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Personal Essay

To Japan, with love

I’m just going to skip straight to the point on this one: this study abroad experience was one of the most important things that has happened thus far in my life. Leading up to me submitting my application for this program, I was very off and on; this was something I wanted to do, but the thought of me getting to study abroad in Japan seemed completely unreal. And it still does even after it has come and gone. I never thought that it would be me that would get to experience such a drastically different culture through the lens of learning. And that’s the thing: this is all I’ve ever wanted to do. I touched upon this briefly in my introduction, but Anthony Bourdain was, and still is in a way, the biggest inspiration in my life. If I could have one job in the world, I would get to travel. I would get to shed light on all the different cultures and customs that this world has to offer. But, on top of that, he also showed up that it was not all sunshine and rainbows, and traveling isn’t always resorts and good food. There are unique problems that each and every one of us face day in and day out, and they cannot be ignored or swept under the rug. If I could do anything in the world, I would get to experience these cultures and ways of life. I would get to show the good and the bad and how we can help. And this study abroad experience has made it seem a little more possible. This is really what this whole experience has meant to me: even the most insane dreams can come true. Like I said, I never thought I would actually get this opportunity and I did, so why can’t every hope and dream be like that, as well?

On top of that, Japan is truly the most beautiful country I have ever seen. The trees between the cityscapes are beautiful. There are temples and shrines everywhere you turn. The mix of old and new is seen throughout the whole country (well, at least, in Tokyo and Kyoto, but I’ll see how everything is on my next trip). From the Japanese maples to the neighborhoods that line the sea, everything is picturesque. The world is a truly beautiful thing from the greenery to the never ending Tokyo skyline.

This trip really does mean so very much to me. More than a trip about dreams coming true, this was my first time leaving the country. One of my friends said it was very “Katharine-like” that my first trip would be as far as you can go before you start circling back. In the past, flying on planes was one of my top fears. I didn’t like flying, but I wanted to travel so badly; it was a constant battle. However, getting up and flying for 10 hours over the Pacific Ocean really changes a person. This trip was a fear-conquering mission, as well. Really. Put me back on a plane: I’m ready to go.

Between getting over my fears and realizing that anything really could be possible, I feel like this trip has stretched and grown me into a slightly different and better version of myself. I’ve been told I seem a lot calmer since I’ve gotten back. There are things that you realize when you’re continents and oceans away from home, away from the comfortable people in your life. Some things matter, while some things don’t. The world is huge, but you aren’t as small as you think. This experience has also reinvigorated my love for storytelling. There’s so much to do and see, and I want to tell everyone about it.

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