I’ve been studying Japanese since I was fifteen years old, and I knew from that very first class that I would do whatever it took to visit the country of its origin someday. Utterly fascinated with the language and culture from a young age, studying abroad has been something I decided I wanted to do long before I started college. In fact, IU’s remarkable study abroad program is one of the plentiful reasons I chose to go there in the first place.
When I received the email from the Office of Overseas Study informing me of my acceptance into the Nagoya program, I was ecstatic—to say the least. It was a goal towards which I had been working towards for what felt like such a large part of my academic career; however, as my time began winding down, and the actual trip loomed ever closer, I was suddenly struck with several different fears I had not originally considered. What if my knowledge of the language fails me in social situations? What if I have a hard time making friends? What if my classes are exceedingly difficult? I sometimes felt as though I was swimming in doubt about my personal capabilities.
But when it comes down to it, those apprehensions are all part of what I believe will make up my study abroad experience. To quote cultural American icon, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter: “I get nervous when I don’t get nervous. If I’m nervous I know I’m going to have a good show.” Although I’m not about to step out onto a stage and give an amazing performance worthy of breaking the internet like Beyoncé, this piece of advice is one I’ve found myself thinking about quite often lately. This nervousness pervading my senses, to me, serves as a sign that I’m doing something right—a sign that I’m pushing myself socially, mentally, and emotionally. For me, one of the biggest aspects of studying abroad is pushing myself to grow, not only with my understanding of Japanese, but also as a person.
That’s not to say that it’s not going to be hard. Before I left Indiana, I made it a point to visit my two older sisters in Colorado, my friends in Bloomington and Indianapolis, as well as my extended family in Connersville. Saying goodbye was difficult, and in a few cases there were mutual tears shed; my mother stayed with me at the airport until I boarded the plane, and we parted teary-eyed, missing each other already. Not to mention my beloved cat whom I loathe to leave behind for an entire academic year.
But I believe that all of the difficult parts of this experience help to make it all the more meaningful. They are the parts that truly flesh out the overall big picture, the parts that are inevitable and terrifying and fantastic about any human experience. I want this study abroad experience to push me to the very limits of my capabilities, so that I can grow in all the spectacular ways one unavoidably grows when outside of one’s comfort zone. I couldn’t be more excited to immerse myself in Japanese culture and improve my skills in the language from first-hand experience; I hope to accomplish all the goals I set for myself with this experience since I was fifteen years old, and then some.