The Study Abroad Newsletter

Fukuoka, the True Heart of Japan

Zachary Mayberry
Seinan Gakuin University, Japan

Before studying abroad I had previously visited and lived in Japan, so I thought that returning again to study abroad would be an uneventful experience where I would simply make a few friends and acquire a new experience that I could add to my academic resume; However this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Unlike any other place I’d lived before in Japan, Fukuoka was truly an amazing location where the people were friendly, the food was delicious, and the opportunities to get involved and experience Japanese culture were abundant. While in Fukuoka I was able to experience teaching English to Japanese students, entering into various circles and clubs, visiting shrines, even traveling all over Asia during my break periods.

The thing that probably impacted me the most while studying abroad however wasn’t simply traveling within Japan and meeting and interacting with individuals and learning the culture, but rather, my experiences with the people I lived with in the Seinan International House. In the International House the residents were from all over the world, varying from France, to Finland, China, Taiwan, Canada, Korea, Italia, England, all over the world! Living together with these other foreign exchange students truly enriched my life and opened my eyes to the different perspectives and cultures of the world. At the International House I made lifelong friends who I loved so much that the thought of separating from them caused me to burst into tears on numerous occasions.

Hanami in Kurume, Fukuoka

My Japanese Class Family who I spent a year learning together with)

Thanks to them my perspective of the world has been broadened, and I look forward to meeting them again sometime in the future. This was a factor to studying abroad that I did not expect and was pleasantly surprised to discover and experience. Initially living Okinawa, Tokyo, and Saitama had dulled me to the feeling of excitement and wonder most students would feel about studying abroad in another country, due to my past experiences, however little did I know I would change my opinion so much upon arriving in Fukuoka. My original motivation for coming to Fukuoka was simply a whimsical decision that I made because I had wanted to continue spending time with my best friend Takuya who had previously studied abroad at the University of Hawaii: Hilo, who attended Seinan Gakuin University in Fukuoka. From him and others, the impression that I had of Fukuoka is that it was a small town in the countryside of Japan where there wasn’t very much to do, but this assumption only went to go and show my ignorance of the location. Fukuoka is in the southern Kyushu part of Japan, which is often regarded as the true heart of Japan due to its strong patriotism, old-fashioned culture, and the warmth of the Japanese people.

Being here I was able to experience many different kinds of situations, and feel many different kinds of emotions in response to the bonds and friendships I made, as well as working in a Japanese setting with locals. I experience the kindness of the Japanese people, I experience many happy times, sad times, angry times, times where I just wanted to go back home, and times where I felt that Fukuoka truly was my home.

Relaxing in a Japanese Garden with friends in Hiroshima

Visiting Miyajima Shrine while visiting friends in Hiroshima

To anyone who is potentially considering studying abroad, yet feels slightly unsure of whether it is a wise choice or waste of time, I would absolutely recommend studying abroad. You only get one chance in your life to be a student and study abroad and experience a different culture and perspective of the world, and if you decided to do it, it’s something that you will never forget, and something that you will never regret. I am truly grateful for the opportunity I was given to study abroad; it has changed my life, and given me experiences and lifelong friends that I will cherish until the grave.