Study abroad good way to change life views

The term “study abroad” seemed daunting to me at first, a hopeful yet hopeless idea. Now looking back on it, I’m glad I decided to take a leap that led to me achieving one of my biggest dreams.

After all, I didn’t think I’d be able to afford it. And yet, I’ve just returned from studying abroad in Japan for a month.

Studying abroad or traveling outside the country is an opportunity that no one should pass up, especially considering it can assist with your career in the future and impact who you are as a person. If you love America, that’s great. However, staying put in one place when there’s a whole world to see is a waste.

When you travel to a foreign country, you’re not only putting yourself out of your comfort zone, but you are getting the chance to learn about a different culture and explore the depths of yourself in an unfamiliar environment.

When I first got to Japan, I immediately stepped out onto the streets around my hotel and began exploring. The area was foreign and nerve-racking, but after a few days of pushing myself to explore and talk to strangers, I grew much more comfortable and everything started to become more familiar.

Putting yourself in a whole new setting allows you to modify the views you had when dwelling in the place you’ve been accustomed to your whole life. When you’re in a foreign country, you have the chance to pick up new experiences that will impact the way you view life and the world around you.

You’ll realize the place you’ve been living in is just a small area of the world, there are other people out there that are human, like you, but live and think differently about things you have always thought about a whole other way.

Going to Japan was the first time I have ever left America. I went to the other side of the world for a month, surrounded by and interacting with people who lead different lives and have different backgrounds. I was thrown out of my comfort zone, so of course, I was nervous.

However, I was also given the ability to go on my own personal adventure. I was transported to a new world and a culture where I was able to explore and discover hidden parts of myself I didn’t know before, such as a newfound sense of confidence and independence.

I was surrounded by complete strangers on a day to day basis, who all spoke a completely different native tongue than myself. I may have studied Japanese for the past few years, but it was still a language I was unfamiliar with in many ways.

I had no choice but to rely on myself and figure everything out. There were a few helpful strangers here and there that spoke tiny bits of English and staff at my university who were helpful, but I was primarily in an environment where the English language and American habits were not custom.

I had to get myself accustomed to the Japanese culture and way of life. I can’t count how many times I smiled at people on the streets before I learned, while Americans find it normal, the Japanese consider it creepy and weird. Or how I would forget that Japanese garbage is categorized in four different ways. Or even how there’s a specific way your plates should be organized on your meal tray.

It may be a bit scary, but it’s every bit as exciting and a great way to experience true independence, to put yourself to the test of surviving on your own outside of your comfort zone. Once I learned typical Japanese habits and was able to interact successfully with natives of the country, I truly felt like I could do anything. I had flown across the world and worked out how to live in a foreign country by myself. That’s pretty big for a college student from a small town in Indiana who’s never truly been alone before.

I was able to meet up with friends I hadn’t seen in 2-3 years. I was able to make new friends. I ate so many delicious foods. I explored beautiful castles and temples, had fun at arcades and karaoke. I learned more about the Japanese and what makes Japan the country that it is. It was honestly one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life and has impacted what I want to do in the future.

Once I was a freshman with a yearning to explore the world, but with a negative voice in my head telling me I would never be able to afford the study abroad experience. I was a girl with big dreams and little money in my pocket. But because of those dreams, I decided to take a chance.

I took a chance and kept trying, kept pushing, wrote essays and filled out scholarships until my fingers ached, stressed for days on end, reached out to people to share my goals until finally, I made it. I finally went to Japan the summer before my senior year.

Now I’m here to tell you that you can do it too. That you should do it.  It’s not an opportunity to skip or miss out on. Life is too short to wait to chase your dreams or to explore the world.