My study abroad experience felt like a unique one from the very beginning. I had previously no desire to study abroad, and I had in fact never even been out of the country before. What’s more, I knew very little about Japan, and knew very little of the language. When I arrived in Japan many of my peers when shocked by this, as they had all been studying Japanese for several years now and had known they wanted to study abroad at some point since practically the moment they arrived at their universities. The spontaneity of my decision though, while perhaps a tinge impulsive, was not without reason. I had recently been informed by my advisor that I would soon graduate a year early at the rate I was going, and at that moment I realized I had yet to experience anything new in the past year I had been in college. Everyone tells you that university is where you get to learn new things and experience all sorts of new environments, but after a full year of online classes, I felt stagnant and trapped. Once I realized that studying abroad was something that I could actually do, it became something I knew I would always regret never having experienced if I didn’t take my chance and go for it.
Getting to travel to Japan for a full year taught me things I never would have expected. I noticed over the course of my time in Japan that I became increasingly more capable of being comfortable adventuring the country on my own. When I first arrived, I struggled with going places on my own, worried that I would get lost or that I simply wouldn’t enjoy it as much without friends to accompany me. Eventually, however, I worked up the nerve to start traveling by myself, and it was the best decision I made. My most exciting trip was traveling from Tokyo to Osaka for my birthday. Osaka is a part of Japan known for its incredible street food and variety of tourist attractions, like the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, which was my main reason for wanting to travel such a long ways. None of my friends were planning on ever traveling all the way to Osaka, so if I had not gained the ability to be more independent, I would have missed out on this amazing experience, which really sums up the major lesson I learned on my study abroad journey.
While I of course made dozens of amazing friends that I am already making plans to see again soon, had I been too afraid to take the leap and travel halfway across the globe by myself I never would have learned how incredibly capable I can truly be, even in the most difficult of situations, like when my phone stopped working and I was stranded in an unfamiliar train station! I am proud of the level of independence I gained over the course of my time in Japan.
For someone who had previously never lived more than an hour away from their hometown, deciding to study abroad allowed me to become more prepared to transition into life after college, and I can safely say that it was the most rewarding decision I ever made.
Abigail Lowry (BS Political Science) spent Fall 2022 – Spring 2023 studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan through the UTC exchange program at J.F. Oberlin University. Abigail had the following to say about studying abroad, “When you start, studying abroad might seem like the most daunting thing you’ve ever done, and it very well could be, but trust me when I say it will be the most rewarding. Nothing could’ve prepared me for the incredible friendships and experiences I had while in Japan, and that’s exactly what made it all so amazing.”
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