Now that I have returned to normality, away from the wonders of studying abroad and the precious memories that made every minute of my time in Japan worthwhile, I believe that my thoughts recorded in the post written in January – so long ago – still hold true. In terms of my identity affecting my experience, I definitely found my expectations to be true. Even though I was aware that my personal life experiences impact the way I navigate the world and the way I understand it, the individuals I interacted with during my time in Japan showed me that my own perspectives and opinions will not always allow me to see eye to eye with everyone. More importantly, although I may be aware of my inability to understand everyone and everything, it is easy to forget that I cannot pretend to always know what the best solutions are to specific issues.
In terms of advantages and disadvantages, I mainly observed that I was more likely to try new things if I was accompanied by someone who was also trying the experience for the first time and was just as clueless as me. In other words, I had the advantage of being surrounded by people who were more open to interacting with each other as a result of being within a completely new environment. I encountered several different identities while abroad: Americans, Canadians, French, Mexicans, Colombians, Koreans, Austrians, an Italian, a Bosnian, and of course, Japanese. Furthermore, within these nationalities were more layers of identity, which showed me just how diverse people really are. Even though one might be from one ‘category’ (such as American), no two Americans would be the same. The people I met abroad experienced the world differently than me because of their cultural background, native language, and consequential perspective of the world.
Overall, I am beyond grateful for the experience of studying abroad in such a beautiful and culturally rich country. Despite the pleasures of the delicious food, cultural activities, and freedom I felt while in this fascinating place, it is the relationships I have made that will help me preserve the irreplaceable moments of self-discovery that I underwent in Japan.