person. We talked to each other almost everyday about how excited we were and how many days until the trip. We rode the plane next to each other after a gentleman offered to switch seats, and to my later knowledge, Ashley recorded me sleeping or doing other stuff while we watched a little miniature plane on the screen get closer to Japan. While in Japan, it was amazing to have someone else who was at my language level, and one of my old and good friends to rely on. Without a great friend like Ashley in Japan, it would have been much harder to be away from home without knowing anyone.
Overall, going to Japan helped me to decide what I want to do and where I want to go with my life. Throughout high school, my future was a mystery while I juggled art, music, writing, and many other theories around as careers. I finally decided to go with a long dream I've had since I was a child of designing video games, and to take it to the next level, and make it my goal to move to Japan and work as a video game and character designer there. I now realize how much I have accomplished these last four years in high school, and can't believe I am so much closer to my dream. I have now known for a year my exact plans for my future, and every step I have taken since has brought me to where I am now, and ahead of me is the straight path to where I want to go. I am sure I will find many obstacles along the way, but I am ready and waiting to take them on and conquer everything to achieve my goal. I would suggest to other people that if you have an interest, you should follow it, because you never know if it is the answer you are looking for. If I wouldn't have decided to go on the Japanese trip, I may have never decided on what I wanted to do. My life was changed forever, and I wish anyone else who has a dream to follow it and put their heart into everything they do to get there.
Here are some places I went to while in Japan, and if you ever visit, I strongly recommend you visit or drive by!
high schools I attended:
Hostel I stayed in while in Tokyo
Awesome cheap books
Kawaguchiko, one of the lakes by Fujisan
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