It’s been just over a month since returning from my semester abroad at Osaka University. Looking back it almost feels like I was never there at all. Over the past month I’ve been slowly re-adjusting to my life here in the US, and I thought I would take some time to reflect on my experiences in Japan.
When I first arrived in Japan in April, it felt very much as if my life was starting over from scratch. I was in a completely new place, meeting completely new people, and doing completely different things on a daily basis. Because I lived in a dormitory full of other study abroad students, all of the people around me were experiencing the same thing, and I think everyone had the idea that this was their opportunity to reinvent themselves. Over time, I slowly began to forget about my life before studying abroad, and eventually it felt like I had always been there and would always be there. Of course, I knew in the back of my mind it would eventually end, but I made a point of living in the now and I tried not to think about it.
While there, I visited several famous places, some of which I mentioned in my previous posts, and I made a point of exploring as much as I could. I even took my commute to school as an opportunity to explore the area, and I would often take out of the way routes just to see more of Japan. Though, even after travelling around Japan, the places I loved the most were the ones within a biking distance of where I lived. I think if I ever decide to go back, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be than Osaka. It really feels like my second hometown, and I would love to go back if ever given the chance.
I also experienced a lot of interesting things, I think the most notable of which was the culture in Japan. I don’t think the culture there was drastically different from that of the US, but there were definitely a few things that stood out to me. Unlike the US, where we are used to living with people from all over the world, foreigners in Japan are a rare sight. Literally rare enough for people to stare whenever I was walking down the street. People there also make the unfortunate assumption that only other Japanese people speak Japanese. This made practicing my Japanese very difficult, and even some of my exchange friends who were fluent in Japanese had trouble communicating. I think my favorite way of describing Japan is “welcoming, but not accepting”. People were nothing but respectful, and I think a tourist wouldn’t really notice anything different. But after living there for an extended period of time, you start to feel excluded. Though, I don’t think this would keep me from going back.
Eventually, I did slowly start to get homesick, and I think when it was time to head home I was ready. My time there has definitely left a lasting impression. In addition to the experiences I have gained through my studies, Japan influenced several areas of my character which I have been noticing since my return. For example, I often catch myself walking on the left side, which sometimes leads to awkward moments when encountering someone walking from the other direction. Now that I’m back, all I have left of Japan are my experiences, and the friends I was able to make while there. My experience in Japan was easily the greatest five months of my life, and the experiences I gained while there will no doubt continue to define me.
Thanks for reading.