The last time I did something for the first time

Being part of a study abroad program in Japan was a dream come true for me. Ever since high school, I had set a goal for myself to study in a different country, and Japan had always fascinated me with its rich culture, history, and technological advancements.

When the opportunity to participate in the program presented itself, I couldn’t resist the temptation and eagerly signed up. The prospect of traveling halfway around the world with perfect strangers excited me because it meant stepping out of my comfort zone and immersing myself in a completely new environment. Despite feeling scared and apprehensive at times, the thought of indulging in a different culture and experiencing life in another country motivated me to overcome any anxious feelings.

I wanted to challenge myself, broaden my horizons and gain a deeper understanding of the world by living and studying in Japan. This program was a chance for me to expand my knowledge, develop my language skills and forge lifelong friendships with people from different backgrounds.

I looked forward to exploring Japan’s vibrant cities, visiting historical landmarks, trying authentic Japanese cuisine and participating in cultural activities such as tea ceremonies and visiting shrines. Overall, I wanted to embrace the adventure, embrace the unknown and make memories that would last a lifetime.

Exploring new experiences

During my time in Japan, I had the opportunity to engage in a variety of fascinating experiences that left a lasting impression on me.

One of the most iconic moments was standing in the heart of Tokyo’s Shibuya district and witnessing the spectacle of Shibuya Crossing. As I stood at the intersection, I was mesmerized by the sheer volume of people crossing in every direction, creating a mesmerizing symphony of movement. The energy and organized chaos of the crossing were unlike anything I had ever seen before, and it was a true testament to the vibrant and bustling nature of Tokyo.

Another unforgettable experience was visiting Daibutsu (Great Buddha) in Japan. I had seen pictures of this colossal statue before, but seeing it in person was an awe-inspiring sight. Located in the Kotoku-in temple in Kamakura, the massive bronze Buddha statue stood at a towering height, radiating a sense of tranquility and serenity. Being in the presence of such a historic and culturally significant monument was a humbling experience that deepened my appreciation for Japan’s rich religious heritage.

One of the highlights of my study abroad program was attending a baseball game with students from Chuo Gakuin University to watch the Chiba Lotte Marines in action. Baseball is immensely popular in Japan, and the energy and enthusiasm displayed by the fans were infectious. Cheering alongside the locals, learning their unique chants and rituals and experiencing the electric atmosphere of the stadium created a sense of camaraderie and cultural exchange that transcended language barriers. It was a joyous and memorable occasion that showcased the passion and love that the Japanese have for their national sport.

In Kyoto, I had the privilege of visiting the Ryozen Kannon statue, a magnificent representation of the Buddhist deity of mercy. Located in eastern Kyoto, the Kannon statue was an impressive sight, with its 1,001 golden statues surrounding the central figure. The craftsmanship and attention to detail were exquisite, and the atmosphere inside the temple was imbued with a sense of spirituality and reverence. Standing in the presence of such a revered religious symbol was a humbling experience that allowed me to connect with Japan’s deep-rooted spiritual traditions.

These experiences, both the required outings and the ones I ventured into on my own or in small groups, contributed to a well-rounded and enriching study abroad journey. They allowed me to immerse myself in Japanese culture, witness its unique traditions firsthand and create lifelong memories that have broadened my perspective and deepened my appreciation for the beauty and diversity of the world.

Lessons of Japan

The study abroad program in Japan has been a transformative experience for me, both personally and academically. It has meant the world to me as it allowed me to not only immerse myself in a new culture but also build lasting relationships with my fellow participants.

The unique aspect of creating connections with people I barely knew prior to the trip was incredibly meaningful. It taught me the value of stepping out of my comfort zone and embracing new experiences, as these relationships blossomed into genuine friendships. I hope to carry these connections with me long after the completion of the program, as they have enriched my life and broadened my perspective.

In terms of my collegiate career, this program has had a profound impact. The experience of studying abroad in Japan has expanded my horizons and opened my eyes to new possibilities. It has allowed me to develop a global mindset, enhancing my ability to adapt to different environments and work with individuals from diverse backgrounds. The journey has pushed me to become more independent, self-reliant, and resilient, qualities that will undoubtedly serve me well in my future academic pursuits.

Moreover, the guidance and mentorship of Professors Gilbert D. Martinez and Jon Zmikly have been invaluable in shaping my thought process and enhancing the quality of my work. Their expertise and insights have broadened my understanding of content creation and communication strategies. Collaborating with other students in the SJMC program has also been instrumental in bringing fresh perspectives to my writing and social media posts. The collaborative environment fostered during the program has encouraged me to think critically, explore new ideas and refine my communication skills, all of which will be immensely valuable in my professional career.

What’s next

Looking ahead, I believe that the experiences and skills gained through this program will greatly benefit my professional endeavors. The ability to adapt to new situations, understand and appreciate cultural nuances and effectively communicate with diverse audiences are qualities that are highly sought after in today’s globalized world.

The program has equipped me with a strong foundation to pursue a career in international relations, cross-cultural communication, or any field where intercultural competency is valued. I am confident that the insights, knowledge and experiences gained from studying abroad will continue to shape my path, offering me a unique perspective and a competitive edge in my professional endeavors.

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