Hello! My name is Tiffani Brooks and I am a junior double majoring in International Affairs and Japanese at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Currently, I am studying abroad in Osaka, Japan at Kansai Gaidai University. It has been almost two months since Japan has welcomed me into its arms and I have tried to make it my new home for this academic year. Within these last two months, the experiences I have had so far, words fail to adequately explain them. From meeting my quirky, yet amazing host family to what I characterized as an out of body experience when I visited the famous Todaiji temple in Nara.
When I was preparing for my trip abroad two months ago, the excitement of living in an entirely new country, a country I wanted to visit my entire life, was the only thing I could think about. I had packed little by little in two of my large suitcases, essentials like jeans and T-shirts and constantly made sure I had my passport so I could stare at my Japanese Visa every second I had time. Nervous was a word that had no business in my vocabulary at the time.
Before coming to Japan, I had spent years preparing myself for how different the environment would be compared to the United States. The language would be more than just the Genki books I was studying, the culture of bowing and taking my shoes off in certain areas, having to use cash instead of a debit card. However, I was more worried that I wouldn’t see an abundant amount of people who looked like me for the next academic year. Nonetheless, I was prepared for all of these. I was completely wrong. I wasn’t prepared for the constant stares or questions that I would have never thought to ask someone. I spent two years studying Japanese but couldn’t understand a single thing. I was bewildered. Japan wasn’t at all the Japan I prepared for. It was completely different from the hundreds of books I read, the thousands of YouTube vlogs I watched, and the years of images I created.
Within these initial two months in Japan, I see so many things that differ from the United States. The reserve and respect that the Japanese people have are completely different from the United States. From the completely silent train rides and neighborhoods to bowing and using a different language structure when you are talking to someone just a couple of months older than you. As I go through my days, I see more and more things that are different from the United States and the life I used to live there. Seeing these contributed a lot to the homesickness I feel daily. The tangible comfort of my family and friends is absent and that is something I underestimated in terms of impact.
By the end of the semester, I hope to improve my language abilities and become more accustomed to my new life here.