Best Year I’ll Ever Have
Tokyo Gakugei University, Japan
My name is Christopher Jones, and I am a Political Science and Japanese Studies double major. Last year, I attended Tokyo Gakugei University for two semesters in the general student exchange program. During my time in Japan, I had the opportunity to make the greatest friends and the greatest memories I could ever make in my life. The education and the opportunities for cultural enrichment that I received were invaluable. The classes and the experience of living in the big city changed my life completely, and is still changing my life to this day.
I don’t know exactly why I decided to hop on a plane at 19-years old and go live by myself in another country. Despite the fact that I already spoke the language and was moderately knowledgeable in cultural norms and matters, it was still a big leap from what I was used to. You feel a little overwhelmed at first, but after the first two weeks, it gets better. It is amazing.
Reading and learning about a different culture in a textbook or on the internet is a completely different thing from actually experiencing and living in it.
One of my greatest memories from Japan was the summer matsuri (festival) I attended with my friends as a goodbye party. Many people got the opportunity to wear the yukata (traditional summer dress) as is done by most people in Japan during these kinds of festival. I got the chance to wear one on that day. Being told that as a white man, the yukata looked good on me was quite flattering.
My Japanese language also became a lot more proficient, now being able to converse and handle myself in many situations. However, whether you are proficient or not in the language of the country you live in, it is possible to live just fine.
Tokyo Gakugei University was a beautiful campus located in suburban Tokyo, five minutes or so from the city center. The perfect mix of development and nature; old and modern, I could not think of a more perfect place to study and live.
My advice to all is if the opportunity presents itself to take a trip like this, is to go for it. You will face challenges but you will never regret it, and you could make life-long, life-changing friends as I have.
Thank you Japan.