Ever since I was little I have always want to travel to another country. When I came to Saint Cloud State University I was offered the opportunity to study abroad. When I first looked into study abroad I wanted to go on the Alnwick, England program. However, as I joined more activities on campus I slowly started to lean more towards one of the Japan programs. In the Fall of 2010 I was given the chance to go to Seinan Gakuin in Fukuoka, Japan. I was excited about going to another country, especially one with a very different culture and language then the United States. I was also nervous about leaving home for so long, but I knew in the end it would be worth it.
When the day finally arrived to leave for Japan I was both nervous and excited. It was my first time traveling to another country by myself and I was afraid something would happen. However, once I was finally on the plane headed for Japan I started to get more and more excited and I kept going through the list in my head of all the places and activities that I wanted to do. When I finally did arrive I was met at the airport by Shuhei, a St Cloud State exchange student from the year before, and Aki one of the head dorm advisors. I was also able to meet some of the other exchange students that had flown in that night. The next day I was able to meet more of the students and the advisors took us on a tour of the town to show us where the grocery store and banks were. We even had some of the traditional udon that is served in Fukuoka. It was a really fun first week in Fukuoka! We went to the beach a lot and played beach volleyball and we also traveled around to the different areas of Fukuoka. One of the things that I enjoyed was when we had dinner together as a group; it was a good time to get to know one another better.
I think that the best part of my time in Japan were all of the trips that I was able to take. During the fall term the school planned a trip for the international students to Nara and Kyoto. We took the shinkansen (bullet train), which in itself was exciting since it was the first time that I have been on one. After we arrived in Kyoto we boarded a bus to Nara. While we were there we saw Kofukuji and Todaiji. After we got to the hotel we went to dinner at a shabu-shabu restaurant which was amazing. The next day we went to Sanjuusan gendou, the manga museum, Nijoujou and Kinkakuji. I enjoyed each of the spots that we went to; though I think the most beautiful place was Kinkakuji. After we were done for the day I met up with another friend who is doing the JET program and came to see me. Together we went to Kyoto Tower and were able to see Kyoto lit up at night. During winter break I was able to take a long vacation to visit a friend in Fukui for Christmas, where we had the Japanese traditional Christmas cake. After we went to Tokyo for New Years! I had a really great time traveling around on the subway and visiting some of the many wards that make up Tokyo. The last trip that I went on was for spring break and a group of the international students went to Kumamoto and saw Mt. Aso, one of the active volcano’s in Japan. We also got to go to Beppu which is well known for their many hot springs. When you arrive the first thing you see is the steam that is rising from the many springs. The best part of the whole trip was when we went to the local hot spring and went in. A hot spring is one of the things that I wish Minnesota had.
I was really glad that I was able to participate in one of the many Japanese traditions hanami, flower viewing. It’s were the cherry blossoms are finally in bloom and everybody goes to have picnic under the trees. It was a truly beautiful sight to see all of the cherry blossom trees in full bloom and it was a blast being able to spend time with everyone.
One of the things that I think will always be in my memory was when the huge earthquake and tsunami happened. While Fukuoka didn’t have any damage, I think that everybody in Japan during that time was affected in some way whether they lived in Japan or were just visiting. It is something that I will never forget.
Having the chance to study abroad allowed me to experience things that I won’t have been able to while living in America. Not only did it allow me to experience what it’s like to be the minority of a country, but it also helped me to see what it would be like to not know the language and have to rely on someone else until I could learn it. However, I think the best thing was that I was able to make friends from not only America and Japan, but all over the world. It was the chance of a life time and something that I will never regret doing.