Thoughts on My Upcoming Trip to Japan

25 Aug

Lately I’ve been thinking about my decision to study abroad in Japan for three and a half months – no surprise as I’m leaving on Sunday.  I previously spent a year abroad studying in Seville, Spain and I absolutely loved it. Of course, there were moments or even days when I wanted nothing more than to get the heck out of there and come back to the US and I was so homesick for family, friends, and familiar places that I actually cried; but overall, I loved my time in Spain. The city was fun and lively, the weather was gorgeous and sunny, the people were friendly, the culture was interesting and I wouldn’t trade that year for anything.  And now as I finish packing my suitcases, I wonder how Japan will be.  I remember that the first few months in Spain were the most difficult in terms of adjusting to the culture and after that critical period I began to feel like I was settling into the ebb and flow of my life there.  But in Spain I had an entire year to adjust and adapt and make a real life for myself in the country.  In Japan, I have only 3.5 months to do the same.  I just simply can’t imagine that I will be able to create a real life for myself in the country in such a short time.  More likely, I will just begin to reach past the stage of being a tourist/visitor when I will need to fly back to the US and abandon what progress I will have made. This brings me to an interesting thought.  In Spain, I looked similar enough to the natives that I was able to “pass” and, in the beginning, as long as I didn’t speak there wasn’t really any way of singling me out as a foreigner.  But now I will be the extraordinarily homogeneous society that is Japan where I will look nothing at all like the natives.  Because of the inherent characteristics of the Japanese society/culture and not looking like the “typical Japanese person” especially in a more rural area like Hikone, I will most likely be spending my time simply trying to avoid being stereotyped as the “typical gaijin” and making friends with the Japanese students in my classes.  Three and a half months is barely enough time to get my feet wet in the culture, let alone begin to feel like a full member of the society, but the time spent studying abroad would be nothing more than a regular tourist’s vacation if I didn’t at least attempt to integrate myself into the local society.

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