Zoe, Outbound to Japan

Hi again! I thought that with the first month of the New Year already behind us, now would be a great time to give some updates on what I’ve been up to and some reflecting over the last month. This month has been filled with a lot more travel than usual, which has been great. I’ve realized that in these last 6 six months or so I haven’t really seen much of Japan, so I really want to try to experience as much of the country as I can before the end of my exchange.

My first trip of the New Year was with my host family. We drove up to Chichibu, a mountainous town a few hours from my city. Aside from gorgeous views of the mountains, Chichibu also has a lot of beautiful shrines. They aren’t necessarily very big, but they have so much character and are really incredible to visit. Although our trip only lasted a day, it was nice getting to spend time with my host family.

A few weeks later I got the chance to go to Osaka with my host mother. She has some extended family that lives there, so we got to visit them and have them show us around the city. They took us to Tsutenkaku, which is a famous observational tower in the city. They also showed us around Dotonbori, which is a popular destination for tourists. The streets are lined with all sorts of stores and restaurants (and a takoyaki stand on literally every corner!). Halfway through our stay in Osaka, we met up with one of my exchange friends who was also there on vacation with her host mom. Together we toured Osaka Castle, which was built by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in the year 1583. He intended the castle to be the center of a new, unified Japan. However, after Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s death, troops stormed the castle, destroying it and terminating the Toyotomi rule. Throughout the years the castle was rebuilt. It is now currently home to an informational museum and serves as a popular spot for tourists. It was fascinating getting to learn all about the history of the castle, and how complex it is. The next day my friend and I went to the Universal Studios Park in Osaka. Since it was just the two of us we were able to speak in English, but it was always fun seeing people’s reactions to us finding out that we could speak Japanese. The highlight of the day was, by far, going to the Harry Potter World within the park. My friend is a huge Harry Potter fanatic, so she loved exploring the park. We strolled through Hogsmeade, sipping on butterbeer, and peering in to all the different shops. We even got to tour the inside of the Hogwarts castle and it felt as if we had been transported to the actual Hogwarts.

While all of that was a total blast, there were still times this month that weren’t all sunshine and rainbows. It hit that my exchange was already halfway over, and the aftershock left me feeling a whole range of emotions. Part of me is looking forward to being back in America and getting to see my natural family and friends again. However, a bigger part of me is already dreading having to say goodbye to the friends and family I’ve made since arriving in Japan. I feel like I’ve grown so close to so many people that leaving them is going to be really difficult. Also, as the end of my exchange gets closer, I’ve had to start thinking about things like re-enrolling in school, getting my transcript from my school here, and trying to tie up any loose strings that I run into, mostly regarding my transition back into my school in America. I’m trying to stay present in the moment, but being the worrier that I am, it hasn’t been as easy as it usual is. Sometimes the stress of it all can really get to me, but I know that putting it off will only make things more stressful in the future. One valuable lesson I’ve learned from all of this though is that I need to be willing to ask for help. Typically, I try to do everything on my own. I feel like if I have to ask for help it means I’ve failed in some way. But that’s not true, and I must condition myself to stop thinking it is.

Well, thank you as always for reading. I hope you enjoy hearing about my exchange. From exciting adventures to useful lessons I’ve learned, I love getting the chance to share my experiences with you all. Till next time!

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