Studying abroad in Japan prepared me for the future

Picture of Isaac as well in front of Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto.
Posted by Isaac Wittenberg on

Location: Japan, Fall 2019

How has study abroad prepared you for your future?

Studying abroad in Japan has prepared me in many ways for the future. While learning the Japanese language has prepared me for my future studies in graduate school, I also learned many new life skills that have made me more independent. During my study abroad I had to shop for my own groceries, cook my own meals, manage how much money I was spending, pay monthly bills, and carry out other ordinary tasks like sending mail from the post office, for example. Doing these things (not only on my own but also) in a foreign country and language was very intimidating at first but with time I learned to embrace these obstacles and learn from them. Doing this has taught me that no matter how difficult a situation may seem, you can always overcome it with determination and patience.

What was the biggest impact that study abroad left on you?

The biggest impact that study abroad left on me is how much there is to learn about the world. I think we all can get used to being in our comfort zones but once you step outside of your comfort zone like I did, you realize how much the rest of the world has to offer. Living in an international dorm, I met people from all over (Germany, Australia, England, Italy, South Korea, China, etc.) which gave me a better perspective on what goes on outside of our own country. Living in Japan also gave me a better understanding of Japanese life and culture. Experiencing it first-hand taught me many things that books and classes can’t offer.

What would you say to someone that was hesitant to study abroad?

I would tell someone who is hesitant to study abroad to honestly just go do it. I was hesitant myself to move across the world to a country completely different than mine but I met so many great people, saw so many amazing things, and learned so much about Japan and myself in the process. There are always reasons for why you might be scared to study abroad (it’s normal to be nervous) but once you actually go do it you conquer those fears and learn that it’s not so scary after all. In the end, you won’t want to return home but when you do you come back with more knowledge and experiences than when you left.

What one word would you use to describe your experience studying abroad?

As cliché as is it, I’d say the word “life-changing” because it really was just that. Looking back at who I was before I studied abroad in Japan, I realize how much I grew as a student and as a person. Throughout the challenges I faced, people I met, and places I went, I learned how true that word really is when talking about study abroad. I can’t begin to list all of the positive impacts going to Japan had on me but I will say that I could not imagine a life having said no to the amazing opportunity I was given.

How did being immersed in a new culture change your perspective on the future?

Before I went to Japan I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Dropping out of the School of Music to pursue my dreams of doing Japanese was scary but once I studied abroad I knew I was on the right path. Being immersed in the Japanese language and culture all day every day helped me realize that there’s always new things to learn and discover. It helped me realize what I wanted to do with my life and that is something I will always be grateful for. Without study abroad I can honestly say that I wouldn’t have figured out my dreams for the future and wouldn’t be planning on studying Japanese in graduate school.

Did studying abroad help you professionally? How so?

Yes, I’d say studying abroad has helped me professionally. While applying for graduate school, having “studied abroad in Japan” on my C.V. will help me stand out when compared to other applicants who have not been abroad. I also have more experiences to write about for application essays than most people would who didn’t study abroad. As for future jobs, I want to work in teaching and translation. I hope to be able to travel for my work as well so having had experience living in Japan has prepared me for any future trips I will take to Japan or interactions with Japanese people. Living in Japan gave me a deeper, more personal understanding of the Japanese culture and people that I couldn’t have learned in the classroom.