Studying abroad comes with a constant need to compromise. One must always weigh the value of time spent, and it can be difficult to sacrifice a good time for grades. Micro-decisions become ever more significant as time begins to run out, and the thought that the opportunity may never come again makes the decisions all the harder to make.
When I began classes at Sophia, there was a great anxiety leading up to the first day, when the courses are laid out and the requirements explained. I was not afraid that I’d have to face anything I’d never faced before. Instead I was nervous about holding up my end of the bargain, and seeing what would be required of me to do that. I know I’m not alone in viewing the semester as a prolonged vacation. But vacations aren’t free, and for this one I have to do the study half of study abroad. It sounds ridiculous, but after touring for a few weeks, the prospect can be jarring.
If I could calm the anxieties of any prospective Sophia international student, I’d tell them to take their typical university course and cut the difficulty in half. This is what one can expect to encounter in general. There are classes that are tough, some easier than belief, but in general expect the difficulty to be about half a normal university course load from competitive universities and colleges. Despite the ease, the classes are surprisingly fulfilling if one decides to take what they can from them. Lectures are more often dry than not, but the material seldom wastes one’s time. This, at least, has been my experience in the areas of literature and philosophy.
Routine develops. Midterms on the docket. The morning commute. The daily struggle to print. Exams that actually count. First major paper assignments of the semester. The vacation feeling is on vacation, and we’re left to grind out the grind.
I sense in myself a mentality that may not be exclusive to me. Though I’m still far from going home, I’m beginning to feel a strange draw back towards home. It is less a force than a complacent feeling. My weekends are less full, and I’m less inclined to go out of my way to take on some cultural experience. In a sense I’ve begun to get bored, which comes from acclimation. Granted, there’s still more things to do than I can imagine, and yet when I have a free day the hassle and expense overpowers my will to do them. I can be drained by academic priorities, or lack of sleep, but the complacent marks a turning point in the abroad experience. I’ve become acclimated to Tokyo enough for it to feel like home in the way that we all can feel boredom in our homes.
Daily inconveniences begin to mean more. I’m less amazed by some things and more irritated by others. I schlepp through a daily grind, and have seen my time management shift more towards responsibilities than to vacation. The vacation itself is making a final subsiding. Midterms and actual pressure have helped facilitate what I see as a crucial part of my experience. What’s developed is the settling of a reality, my life adapted to a new place with responsibilities that are more or less universal. I feel I’ve learned from it, knowing what to expect out of myself and new phases of my life as they unfold. And as my return date grows closer and my arrival farther, I’ve begun to look forward to the fat steak I’ve been promised when I get home.