THE END OF A JOURNEY: REFLECTIONS ON MY DECISION TO STUDY ABROAD IN JAPAN
There’s no doubt about it: studying abroad was the right thing for me to do. The nostalgic pangs that have been weighing down my heart recently could only mean one thing: I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact that my semester in Japan is drawing to a close, and with that, I find myself falling into a state of deep retrospection. It has definitely been a crazy, fun-filled journey, but the point I’d like to bring to your attention and elaborate upon the most is this: I had absolutely no idea it was going to be as amazing an experience as it turned out to be. Prior to signing up, I had some serious reservations about putting my life in Los Angeles on hold. Jumping into Japan was a stunt I pulled with my eyes closed, and I’m happy to report that I’m extremely glad that I did. Thanks to CIEE, I fulfilled my personal life goal to visit Japan, gained a ton of valuable life experience, and most importantly, made friends whom I’ll keep in my heart probably for the rest of my life. And thus, in this final blog post, I’d like to tell you the story of how I came to the decision to study abroad in Japan with CIEE, and why I’ll never regret that I did.
One’s collegiate years are a time for self-discovery. It’s a time when we make that awkward transition from high school brat to working adult, and are given the time to experiment with different ambitions. For me, as someone whose interests have always involved stuff like Pokémon and Dragon Ball Z – amongst other popular anime and manga series – going to Japan has been something my heart has yearned for since childhood. I’d decided that I was definitely going to study abroad in Japan at some point in my college career. At the same time though, I’ve also always had a strong interest in the performing arts, and about 6 months after I moved to Los Angeles following my acceptance to the University of Southern California, I fell in love with the theater, and decided to pursue an acting career.
Fast forward to the end of my sophomore year in college. I’d just gotten my foot through the door of the acting business, and was in a spot where, if I were to put things on hold for a semester to go study abroad, getting things back in motion when I got back might not be so easy. At the same time however, I still really longed to see Japan for myself. I still applied, deciding that I’d withdraw if I really couldn’t bear to leave Los Angeles in the end. I came really close to submitting that withdrawal form the day before my flight.
I’m so glad I didn’t.
I’m so glad I decided to follow my heart.
Opportunities to study abroad in a country of your choosing don’t come very often. I decided that it was going to be easier for me to jump back into the acting game upon my return, than to spend the rest of my life wondering what it might’ve been like if I’d decided to embark upon the journey I’d always wanted to go on after all.
It’s also important that I include this: Sure, anime and manga got me interested in Japan, but it’s the life and the people I found here that made me want to stay. Being able to learn about the culture, places, and people portrayed in my favorite stories through the excursions to major Japanese cities and heritage sites organized by CIEE has been an invaluable experience, and being able to share this journey with like-minded contemporaries resulted in some very strong friendships. Throughout my time in Japan, I’ve borne witness to vastly different lifestyles, seen incredible sights, met many great people with fascinating stories to tell, fallen in love, made sushi, and forged powerful bonds with people I won’t soon forget.
Most importantly, I believe the life experiences I’ve gained have made me a better actor – this is the point I’d really like to drive home. No matter what your ambitions may be, it’s more than likely an experience abroad will help you gain some very valuable – and applicable – experience (time management skills, communication skills, etc.). Thus, I’d like to end my final blog post by imploring each and every single one of you to follow your heart. Don’t be afraid of the future, and don’t dwell on the past, but treasure the present; don’t wonder what “could’ve been.” Fight for what you love, and never settle.
Sometimes, I get a real giggle when I think about how worried I was prior to leaving for Japan. There is no doubt in my mind that broadening my horizons was the right choice, and I am ready to take back my life in Los Angeles with a fulfilled heart. This journey in Japan with CIEE will forever remain a treasure trove of sweet memories in my mind.