By Aspasea McKenna
September 4th, marked the year-to-date that I hopped on the plane that would take me to the city that never sleeps. I ask myself where that precious time went and my mind is flooded with nothing but incredible memories. This past year has been one filled with intoxicating adventure, irreplaceable life lessons and unforgettable experiences that helped me grow in ways I didn’t know possible, and ultimately, helped me find myself in what I thought an impossible search for what’s important in life. But these wild adventures would not have nearly been as such if it were not for the people that shared these wonderful moments with me. The human connections that we make are what keeps us going through this long and tumultuous journey we call life, and what sticks with me more than the fun I had, are the people that were right there by my side experiencing them with me.
The awesome thing about studying abroad is that you get to meet hundreds of people; People of your host country, as well as people from around the world and all walks of life. The first six months of my time abroad, I chose to stay in the international dorms. There, I met awesome people from countries like Australia, Sweden, Spain, Holland, Croatia, and from all of the Asian tigers and the Americas. I not only got to learn about and live out my host country, but over some beers and tasty Japanese snacks at the local izakaya (tavern), I also surprisingly learned a lot about my new friends and fellow study abroader’s home countries. It was these students that were alongside me during the down times sharing mutual feelings of homesickness, and the up times exploring our new home.
But of course I cannot forget to mention my Japanese friends. Through their actions, they taught me the Japanese lifestyle and what it means to be truly Japanese. Their interminable hospitality and warm hearts that know no bounds, their ceaseless positivity and empathetic minds showed me a new kind of friendship and taught me a new outlook on life.
This year will forever stay engrained in my mind as the best year of my life. Of course the raging rock concert in Burma, dancing in a traditional Newari festival for Shiva in a remote village in Nepal, crawling through a 100 meter long war tunnel in Vietnam on my hands and knees, taking a yacht ride on Yokohama Bay with all of my exchange student friends and seeing a world famous guru in India for my fortune take the top of the list, but what undoubtedly takes the lead is the life-long friendships that I forged. The friend that was patient with me when I was learning how to use my now favorite DSLR, the friend that brought me flowers and medicine when I had a high fever, the friend that played wing-girl when I met a cute boy. If it weren’t for these special people that blessed my life in ways they can’t possibly know, there is no way that I would have gotten through this year without calling my mother at home crying as I ask her to come pick me up from Japan.