Studying abroad leads to self growth

My+experience+in+Thailand+included+riding+elephants+at+a+farm+for+the+animals.+
My experience in Thailand included riding elephants at a farm for the animals.

My experience in Thailand included riding elephants at a farm for the animals.

My experience in Thailand included riding elephants at a farm for the animals.

Alicia Warner, Staff Writer

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Becoming a new student almost half way throughout the year tends to be difficult, but many have done it, benefiting from all the educational and social opportunities. However, if that sounds difficult, imagine being a new student transferring from a different country. My two years living in Japan was one of my favorite life experiences.

Two and a half years ago, I was told I would be going to Okinawa, Japan because my stepdad was transferred for military purposes pertaining to the Army. My first thought was how would I adjust to the culture shock? I was worried a bit, but in the end I knew this was going to be an amazing experience.

Immediately, I started trying to learn the language, learn how they celebrate holidays, and distinguish their cultural behaviors, so I could respect their religious preferences. But this was not my first time trying to adapt to a culture unlike my own.

I’ve only lived in Japan, but I’ve been to Thailand, China, and the Philippines. However, I’m not the only one in the school that has done major traveling. Senior Maggie Cooney has been to Italy, Vatican City, Austria, Switzerland, France, England and Germany through the People to People organization.

One of many cultural experiences in Japan included visiting a Buddhist temple

The way Japanese citizens see American citizens is usually with compassion and curiosity. I’ve met Japanese people that would talk to me and then play with my hair because they’ve never seen blonde hair or green eyes before.

Cooney said her experiences showed her misconceptions of Americans as well.

¨I think they expected us all to be fat, considering they had a fat American mannequin in American Eagle,¨ she also said. ¨ I’m pretty sure, from the people I’ve met, they expected us to be loud, and possibly disappointing.¨

When living on an island in Japan that’s only 70 miles long, seven miles wide, you get to know your way around. I’ve gotten lost plenty of time roaming from coast to coast, however it more like shore to shore. I went to go to a sushi restaurant with some friend in Naha, which is north, and ended up in Nago that happens to be in the south, about a two and a half hour difference.

Cooney elaborated more on how she got lost in Venice and Rome.

“Fifty other people and I were suppose to meet up at a place in Rome and my friends and I got lost looking at scenery, data was extremely expensive in Rome, but we had to call someone to find us, luckily we never had to use our data we find our way back.”

My favorite experience in Japan was being able to have the freedom that I would never get in America, having freedom in a new country is honestly an incredible experience.  I was allowed to go off our base to walk to different restaurants, and able to go shopping and do fun activities with friends.

A temple in Thailand.

When I asked Cooney what was her favorite experience she said, “My home stay was pretty incredible; it definitely made me grow as a person.”

Being in different countries for sure makes you grow as a person. You have different responsibilities; if I were to get in trouble in Japan, it would immediately go to my step father’s commanding officer so it was my obligation to not get into trouble. I was able to go and do my own thing without parents hovering. In Japan, you weren’t allowed to have weapons in your home so there was no murder or danger on the island.

Cooney’s worst experience from her trip was that her got lost in Rome and Venice. “It was nerve racking, but we found our way back, later on.¨

I personally didn’t have a truly bad experiences in Japan. The only thing I would say that was bad was the weather, we experienced typhoons and very humid weather.

90 degrees with 100 percent humidity is the worst weather to be in. My friend and I were walking to a restaurant, because you have to be 18 to drive off base, and it was 95 degrees out with 90 percent humidity we had to stop every ½ mile to get something to drink.

I took a trip over to Thailand while I was in Okinawa, and that was the best vacation I’ve ever taken.  While I was over in Thailand i was able to understand Thai culture, being able to eat their foods and understand their beliefs. Also I got a once in a lifetime chance to visit an elephant farm, we were able to bathe and ride on elephants.

A historic site in Thailand

Most people that have ever been outside of the country would do it again. Cooney replied with, ¨Absolutely, there’s no doubt in my mind people would do this; the only thing is that it costs $7,000.”

While I loved the places I’ve been and know that I’ve grown from those experiences, I don’t want to go back. I’m ready to take on other experiences from different countries.

 

 

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