Wrapping up a Semester at Kansai Gaidai by Jackson Bass

 Before starting my time abroad at Kansai Gaidai, I kept having people tell me about how wonderful an opportunity studying abroad really is. I heard them, but I never anticipated it being so monumental for my life and my personal growth. As soon as I touched down in Japan, I hit the ground running by going to all sorts of places and meeting many people along the way. While the traveling slowed down just a little when classes began, the whole semester still felt packed in the best kind of way.

There was always something to do, and often I would have to pick and choose which experiences I wanted to do! There were tons of trips organized by Kansai Gaidai Link (a student-led group) that allowed all of us to do things that we probably wouldn’t have thought of doing otherwise, like making matcha in Uji or experiencing Buddhist culture at Mt. Koya. These school-sponsored trips happened frequently, but we were always traveling on our own. It seems like I was invited to go somewhere new almost every day, and while I couldn’t do everything with everyone, I ended up exploring much of Osaka, Kyoto, and beyond with my friends!

Befriending so many people was the best part of this semester. I met people from basically every single continent (except Antarctica), and I was always surrounded by a large group of amazing people. I think there’s something about studying abroad that makes people naturally want to step out of their comfort zone, because it seemed like everyone was always down to try new things all of the time. No matter how strange, if I ever had an idea for something to do, someone would always be ready to go instantly. Just last night, as I was headed to Fushimi Inari Taisha for New Year’s, I saw one of my friends in passing, who then instantly agreed to join me all night. It’s difficult to explain just how much positivity and joy I have received from everyone around me this semester. Already, everyone is making plans to see each other when we all move back to our homes. Without getting too sappy, the people I have met here have made me into a better person, and I hope to always stay in touch with them.

While the traveling remains non-stop throughout the entire semester, it starts to pick up again at the end when everyone realizes that many people are moving back soon. Some of my best trips were the ones I did with my friends at this time, as we tried to check our bucket-list adventures off together before everyone had to say goodbye. My favorite trip from this time was when I went to Yokohama with one of my friends for the day to see a concert. We took the Shinkansen all the way there, found the concert venue, explored the city at night for a little while afterwards, and then took a night bus all the way back to Kyoto. It was an extremely busy day, but it remains one of my favorite memories from the whole semester.

After this semester, I can confidently say that studying abroad is absolutely worth it. This semester has been one of the best times of my life, and I’m excited to see where I’ll go and who I’ll meet next semester!

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