Don't go home for the holidays, travel to a new country!

Kristie Le
January 3, 2016


Year of 2016 has finally arrived! I can’t really remember the last time I’ve been this excited for a new year to come. The thought of pursuing a new adventure in Japan in just a few days gives me a thrilling feeling that I can’t explain. Although this is not my first time studying abroad since I am an international student in the US, the thought of it still feels very daunting because I’m about to immerse myself in an environment where I would be challenged to utilize my limited knowledge of Japanese in everyday life.

In order to best prepare myself for an unpredictable adventure, I’ve decided to spend my pre-Japan winter vacation in an unfamiliar country China instead of my hometown Vietnam. Although me and my family embarked on Shanghai escapade more as tourists, I still tried to engage in activities that would help me understand the local culture and customs better. While traveling in China and enjoying the holidays, I also wanted to make sure to review my Japanese on a frequent basis. Hence, my companion each night in the hotel after a full day visiting different historic sites and each train ride between cities of Shanghai, Hangzhou and Suzhou was Nanzan’s Japanese Kanji booklet. I believe I’m the worst when it comes to recognizing Kanji characters so the booklet practically has saved my life.

Apart from practicing Japanese as part of preparation for the real experience, what made 12-day trip to China most educational and relevant to my upcoming journey to Japan was the ability to appreciate a country’s culture and historical influences much more with the help of my camera. When I took out my camera and started photographing moments of people preparing grilled meat, moments in the temples, gardens, residential areas, I started to notice the tiny details of my surroundings, notice how local people spent their daily hours, witness the beauty and wisdom that history has left behind.

During those 12 days, I learned that the following list of 5 key activities helped me best embrace culture shock. Keeping these points in mind, I feel much more ready for my journey to Japan! So what do you do when you're thrown into a foreign land where most of the time you don't even know what's going on around you?

  1. Take photos of random activities, not just wide shots of buildings or sites.
  2. Know the metro map by heart or always make it accessible on your phone
  3. Try the kinds of street food you never tried before
  4. Befriend a local tour guide!
  5. Come home and do some extra research on pieces of history or culture you’ve learned after each day

On a less serious note, take a look at all the great places and the busy atmosphere I’ve had a chance to observe in China.  

More Blogs From This Author

View All Blogs

Kristie Le

<p>Hi there! I&#39;m Kristie. Currently a junior at Tufts University majoring in Quantitative Economics and exploring other areas of passion like marketing, community service and photography. In my free time, I like coming up with cooking recipes using seasonal ingredients in the market to create dishes that have a hint of my Vietnamese upbringing. Reading food blogs, taking pictures, watching Miyazaki movies basically sum up my life. Having lived in Russia, Vietnam, America, I love traveling and always feel the hunger for a new adventure, a new place and new culture. From friendships to random encounters with strangers, I&#39;m excited to experience it all during my semester abroad in Japan.</p>

2016 Spring
Home University:
Tufts University
Explore Blogs