Lessons Learned

1) Communication is an amazing thing.

Being in a country that speaks a language with absolutely no connection to yours except a couple of loan words can be quite a frustrating experience. I took understanding a person and having a person understand me for granted. It sounds silly but the fact that you can understand me now and the ideas that I am trying to portray is a beautiful thing. But when someone finally does understand me I get this ridiculous elation. It’s like my eyes have just been opened to the fact that the human species is amazing. That there are different languages and cultures is amazing. I wish I could find words that could express this enlightenment properly but unfortunately I wasn’t gifted with the power of eloquence.

While on this trip I’ve also had a new-found respect for those people from non-English countries that attend our school, whether it be for a semester or four years. Talking about complicated concepts in a language that you were not born with is no joke!

2) Distance makes the Heart grow fonder.

This has proven to be true throughout my college experience in regards to my family and has proven to be even more true in Japan where I am away from my family and friends. I have resolved to go back and really make sure to treasure those bonds that I do have and to put effort into every relationship that I engage in.

3) Try everything, even when it makes you queasy.

My first adventure with queasy inducing food in japan has been with natto. Natto is essentially fermented beans with soy sauce. I had been warned about the dish and had been crazy to try it ever since. Of course it was everything  they said it would be. Stinky and Cheese link. I was told then that it is and acquired taste and most Japanese young people don’t like it. Needless to say I didn’t like the food but my host family found pleasure in my willingness to try out new foods. My second adventure was with a dish called Sukiyaki. This dish consists of meat (usually thinly sliced beef) which is slowly cooked or simmered at the table, alongside tofu, cabbage, mushrooms, and other miscellaneous delicious things. It doesn’t sound bad does it? Imagine my surprise when my host family proceeded to show me how to eat it. I  could feel my eyes getting nigger as they went on to scramble a raw egg in their bowl and dip the meat and vegetables in before eating them. That had to be one of my biggest adventures and I was well rewarded for my effort! It was absolutely delicious!!! I just couldn’t think too much about the fact that I was eating raw egg or I would start to feel queasy.

4) Traveling is beautiful.

There are of course difficult times that you experience when traveling but for all of those experiences there are three times as much wonderful experiences. After a while you even being to appreciate the tough times because they make the wonderful times stand out even more. You meet all kinds of people as well! I can’t ever see myself getting tired of the thrill that comes from traveling.

5) Japanese is hard.

Of course I knew this before my trip to Japan but studying Japanese and being fluent in Japanese are two completely different things, but on this trip I have come to realize that becoming fluent in Japanese is now a goal in my life. It is something that I wish to pursue no matter what career I ultimately end up choosing. The director of JCMU told us in our opening ceremony that the way you can tell if you have become fluent in a language is if you can understand their jokes. Not only do you understand the grammar, and vocabulary, but you understand the culture behind the joke as well. This is the measurement that I wish to abide by. Until I can understand jokes in Japanese I don’t want to stop learning it!

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