As I sit here typing out my last blog post, in my increasingly emptying room, melancholy grips me tight as the evidence of my stay here gradually disappears with each item I stow into my luggage. At the same time, I smuggle away memories and souvenirs into my overflowing bags in an attempt to take back as much of Japan as I can with me. Being here in Japan has been one of the greatest moments in my life. Seeing Mount Fuji, climbing the steps to the famed red gates of Fushimi Inari, strolling down the world’s busiest crosswalk in Shibuya, I can now claim that I have done them.
But as they say, all good things must come to an end.
I did not experience much of a culture shock, coming here, but I fear that the reverse applies to me. I have become adept at navigating the congested streets and transferring from train to train. The wonder that is the combini, the kaiten sushi, the greetings and farewells that pass my lips when exiting and entering the dorm–after four months, I confess that it will be disorienting to not have them anymore when I return to the U.S. I came to Japan with no knowledge of the language, no one I knew, and nothing to lose, but now I leave with the basics of Japanese, friends from not just all over the U.S. but Japan too, and a metric ton of experiences. As much as the lure of home calls to me, it will be difficult to leave.
I would say that after these few months, I have become a little more worldly, a bit more of an adult. Studying abroad has encouraged me to budget my time and money and to also prioritize within my means. I have had to balance out maintaining my grades while also seeing as much of Japan as possible. Being so far away, it is so easy to slip into the mindset that it is vacation, and it doesn’t help that there is so much to do! But I do think that studying abroad is one of those experiences that you should not miss out while you are a student. As a working adult, it is hard to find a job that allows you to stay in a different place long enough to explore the country fully, much less allow a vacation long enough to do so. Living in Tokyo and being a student here, solidified the people in my eyes. Before, I consciously knew people lived in Japan but it was really abstract, kind of like the scenery or when you watch reality TV show but there is a disconnect. But after mingling with them and living with them, it really hit me that these are real-life people, and I am going through the same motions through life as they are. Pretty crazy. I have heard this from others who studied abroad before me, and I agree with them in that you learn about yourself while abroad. I never realized how much I identified with my American side until I came here. As a child of two worlds, I was always on the fence about what part was Chinese and what was American. I totally get the cliche moments when you bring something really weird like pig feet for school lunch, and people crinkle their nose and you are reminded how “un-American” you are because it’s not PB&J. But recently I have had “Aha!” moments where I realize what I just did was very Western and everyone else knows it too. It is definitely a funny feeling to have that reversal, but I am much more appreciative of my background now.
If you ever get the chance to study abroad, seriously, go with it. I regret nothing.
With this, I’m closing out this chapter of my life, and so I bid farewell to this place I have come to learn and appreciate. 日本，さよなら！Japan, farewell! May we re-unite again soon.