Maybe it’s because of my time management skills. Maybe it’s because I work fast and hard. Whatever it is, I had a lot of free time in Japan. Much more than I expected at least. Although I loved learning Japanese, I don’t have the attention span to spend all of my free time studying. So, I had to find another way to occupy my time. This is where my trip got really interesting.
If you pay close attention to the dates on most mf my articles, they were written while I was still abroad. I learned something new every single day in Japan. Whether it was about the people, the food, the culture, or just myself, I found something new and exciting every day.
I loved learning Japanese. I spent as much time as I could practicing and although I am not a “natural” language learner, I surpassed even my own expectations (which are always pretty high). To be honest, I feel much more comfortable and confident reading and writting in Japanese than I do speaking, but that could be because I practiced it nearly 3 times as much.
I learned how to cook in Japan. I took several cooking classes, in which I learned how to prepare some of the most amazing food I’ve ever eaten. In those classes, I also made friends with Japanese college students, some of whom I still communicate with. It taught me to work in a group with complete strangers and still complete my tasks. It was a lesson in cooperation and adaptation that has helped me work with people even better now that I’m back home.
There was really nothing that I hated in Japan. There were things that frustrated me, but nothing more than the language barrier. It’s very difficult tom communicate when you don’t speak the local language. It’s even harder when they don’t communicate the same way physically either. When I was in Japan, I also attended a lecture on Japanese Psychology by a Japanese professor. The professor said to us, “Japanese people are horrible at communication. We know we are. But we communicate well with each other because we understand how we communicate.” After hearing this, I could sort of feel what he was saying and it gave me a better understanding of how to communicate with Japanese people.
Also, while in Japan, I had the priviledge of training in my Karate organization’s headquarters dojo. That was a great experience. I got to train with some really great people and learn at the school my Shihan learned in. I also had the honor of meeting the Grand Master of our organization. My training in Japan was difficult because the classes we primarily in Japanese and since I didn’t understand that well, all I could do was follow along. Yet, as difficult as that was, I feel it made me a better learner. I couldn’t ask for an explanation on certain things. All I could do is watch, and watch, and watch, and learn. I think that experience really increased my ability to pick things up quickly.
To say that I’ve grow while in Japan would not only be an understatement, but it would be false. In fact, quite the contrary. I came home smaller than I left. I lost probably about 10 pounds and about an inch off my waistline during my 3 months there. See what I did there?…Lol. All of my walking and exploring and eating the very small portions of food that Japan is known for really contributed to that. I have absolutely grown as a person. My will to communicate with others has grown tremendously, I have much more confidence in my karate, I learned a new language and was able to assimilate into another culture, I worked harder than ever in my classes, and overall, I just feel much better about myself.
Looking back on it, sometimes I wonder why I came home. I loved it so much that I often dream of going back. But I think I am needed here more. There are students that want/need this experience but don’t know where to go, who to talk to, etc. That’s where I come in. It is my goal to send students around the world and open their hearts and mind to the world. With better understanding of other countries and more cultural awareness, I think we can acheive harmony…some day.