Let me start out by saying that I do not consider myself to be social. In fact, I often find myself holed up in my dorm room at school, hanging out on YouTube and casually writing short stories. I read for fun and will go out of my way to be by myself. However, when the opportunity to study abroad in Japan presented itself, I couldn’t help but apply. After six years of studying Japanese, I felt that a semester abroad in Japan would be a nice reward for learning a completely different language.
Erin makes video blog once a week to keep track of her life as a JSP student. Subscribe to her Youtube channel to follow her footsteps in Japan!
After a very hectic twenty-four hours of traveling and a fitful sleep in a tiny hotel room, I arrived at Tokyo International University for orientation. I already met the other three Willamette students who were starting the spring semester with me and one of the returning JSP students from Willamette. In spite of my promise to myself to be more open to others in Japan, I thought that those four students and my past roommates from TIU would suffice in terms of friendship in Japan. Within a few days, I already remembered everyone’s name and added them all on LINE. Within a week, I had come to consider all other thirteen JSP participants my friends. Of course, I grew even closer to some and more distant from others, but the fact of the matter is that when you’re studying abroad in another country—especially one where the language and culture is complete different from America—the support system you build is going to be tightly knit.
I did end up staying true to my promise. Almost all of the events that JSP has organized, either by the school or by ourselves, I’ve gone to. Despite my initial pessimism at an outing suggestion, I always end up smiling and laughing the whole time and enjoying myself way more than I could have ever imagined. I’ve seen things and done things that I wouldn’t have done by myself. I’ve been to Harajuku, Akihabara, and Tsukiji. I’ve eaten uni (sea urchin) and horse meat. I’ve walked around the most beautiful park in the middle of Tokyo. I’ve walked around the streets of Kawagoe dressed in kimono.
Never would I have thought that I would love Japan so much. It’s not the place that makes it so special though. Don’t get me wrong here; Japan in itself is absolutely amazing. However, it’s all my new friends that make it so great, friends that I never thought that I would have. I explored Crea Mall with Jazmin, Dallas, and Courtney. I played around an empty park in Kasumigaseki with Emma. I ate pizza in the middle of the night with Brendan. I went on a tour of Akihabara, hosted by Emily. I ate free ice cream alongside Misa. I discussed physical therapy school with Sean. I helped Rigo, Dorian, and John with their Japanese homework. I’ve talked about host families with Linka. I walked home after a long day in Tokyo with Kaleo.
Basically, as long as you’re with the right people, being social isn’t that bad.