Leading up to study away, I have had all sorts of crazy feelings. I’m flying to a whole other country, 14-ish hours away, where I don’t really know anyone. I’m also flying to a whole other country, 14-ish hours away, towards an adventure that is probably going to change my life somehow. As a result, here are the three moods I’ve gone through leading up to my IES semester abroad to Tokyo.
I have traveled to countries where the language and culture is different. I have traveled and had to get my passport stamped with a visa. But that was for 2 weeks, not 4+ months. Especially dealing with the visa process, I started off my pre-departure mood with a ridiculous amount of stress. How am I going to find a consulate? How well do I need to know the language? Am I going to know enough about the culture to not accidentally offend anyone?
Logistics=Stress is easily the worst mood of the three, but fortunately, it was the first and easiest to deal with. This is where Mom or Dad would say, “Oh, just make a list and organize what you gotta do”. After taking that advice, breaking down everything overwhelming into something like a 12-step program, things got a lot more manageable.
I did some research on the common phrases to know and basic etiquette in Tokyo (thank you internet!). The visa process, while confusing, is where my IES program advisor specializes. A few questions later, and my stress is pretty much gone.
The tougher mood to deal with is the “Dearly Departed”. This is where you get crazy FOMO (fear of missing out) and feel like you’re a ghost to your friends and/or family for the whole semester. To be honest, a whole semester abroad can feel pretty isolating from friends and family back home. Sure there’s video chatting, but it’s kind of off-putting to think of what will happen when you don’t see them every day.
My college is 3 hours from my house, so missing my family was not a new deal, but I was concerned with how I’d maintain friendships being literally on the other side of the planet. I haven’t really figured out how to totally deal with this mood, but I have talked a lot with friends I know I’m going to miss and we are trying to figure out how to keep in touch.
The other weird thing is the time difference. When they text or call me at 9pm, it’ll be 10am on my end. I think this is just sort of a leap of faith in my friends. I trust that they’ll miss me as much as I’ll miss them, and so we’re going to just figure this out together.
And of course, you can always ease the feeling of FOMO through bugging friends in the comments on social media!
Alright, Let’s Do This!
Reflecting on these moods, I feel like it’s almost comparable with the stages of grief...But if that’s the case, this last one is a stage pre-departure and grief have in common: acceptance. For me and probably many other students heading out for study abroad, it’s more than just acceptance. It’s absolute excitement. Even with the stress of being in another place and trying to maintain connections with family and friends, this is such a big and AMAZING opportunity. Never forget that.
Even moreso, you totally worked hard for this. From figuring out how to arrange your classes to go with your major, minor, electives or graduation requirements to taking the leap and being open to exploring new places, people and things. I find that the mood of “Y’know, I worked hard for this and this is going to be epic” typically outweighs all the others. Tokyo is the city where the modern meets tradition and you can find almost anything in a vending machine.
The language is going to be a tough adjustment. The rules of society include things like never j-walking (a difficult ask for a New Englander who is used to Boston traffic chaos). But I may never get a chance to see Japan as a student abroad again, so I’m all in and ready to be en route to Tokyo!
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<p>Hi there! I'm Mimi, and my favorite thing about the world is experiencing it! As a food fanatic, I'm always looking for interesting or quirky restaurants and bars! I also really like to be a part of wherever I am, so if there's a festival or a seasonal event, I'm there!</p>