This semester, I am embarking on one of the biggest journeys of my life, I am excited to announce that I have chosen to spend the Spring semester of my junior year in Hirosaki, a city in the Aomori prefecture of Japan, where I will be immersed in Japanese culture, history, and language. If I were to say that I am both nervous and excited for this experience, that would be an understatement, but as I’ve started counting down until my departure while simultaneously trying to get all I need get done here in the states prior to my departure, there are some surprising emotions and realizations that have began to sink in as I continue to prepare for this impending journey and honestly, I never expected to feel the way I do. I guess it’s been easier for me to say that I was “going abroad” while I finished my semester, but now that it’s coming quickly and it’s just around the corner, I wanted to share how I’ve been feeling!
The first thing is an immense mix of feelings I have about the entire journey I am about to go on but that’s not to say that all that I’m feeling is bad – because it’s not. Honestly, I am incredibly excited to spend time living in a place that is going to challenge so many predispositions, be it worldviews or beliefs that I have about other countries and have held for my entire life, but I am incredibly nervous as well. I can’t help but think about the worst-case scenario such as: what if I don’t end up learning enough of the language to communicate which prevents me from participating in any conversational communication and going off of this, how would I order food or even navigate myself through the town? I know that these questions might seem both silly and daunting, but you start to wonder if you are really as prepared as you think you are and as everyone around you keeps telling you so. Of course, I know that I’ll have to get acclimated and that I won’t be “thrown to the wolves” upon my arrival, so to speak, but those questions still remain in my head.
As of right now, I am most nervous about the actual transportation aspect of getting to Japan from the United States. For about a year, my boyfriend, Charlie, and I have been planning this trip together, and now that it’s finally about a month away, it is nauseatingly real that I am about to fly across the world – and most likely, I will be making that trip over entirely alone. For about seven months, the possibility of Charlie and I have to make separate trips to Japan was just that, a possibility – something that could happen but wasn’t something we were really definitively planning on. However, with his orientation date being two weeks before my own, it’s becoming more of a reality that I will be making the journey without him. It’s not that I don’t like to travel alone or I’m worried about being on my own, but it always helps to have someone familiar when going somewhere unfamiliar for the very first time. Yet as what once was a possibility becomes a reality and quickly at that, it is something that I have begun preparing myself for. I do consider myself to be quite independent, but as independent as I am, I am not afraid to admit that the thought of having to navigate an international airport by myself, paired with embarking on this journey alone, is a terrifying thought.
The second thing I have learned is that spending time away from the University of Maine has only made me more fond of the place where I go to school and the community surrounding it – I truly didn’t realize how much I loved it until now. Over the last nearly three years, I have taken for granted how much I love Orono and the people and places that make it feel like home. There are so many things I thought I wouldn’t miss or I’d at least enjoy a break from but in all honesty, I miss going to work at Margarita’s and waiting on my friends when they come in for college night or staying at the library until closing every night because I hate leaving things unfinished. I miss Sundays in the dance studio in 1944 Hall, working with my peers and expressing ourselves creatively and I miss the chaos of being on campus – which is something I never thought I would miss.
With all of the things I miss and feel as though I’m missing out on, I forget how exciting this semester is going to be – I mean, I get to study in an entirely different country! Not only will I be experiencing something that I am so, so fortunate to be able to do both academically and professionally, but I will gain so much perspective, knowledge, and experience from living in a different country for four and a half months. The time I’ve spent preparing for this exciting, although nerve-wracking, the adventure has already taught me so much about the value of working hard, the effort (and restraint) that goes into saving money, and how ready I am for new surroundings, experiences, and people. I know that I have a lot to be excited about when I come back and as much as I miss all of it right now, I can’t let that take away from the excitement of what is yet to come! Stay tuned for the continuation of these articles as I document my time preparing for Japan, embarking on the adventure and then actually experiencing the country and all it has to offer!