It’s been almost a week since I returned from 3 ½ months of studying abroad in Japan and I’m doing pretty well so far. The jet lag hasn’t been as bad as I had expected it would be, although I still have to take naps now and then in the afternoon. However, I have experienced a bit of reverse culture shock coming back to the US. For one, it almost feels like I don’t quite fit into American society. I’m sure as I’m exposed more and more to American culture it will feel normal again, but the first couple of times I ventured out of my house felt weird. I’ve become so accustomed to navigating Japanese society that I think I’m still a bit awkward trying to transition back to American culture. It’s also slightly frustrating that I can’t use my Japanese all the time and have people understand me. I still plan on continuing my Japanese studies (provided I can test back into my school’s Japanese program), but it will be a fight to keep my Japanese at the level it is now.
Although I am extremely happy to see all of my family and friends again, I do miss Japan and all the friends I made there. I miss hearing the familiar messages in the station when the trains were about to pull in, I miss having vending machines everywhere, I miss the phenomenal food, and I miss always having somewhere new to explore with my boyfriend. That list could go on for a long time but I’ll end it here before I get too sad thinking about it. I also miss all of the people from my program who I became friends with but live nowhere near me in the US. I hope to keep in touch with them and maybe even venture to other parts of the country to visit them someday.
Overall I’ve been trying to keep busy in the days since returning in an effort to get into the swing of my life back here again and to distract me from missing Japan. I’ve also decided that instead of letting myself get bored in the little bit of summer I have, I’m going to try new things in my hometown, like planning a 35-mile bike ride on the trails in my county. Being in Japan has inspired me to be more independent and not be afraid to try new things. Really, after staying in Japan for almost four months, I feel like I can conquer just about anything.
Although it’s hard to convey how much of an impact studying abroad had on me, I can confidently say that it has changed my outlook on life and expanded my worldview in general. One of my favorite quotes of all time goes like this: “The world ends with you. If you want to enjoy life, expand your world”. I think I achieved that abroad, and I hope to keep pushing my boundaries in the future. Until next time, Japan.
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<p>Mikaela is a junior at Indiana University majoring in International Studies and East Asian Languages & Cultures. Originally from the suburbs of Chicago, she has spent the past few years enjoying life as a Hoosier while dreaming of the day she finally got to go abroad. Traveling is one of her greatest passions and she looks forward to exploring not only Tokyo but as much of Japan as possible during her semester abroad. She is actively involved in both her sorority and International Studies Honor Society, and enjoys reading, hiking, and drinking tea in her free time. She is so excited for the adventure that lies ahead and can’t wait to share it with everyone!</p>