If you would have told me this time last year that I was going to have traveled to Japan before my next year of college, I probably would have laughed. Now, that’s true.
Going to Japan has been a dream of mine for a while, so naturally, when I learned about the School of Journalism and Mass Communication’s Japan program, I was interested. I applied within a couple of days of finding out about it, and the trip was given the green light a couple of months later. I didn’t really know what to expect, but the closer it got to June, the month we were leaving, these expectations started to roll in.
My first was becoming friends with everyone on the trip. Honestly, I’m not the best at making friends because I’m not very social, but I was hoping that being with these new people practically 24/7 for almost two weeks would help force me out of my shell.
From doing research and hearing other people’s experiences, I had some knowledge of the new setting I was entering which had an effect on some of my expectations. For example, I assumed that everyone was going to be very quiet on and off public transportation. I also was expecting everything such as the streets, trains and buses to be super clean. Sure, all of these were true, but my expectations were a little on the extreme side.
Before the trip commenced, I was already excited to visit all of the shrines and temples. I’m not really a religious person, but religion really interests me, so I was eager to learn more about Shintoism and Buddhism.
The trip to Japan kicked off by already being a challenge for me. I was traveling to Japan alone and staying two days by myself before the rest of the SJMC Team arrived. It’s pretty nerve-racking going to a new country where the main language isn’t English, and you have to figure out how to navigate and communicate all on your own. This experience helped me learn a few things about myself. I can do anything; I just have to have confidence in myself, and I’m a quick learner when it comes to being in new places.
One place that really stuck out to me on the trip was the Zoji Temple. Zoji Temple is a Buddhist Temple that can be found in Tokyo near Tokyo Tower. There we learned about jizo, prayed in the temple and bought amulets. I found it very enlightening to pray in the temple. It is completely quiet, everyone waits in line to pray and during all of this, the room is filled with the smell of incense.
I think my favorite experience on this trip was hanging out with fellow students and Rikkyo University student Manaka. One night we all got together to interview Manaka on the Rikkyo campus, had dinner and went to Shibuya. In Shibuya, we explored Don Quijote and went to a gacha place. At the gacha place, we all pitched in to get Manaka a cheese keychain because cheese was at the center of bringing us all together at our Rikkyo University visit.
What have I learned?
I learned many things on this trip through cultural experiences, company visits and the assignments I completed. Time management has always been something I’m just OK at, but throughout this trip, I have worked to better my time management skills by organizing when I need to complete my assignments.
The company visits have helped teach me many things that I will need not only for my future in college but my future in starting a career. The cultural experiences during this trip have helped me open my eyes to how the rest of the world lives and functions and has opened my mind to be curious about other places in the world that I am interested in.
I wouldn’t have learned as much as I did on this trip without our amazing guides Jennifer (Jen) Norris, Mitsuru (Mark) Sakai and John Wells. Jen helped lead us around the cities we visited and gave us suggestions for unique places to go and visit. Mark helped lead us around Tokyo and tell us about the history of the city such as the origin of the Meiji Jingu Shrine. John took us around Kyoto and told us interesting facts about the places we visited like Fushimi Inari Shrine.
What happens next?
One of the goals I am working towards is starting a career after college. I am already doing things to help myself reach that goal, and this program has added to that. From learning how to structure and build my professional resume to newly learned time management skills, these classes along with company visits have taught me new tools to better succeed.
This program only lasted a month and at that, we were only in Japan together for about ten days, but now it feels like I’ve known everyone for so much longer. The things I have learned and friendships I’ve created are going to last a long time. This trip and program have helped me grow as a person and will continue to help me in years to come.