Studying abroad here in Kyoto, Japan at Doshisha University has led me to a sort of new life-canvas. I have been having an amazing, interesting, fun, surprising, impactful, and not-so-quickly-describable time, and nearly everything about it is a new look: a new look back on home, on how I make friends, a new group of people I can call friends, on my interests, on Japan, on my cooking abilities (not much to look at but they keep me full), and a new look on what I strive for in the future, among many other things. I have enjoyed the challenge of speaking Japanese more than ever and I have had the awesome opportunity to move past appreciating designated cultural sites, to appreciating culture through the all the sites around me (temples, shrines, gardens, and other designated cultural sites included of course).
My experiences have been shared with people from all over the world: from Germany, Finland, Britain, Japan, China, Taiwan, the US, Mexico, and many other places. One of my favorite parts of my new life here is my red bike and the adventures I take with people that often start off on that bike. I’ve gotten lost in the forest with a group of French people, explored mountain temples with Japanese people, and ridden all around the rivers and neighborhoods of Kyoto on that bike; it’s the best purchase I have made here so far and emphasizes to me that you don’t have to spend money to enjoy and learn in your surroundings.
It’s not to say I had a reason to want a new start or a new set of friends, but in fact this aspect of my time here in Japan—which can often characterize any study abroad experience—has come to be that which I most appreciate. While I am having an indescribably great time here, I do miss my friends and family from home, but I don’t want to go back; I’d rather they came here so I could drag them to see every beautiful place I’ve been and to eat every delicious bit of cuisine I have eaten! The question, “how is it (your study abroad experience)?” has become the most difficult question for me to answer. As I have come to realize, it is similar to being asked, “describe your life,” as, in many ways, I live a whole new life here. So whenever that question is posed I often ask back, “well, do you have two hours or so to listen? Because, ‘good’ just doesn’t do justice.”