The SJMC study abroad trip to Japan was everything I had hoped it would be and more. I had very high expectations, and they were still exceeded. I flew there and back on my own, and while this proved to be a challenge, the entire experience was well worth it. I feel like I gained a lot of self-confidence to travel on my own again in the future. There were a few bumps in the road, like when I accidentally withdrew my entire checking account from an ATM. But mistakes like these are what traveling in a foreign country is all about. You live and you learn, and I learned quite a lot on this trip of a lifetime.

It’s hard to even think about what my favorite part was, as there were so many amazing moments. I think for me personally, making new friends and sharing this special adventure with them is what made it truly memorable. I didn’t explore much on my own, but I really enjoyed being around my friends and making new memories with them. Our free day trip to the Mount Fuji lookout was just indescribable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more magical place in my life. Even though the rain poured down on us, we made the most of it and still had an amazing time.

I love food as much as the next person, and so I was very excited to try some authentic Japanese cuisine. I gotta say, I was not disappointed in the slightest. Just about everything I tried, from the ramen to the sushi, was phenomenal. I didn’t quite know what to expect when visiting religious places like shrines and temples, but they blew me away. I loved how they kept the sacred places extremely clean and tidy. No matter where we went, everything was so pretty and waste-free.

The thing I loved most about the culture was how kind and polite all of the locals were. I feel like their level of respect towards each other and the environment is something that’s unheard of back home. Meeting students at a university in Tokyo and talking to them about their college life was eye-opening for me. Most of them were fluent in multiple languages, so it sounds like I need to catch up. The people I met and places I visited along this journey will stay with me for years to come.

In all seriousness, I’ve always thought putting yourself in others’ shoes can give you a whole new perspective. Completely immersing myself in a culture totally different than what I’m used to was healthy for me in so many ways. I’d say I’m coming home with a lot more than a new perspective, more like a new way of life: one where I’m free to make my own path, wherever that may lead me. This entire experience was truly life-changing for me, and I’m eternally grateful to everyone who made it happen.

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