I have already made the long flight back home from Japan to Virginia, and am now getting ready to celebrate the upcoming New Year. Even though I am now on the other side of the world, I didn’t forget to tell my friends from Japan “Happy new Year!” earlier in the day. They have been sending me pictures of them and their families celebrating, and it has made me so happy. While studying abroad in Japan, I believe I have made some lifelong friends — not only within the IES program itself, but from the Kanda University of International Studies. I have decided I will visit Japan again in the next couple of years so that I can see my freshman friends graduate! My friends have already offered to house me when the time comes. I feel so fortunate that I have been able to meet such fun, kind, and generous people.
I also feel like a very lucky girl — I have been able to experience living in Japan, which is not something many of my peers could say. Studying abroad was extremely fun for me… I met so many new people, tried a lot of new things, and traveled to parts of Japan that were more beautiful than I had dreamed.
I got to shop in Tokyo’s most famous fashion districts, eat delicious (and also surprisingly healthy) food, hike ridiculously gorgeous ravines… the list goes on and on. And, importantly, I was able to learn a lot about Japanese culture. I have taken classes on it in the past, and I took a Japanese Pop Culture class through the IES program that I found fascinating. However, living in Japan with a host family was the most valuable experience I had in terms of learning about culture. Not only were they kind, they took me to areas of great cultural and historical significance (such as Kamakura) and helped me practice my Japanese. I learned a lot about Japanese family life from them, and I got to experience it fully!
Overall, I would say that studying abroad in Japan has been an incredibly beneficial experience for me. I have grown stronger and more confident as a person, and have been pushed out of my comfort zone. I have explored parts of Japan by myself, and have braved the 8am jam-packed train to Tokyo. I’ve learned about the working culture, seen the homeless, and witnessed the luxurious. Japan is so unique in its simultaneous strangeness and beauty, and it and the people I have met on my journey will always have a special place in my heart.
Goodbye for now, Japan. I will be back!
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<p><span style="color: rgb(29, 29, 29); font-family: Arial, Verdana, sans-serif; font-size: 12px; line-height: normal; background-color: rgb(237, 237, 237);">Hello! My name is Marisa Lewis, and I am an East Asian International Relations Major/East Asian Studies Minor at the University of Virginia. I’m originally from Alexandria, Virginia (though I’ve got a lot of family in Thailand as well) and am super excited to be traveling to Japan! I’ve only ever been to the Japanese airport before – their toilets are awesome, by the way – and have always wanted to experience Japanese culture ever since I first started watching Pokémon as a kid. Don’t lie. You watched it, too! In my spare time I love to read, write short stories, bake, listen to music, and have adventures. I am looking forward to making new friends, stocking up on Japanese sweets, and experiencing all that Japan has to offer! But more importantly, stocking up on Japanese sweets. Where my mochi at?</span></p>