I have been in Japan for about 2 months now. When I first got here, everything seemed like a dream. New foods, new places, first time on a train, first time living away from home, making new friends, ect. I felt like I was adapting well to the new environment. This was until I got more settled in when I started to realize how different the environment was. The foods sold at grocery stores were very different and sometimes it was hard to even figure out what it was if I didn’t know how to read it. I’ve never been much of a cook, and Japanese homes often do not have an oven, so I had to change my mindset on simple dinners to make. My Japanese friends are nice, but sometimes they spoke in Japanese too fast for me and it made me feel embarrassed that I couldn’t follow along. The communication barrier has been hard and frustrating. The time difference is 14 hours ahead of Charleston, so speaking with my friends and family back home hasn’t been easy. For a couple weeks I felt very homesick and alone. I just wanted to stay in bed and do nothing. So here’s some advice if you’re reading this and you plan to study abroad.
- Don’t let that type of feeling discourage you! Get out of your room!
I was in a funk for a while, but going to classes and learning different aspects of Japanese history made me want to go out and see first hand what I was learning. My shinto class gave me the inspiration to go out and see Japanese shrines and temples for myself. There’s always something to do or something to try. If you don’t want to go alone, ask a random person in your class, because they’re probably an exchange student too and they might be feeling the same thing.
- Talk with your friends and family, but not all the time. Disconnect and enjoy the moment!
You’re studying abroad to experience and learn new things in a different culture. Homesickness is hard and sometimes you just miss your friends and family, but you’ll make new friends, and make memories that you can take home. You don’t want to go home feeling like you didn’t want to do everything you wanted.
- Food Food Food
In my opinion, food has been one of the hardest parts of my time abroad. I love Japanese food, but it is such a different type of diet than what I am used to. So many Japanese dishes have egg in it, cooked and raw, and my stomach was not at ALL used to it. The Japanese diet also is not as hardy as an American diet. Of course go out and try new and local foods, but it’s okay to stop by a McDonalds and chow down on a burger. A big part of studying abroad is going out of your comfort zone, but it’s hard when every aspect of your daily life has to change, so go and find some comfort food if it’s a kind of day where you need some familiarity.