Alex, Outbound to Japan

I arrived in Japan on August 20, so it’s been just about a month and a half since I moved to Japan. Moving here has already changed my life forever. I absolutely love living in a completely different place hearing a different language all day. Learning how to live your life in a completely different way, as people do in different country than you, is what exchange is all about. You will find that living in another country is beautiful, amazing, and extremely challenging. Exchange isn’t a vacation, you don’t stay in a hotel and just go do touristy things all day. That’s not what exchange is about at all. To me, it’s learning about how people on the other side of the world do things- school, transportation, meals, and things as small as going up the escalator. If you go to Japan, you’ll find out what I mean. You learn about the underworks of a culture, finding out how the reasons behind what they do can go back for centuries, or sometimes people don’t know why they do certain things; they just do them. With time, you learn to just do them too.

Most all days I truly enjoy here. Even simple things like walking to school from the train station make me feel full and happy with life, because I know I’m living life somewhere so different than back home. It’s exciting and incredible. Then there are the days where something truly beautiful happens, and I feel like the luckiest person alive to just experience the world. These are the days that stay with you.

Going on exchange means you get to experience these things, but it also is the most difficult challenge you will take on thus far. In only a month and a half, I experienced sickness, new allergies, losing my bike key and tickets, extreme exhaustion, Japanese language difficulties, miscommunication with my host family, and sleepless nights. Exchange isn’t easy. There are times when I wish I could just give my parents at home a hug, or just understand what on earth was going on around me. These things just take time and you just have to get through them. If you’re not ready for some of the hardest days yet, you’re not ready for exchange.

For me, though, it’s more worth it than anything I’ve ever done. Getting through the days that seem impossible, and enjoying life have made me stronger already. I feel my language ability stronger bit by bit every day, and those crappy days make the great ones even more beautiful. Being on exchange has made me appreciate life in ways that I had never done before.

I wanted my world to be changed and different than anything else I had experienced before, and that’s what I’ve gotten.

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