I have recently begun living with my host family after spending two weeks in a hotel room. I was shocked by the complete shift in my life. It is as if the two weeks I spent in that hotel room were some sort of strange dream, and I had forgotten what exactly this adventure entailed.
In orientation I spoke a lot of English. I was still speaking a lot more Japanese than I was speaking at home, but the majority of my day existed in English with Japanese as a side dish (budum tsss). However, after moving into a host family it was a complete 180. I am now spending most of my time speaking in Japanese with English as the side.
After about 24 hours in only Japanese, I was sitting in a room waiting to watch my host sister’s dance performance. I had just been introduced to a bunch of my host mom’s friends and had tried talking with them while waiting in the audience. I suddenly found myself on the verge of tears. I felt extremely stupid. I have never felt more stupid in my life. Here I was, having these complex adult thoughts, but I felt like I couldn’t express anything quite as intelligently in Japanese, and I could feel it in the way I was talked to as well.
After choking back my tears, I sat with myself for a moment wondering if this whole one-year thing was a mistake. However, I realized that this is going to be a very natural part of entering into another culture and language, and that there are two ways I could use these feelings. One way is I could run away from it, only speak to English speakers, and create a bubble for myself that felt safe and comfortable. Or two, I could immerse myself deeper and allow myself to feel, look, and sound stupid sometimes in order to truly learn about Japanese culture and language. Comfortability is tempting, but this is one year I cannot get back.
People are going to tell you that your abroad experience is going to be so amazing and unforgettable, and that you will have the time of your life. I completely agree with that so far. This has definitely been a memorable part of my life. However, what they don’t tell you a lot of times, especially if it’s a country that speaks a different language, is that it is going to be extremely hard. You are going to feel stupid. You might have some breakdowns. However, I think the truly good, life-changing, memorable things never come easy, and I tell you all this to tell you to push through with me. I tell you this so that when you study abroad, you do not run away thinking “this isn’t what study abroad is supposed to be like!” Study abroad is supposed to be amazing. It is also supposed to be really difficult, and that is a good thing.
I have been building a truly amazing relationship with my host family, and I am looking forward to starting classes soon!