Studying abroad is the best way to spend your summer

You’ll learn more than in an internship

I love travelling to new countries and immersing myself in the local culture. During the summer of my sophomore year, I chose to study abroad in Tokyo with a 10 week program at Temple University Japan. I wanted to try something different, to push my limits and to experience learning Japanese outside the class room. To actually engage with this culture, studying abroad was the best learning I can do.

Honestly, I did not expect any culture shock from Japan before I went there. I visited Japan many times when I was young, I spoke some conversational Japanese, and I had some knowledge of Japanese culture. I thought I was prepared, however, the first few weeks was everything but expected.

During my first few weeks in Japan, I was lost, not in translation, but on the subways.

On the third night in Tokyo when I was trying to get back to the dormitory from the Tokyo Sky tree, I accidentally took a super express train out of Tokyo instead of the local train. Within 10 minutes I had no idea where I was. It was 11 p.m., and I suddenly started crying. I was alone and I was afraid I was not going to catch the last train by midnight.

Luckily the workers were friendly and quickly directed me back on the correct line. However, after this incident I started to stay within my comfort zone.

I frequented only the route that goes from my dormitory to school, and I  visited only the few places I know. 

After the first month, I started to make Tokyo my own. Eventually, my passion for Japanese food led me out of my comfort zone and exposed me to different areas in the city. I began to explore Tokyo’s expansive restaurant life with friends from the program, and spend time in different cafes after class. There is an enormous variety of café’s in Japan.

During the weekends my friends and I would go on small excursions to different areas in Tokyo. We visited famous monuments in Japan, such as Meiji Jingu and the Tokyo tower. I also became more familiar with the subway system and was brave enough to visit cities outside of Tokyo, such as Nikko, Yokohama, and Enoshima, on my own. During my journeys I was fascinated by Tokyo’s distinct cultural perspectives, and it gave me a chance to see a side of Japan that I may not have seen if I was studying its culture in a classroom setting.

In the second month, I started to have a clear view of the subway map in my mind, especially the lines leading to different regions in Tokyo. The food culture in Japan is huge, and each region has its own particular type of food. Asakusa is my favorite place to go to for authentic Japanese food. The streets are lined with small Japanese shops, where you can try traditional Japanese food like Dango, and Mochi cake. In Asakusa, it is also common to see women dressed in Japanese yukata on the streets.

These new foods, traditions, and social atmospheres led me to better appreciate Japanese people and history. It opened a new view for me, and gave me the opportunity to see a whole new way of life.

It is always difficult to make the first step in a new country, but tentative steps will eventually lead you to walk around the city. I had never thought about studying abroad during college, but through the Global Studies office at Wake, I was able to be inspired and tried something incredibly new for the summer.

Studying abroad in Tokyo allowed me to step out of my comfort zone, and become conversationally fluent in Japanese. I have not only learned more about Japanese culture, but also more about my own personality.

I figured sometimes I am not as adventurous and courageous as I think, and that everybody needs time to adapt to something new.

I am intrigued by Japan’s beauty, and I hope to go back in the future.

Wake Forest