Zoe, Outbound to Japan

Hey y'all! My oh my how time flies! It's been over four months since I arrived in Japan and it's been one heck of a ride. I've experienced so many ups and downs in this time, but nonetheless I wouldn't dream of being anywhere else. It certainly hasn't been easy adjusting to my new life in Japan. So many things are different from the U.S. that it's taken a lot of getting used to. And on top of it all, I'm also faced with the challenges of speaking a different language.

The language barrier can make even simple things difficult. Especially in the beginning, it was frustrating not being able to express some of the things I was thinking. I have certainly come a long way with Japanese, but I still have a long, long way to go before I would consider myself fluent. There are still times when I feel like I can’t understand a single thing someone is saying, or I just long to have a conversation where I don’t have think so much before everything I say. My friends at school have definitely helped me feel more comfortable about speaking, and I’m really grateful to have them.

Speaking of school, it has been going pretty well. I’m actually kind of impressed with how much I can understand sometimes. I even take most of the same tests as my peers, sometimes the teachers will translate the questions into English, but most of the time everything is in Japanese. It’s nice being able to take some of the same classes and tests as everyone else. It make me feel less like an outsider and more just like any other student. I also got the opportunity to go on a school trip with my class recently. We went to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for three days. While there we were hosted by a local school. The students showed us around the city, taught us about Malaysian culture, and shared lots of laughs with us. At the end of the three days we put together presentations about what we learned, and even made up a song and dance. After the closing ceremony we got on a bus and drove to Singapore, where we spent the final two days of our trip. While in Singapore we met with students from the National University of Singapore. They took us around to some of the more touristy spots in the city and told us about life as a university student. The next day we woke up early in the morning to go to the airport and fly back to Japan.

Everytime I think about this trip I am reminded of what an incredible opportunity it was. I was able to grow so much closer to my classmates and it made me feel like a part of the class. I am still so grateful to my school and my host Rotary club for allowing me to go on this trip. Not only did I get to experience a new country but I also got to make lasting memories and further the friendships I have with my class. Most Japanese classes have been together for the past few years, so the majority of the students already have a very tight-knit bond. This was something that I was a little worried about before coming to Japan. I wasn’t sure how my class would deal with a new student, much less a new student who didn’t speak much Japanese. However, I quickly saw how open and kind all of my classmates are, and this trip just further proved that.

Well thank you all for reading! I hope that you’ve enjoyed learning about my exchange. In the new year I hope to start uploading more blog posts sharing the good and the not so good. As always, thank you to Rotary and my family and friends for supporting me in this awesome adventure. I am already feeling bittersweet about having to leave my family and friends in Japan at the end of my exchange, but I’m trying to think of that as little as possible. As Rotary always says, “Keep your head and your heart where your feet are.” Till next time!

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