Pre Departure Thoughts: "Wait, this is really happening?"

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Kamora Millan
August 26, 2023

Introduction: Who are you? 

Hello! Hola! こんにちは! My name is Kamora Millan and I shall be the voice behind the words you see here for my blog series! I thought to give a short insight into who I am because that it's important for contextual reasons while I describe my experiences while heading to Tokyo. So! I am Caribbean-American, specifically Jamaican and Puerto Rican so I'm sort of used to multiple languages getting thrown around in my house. I'm an Anthropology major, which is essentially the study of cultures. That means anything that involves Linguistics, Religion, History, or just general interactions with people will ensure I am there every time to talk about it with passion and enthusiasm! Alright, with the formal introductions out the way, let's get into all of the feelings and thoughts one could experience before departure.

"What do you mean I leave in three days?"

As of me writing this, I have realized that I suddenly have three days left of being in New York before I take off for Tokyo and the realization hasn't truly hit me yet, even as I pack up my suitcase. I have been double, triple and quadruple checking my list of documents, essential items and clothes to ensure I am not forgetting anything in terms of packing for an entire semester in a different country. People around me have expressed how excited they are for my travels to hit the international level now, but I feel oddly calm about it all despite the date practically breathing down my neck at this point. I feel like I haven't been as outwardly excited as one would expect for fulfilling a lifelong dream of heading to Japan, sort of taking everything day by day. Despite the literal life changing  event of my life approaching, my mind has stayed occupied thinking about things such as "Oh, what am I having for lunch today?" or "I want to play this video game I've been holding out on" rather than "HEY YOU'RE LITERALLY ABOUT TO SHIFT TIME ZONES BY HALF A DAY IN THE FUTURE." I am excited, trust me I am. I just feel as though if I allow myself to get swept up in the whirlwind of excitement bellowing around me, I'll get caught up and forget something important. I know the adrenaline rush will crash down on me the night before my flight, with the realization that this is the last time I sleep in my familiar bed for the next 6 months. Once I find myself in Japan, every day will be a learning experience and I shall go in with no assumptions of anything. I'm going to be a guest, a student, and a foreigner, so being adaptable is going to be key to having a wholistic experience there.


You'll notice throughout my blogs I'll try to sprinkle in languages wherever I can since my brain thinks in a few different processes, even when typing and talking! I have been exposed to Japanese since I was a kid through anime (Yes I'm an otaku sue me) but only started taking my language studying "seriously" this past summer-and-change. I've never taken Japanese classes, so all of my knowledge of how to write, read, speak, and comprehend the language has been from watching videos, using text books I find, and talking with kind Japanese speakers online. One of the little mental hiccups that I find myself doing when speaking Japanese is that instead of saying "え?" or "何" or "はい?" (Translation: "Eh?" or "なに/nani/what?" or "hai/yes?") I will instead say "¿Qué?" (Translation: What?) since I tend to do that when speaking English. It's a silly thing that happens quite often where I will mix up the three languages while trying to casually converse with people, to only laugh at myself from how ridiculous it sounded in the moment.

The point of me mentioning all of this is that although I don't know the most Japanese, a pro tip from me is learn hiragana and katakana before arriving. I haven't even gotten over there yet, but I would not even allow myself to think of going to another country without learning basic phrases in the native language of where I am going simply out of respect. Again, I am a guest in the country, so I wish to give good impressions keeping that in mind. Studying a language can be difficult, but with enough constant practice, you can get there! Everyone learns differently, so don't think you have to limit yourself to just textbooks. Go listen to videos, watch some shows, talk to people online, listen to songs, read manga and then translate them! There are a million combinations of how to learn a language, so experiment around with it but also DO IT DAILY. Personally I am against a 'cheat' day when it comes to things like this, but scheduled breaks and rest days are fine. Things have to take time to marinate in your head so don't expect this to be an overnight process either. Getting frustrated with failure, or not being at a level you wish to be at is natural, but do not frustrate yourself into a disinterested state. Burn out is real, kids, take care of yourselves on your language learning journey.

"When you know yourself, it's easier to change for others"**

I have a decently solid idea of who I am as a person not only from self-evaluation but from asking friends and family. Having a list of who I am compiled together is important to me since it'll help me get insight into how I am going to react in a completely new environment. And this includes my strengths and weaknesses. Knowing these things will help, since I can know how to sort of morph a bit to fit appropriate situations without not being true to myself. I have a mindset going into Japan that amounts to "rolling with the punches" and "Be like water" (Thanks, Bruce Lee), since I have no idea how people will react to me when I get there. There are aspects of myself of course I can't change, and it just sends my mind into a frenzy of thoughts. Am I what people expect in Japan when thinking of 'Foreigner?' Am I going to be treated differently for my skin color? Will I have to hold myself back at all times in fear of being seen as rude? Will someone touch my hair without asking? Just a million things, of all different varieties and reasonings bouncing around constantly. 

My response to all of those questions for myself is just "It is what it is". 

Not in a dismissive, apathetic way, mind you, but rather in a more accepting and adaptable way.  All of these negative situations I can imagine are infinite in scale and can quickly cloud my excitement of going to a different country. "Blend in and act like a local!" is a piece of advice I've heard over and over again in group settings, but that doesn't speak to me, so I have a different piece of advice for everyone. Be respectful of the culture you're in. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. And to not let one negative situation taint an entire experience for you. You've got to let things roll off your back. This perspective has been hard to cultivate, but personally, I've found myself...more amused with life by enacting this more playful approach towards the serious questions in my head. Again, this may not make sense to everyone, but this is how I pacify myself from a storm of "What if's" and turn them into things I can laugh and smile about. It's sort of exciting to not know what to expect from people, in both a good and bad way, but I'll be ready for it all with a smile on my face, since that's how I face the future!

In Conclusion: Thank you for coming to my TED talk

This has been a rollercoaster of thoughts all strung together, now, hasn't it! These are simply the different streams of consciousness that have been bubbling in the cauldron that is my brain for a while. This has been really an explanation of how I am going into studying abroad in Japan, some advice for myself mostly (and others if you'd like, but trust me, I get it if it's not your cup of tea) and ranting about language. It's kinda chaotic, all over the place but...isn't that how predeparture is for most? It's hectic, you're trying to think about everything and nothing at the same time, sometimes surges of emotions come and pass in reaction to thoughts...Yeah it's a lot to be going through but in the end, it'll all be okay. Everything will work out in one way or another. I'm heading to Japan, but my heart is in New York. I'm over the moon at finally getting to go, since it's something I've wanted since I was a kid. I never thought it to be possible for too many reasons to count. But now I can turn back and tell past me, scream it as loud as I can "見て、見て! やったよ!" (Translation: みて, みて!やったよ!/Mite, mite! Yatta yo!/Look, look! I did it!) So yeah! Hope y'all are gonna be along for the journey, since I'll have plenty to talk about okay? Take care and wish me luck! Bye! Adiós! じゃまたね~!

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Kamora Millan headshot

Kamora Millan

I am an extroverted, amicable and overall goofy nerd who loves throwing herself in the deep end and coming back to tell the tale of how I did it! I love anything about culture, history and languages. I try to write for your enjoyment~

2023 Fall
Home University:
Southwestern University
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