The past five days have been incredibly exhausting, rewarding, confusing, fun, and overall incredibly valuable. Even though I lived in Japan two months, the feel of hypermodern Tokyo is unmistakably different than that of rural Beppu. The buildings are taller, the neighborhoods are cramped, and the people simply seem to move faster. Five days simply hasn’t been enough time to adjust, but my host family seems to have something to say about that!
As I am currently typing, the clock tells me it’s just before noon on the first full day I’ll spend with my host family. I am getting a slight break in between playing with my young host siblings and going to the store with my host mother. Life seems to be relatively fast paced here, but accommodating nonetheless. Everything I need is here, but most importantly, it’s what’s not here that makes a homestay so special. I only have myself to rely on, meaning no present translator and no English speaker in the household. There are times that my host mother’s English vocabulary (which is much better than she lets on) is all I need, and there are times that my three month old Japanese vocabulary works somewhat, but I very typically get lost in conversations I find myself in. So how do I feel about that?
Well, to be quite honest, it can be discouraging. Back at school in America, I feel pretty intelligent most of the time. I study a lot, I get good grades, I test well, I don’t really miss much in terms of doing “smart” things. However, being transplanted into a situation where I can’t say anything more complex than, “This food tastes good,” or, “I like football,” makes me feel incredibly deficient. Had I chose to do a homestay without spending two months in Japan in a dorm beforehand, I feel as if being in my current situation would be incredibly scary. Luckily, I’m now at a point where I know that some things won’t be understood, and that’s entirely fine with everyone around me. Bringing forth a positive attitude is what matters most, and my host family reflects that one hundred percent. As long as I smile, and occasionally use charades, everything works out.
For those of you reading this who will eventually go abroad and choose to do a homestay, don’t be scared. Your host family will know very well that you may be unable to speak to them in their own language. Just try as hard as you can to learn as much as you can, and leave the rest up to fate. There will be times where you make embarrassing mistakes, and you may fall flat on your face sometimes, but the beauty of a homestay is the support it provides. Believe me, it’s better to spend your time with people than it is to be alone for four months if you want to learn as much as possible!
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Hi all! My name is Ben Krieger, and I am a rising Junior at Miami University in Oxford, OH. I grew up in the Cleveland area as an aspiring professional football player, but clearly that is a path that I've abandoned because I'll be in Japan during my first season away from the game in fourteen years! I'm very excited to be in Tokyo for the fall, and I've been preparing to be able to at least survive in Tokyo by studying Japanese for the first time ever in Beppu, Japan this summer. I may not be great yet, but hopefully you'll watch me grow as I blog my way through the fall program!