Who I Am Now vs Who I Was

I've been struggling a lot with what to write about on my blog after coming back to New York from Japan. I'll be uploading my vlogs relatively soon, having some issues with my camera is preventing me from doing so as of right now. 

This post is going to be a lot more personal than my other recent posts. I want to talk about how I feel I've changed as a person since coming back from Japan and who I am now versus who was when I first hopped on the plane to Tokyo 5 months ago. 

All my expectations about how I thought my study abroad would go were totally wrong.

When I first arrived in Japan I had some idea about how I thought things were supposed to go, then found out pretty quickly that it wasn't going to be anything like that. I came in with the assumption that I was going to meet a ton of Japanese people and speak Japanese exclusively every single day. It's embarrassing to admit but I even had this weird elitist mindset that those who didn't speak Japanese every day were not good enough or cool enough to be friends with me. I tried to hold myself to this condescending standard, and stressed myself out worrying if I was 'good enough'.

One my biggest misconceptions regarding my school, Waseda, was that I would have classes with Japanese people. I blame this misunderstanding mainly on the fact that Waseda didn't communicate with my University at all, everything that I found out about it was pretty much given handed to me after I got off the plane. I wasn't able to look up any classes beforehand and I didn't know anything about my program. My faith in Waseda was riding on the fact that I have been told by everyone that it was an amazing school I didn't even know what the campus looked like, that's how much I was uninformed about the school I was going to. 

If I was aware of the how the classes worked before I went to Waseda I probably would have chosen a different program. I chose the Comprehensive Japanese Learning (CJL) program because I thought if I didn't choose that one then there was no way I could take classes that teach Japanese. 

What I didn't know is that the other program they had (SILS) would have also allowed me to take the same exact classes and a lot of others that offered more credits. Of course, once I was actually in Japan, I was informed that there was no way I could possibly change my program, leaving me stuck.

Even if I could go back and change the school that I studied at, I really don't think that I would. The friends I made at Waseda are some that I wouldn't trade for the world, so in that respect, I'm happy with my choice.

One thing I do regret is that I spent my first month in Japan essentially closed up in my house, watching television because I was too afraid to go outside alone. I should have realized that that was really pivotal time for me to explore the area around me and really get familiar with where I was. Instead, I fell into a deep depression and barely left my house. I slept most of the time and often forgot to eat. 

It was during this time that I started an unhealthy habit that stayed with me for the entirety of my stay in Japan: binge eating.

I was never someone who ate a lot of sweets but when I was in Japan I tried to find comfort by eating unhealthy foods. 

I'll be the first to admit that I didn't strictly adhere to my vegan diet because I would get into moods of depression and eat sweets to try and placate myself. It would never work but I would continuously try it as a way to pick myself up whenever I was feeling particularly depressed. I can remember the pattern as clear as day: I would go to the convenience store and spend about $10 on various sweets, hoping that it would make me feel better in some way. I would go home with my bag in hand, already regretting my choice, then sit at my table and eat. I would always eat all the snacks I bought in one go, even when I told myself I would try to save some. I'd then feel horrible, sick and angry at myself for consuming things I knew were bad for me. It would make me spiral further and further into unhappiness, and I would pledge not to do it again. Then the cycle would repeat on my next especially low day.

Towards the end of my stay in Japan, I started getting stronger when I came to my binge eating habits. 

Now that I'm back in New York I can confidently say that I have a strong hold on my binge eating and that it's calmed down significantly.  I partially blame the convenience of the convenience stores for being part of the problem. I lived within a two-minute walk of 2 convenience stores, so I had unlimited access to any sweets or candies that I desired. This ended up being a huge problem for me, as I turned to food when I became upset.

Because of my eating habits I did gain a little weight in Japan but after arriving back in New York I pretty much lost it within the first week. 

The stress of being by myself in a foreign country weighed on me.

Before moving to Japan I had literally no experience living on my own. I had only been familiar with dorm life throughout college so I never knew what it was like to truly be by myself at the end of the day. I severely underestimated how living totally alone would affect me. 

As someone who is extremely extroverted it was very difficult being by myself for most of the day. I had to set up my apartment by myself, buy groceries by myself, cook by myself, and fall asleep at night in a quiet apartment. For some, this might sound like heaven but for me, it was a definition of my nightmare. If there's one thing I can take away from this it's that I know I was never meant to be someone who lives alone. As school began I started reaching out to people to hang out as often as I could because I couldn't stand being in my apartment and hearing nothing but the buzzing of my refrigerator running. 

This proved to be a win-win, as I made a lot of good friends and also got to experience new places. Towards the end of my stay, I began to feel a lot more comfortable living alone, and I think it was because I knew that I wasn't going to be alone for a long period of time. I would see my friend Amanda about 3 times a week so I knew if I had that to look forward to. 

If I could do things over, I would definitely want to live with someone else, maybe in a share house type of situation. It's important to me that I have my privacy, it's also important that I have other people around me who I can talk to if I wanted to.

 My most important take away from my time in Japan may seem unexpected.

When you live in a country in which you don't speak the language at a native level, you realize that a lot of everyday things that were once easy in your home country are now significantly more difficult.

I'm so privileged to be living in a country (America) in which I speak the widely spoken language of that country (English) at a native level. It is an insane privilege to be able to understand everything that's going on around you and not worry about whether or not you'll use the wrong word when you approach a situation.  Even though I only spent 5 months in Japan I felt the stress of my linguistic limitations very often. I can honestly admit that I've cried on a few occasions because I just felt so frustrated that I wasn't able to express myself to the capacity that I wanted to. 

When I wanted to present an issue to my landlord I write the keywords I wanted to say on my left hand just in case I got flustered or nervous. When I went to the post office I would make sure that I have everything absolutely perfect and prepared, because I didn't want any problems to arise in case I didn't understand a word they would use to talk to me. 

It takes an incredible amount of bravery to speak a language you're not proficient in, in an attempt to communicate with people. Living in Japan gave me a deep appreciation for everyone who attempts a language that is not their own. 

It really put into perspective what it must be like for people living in America who are not fluent speakers of English. I only spent 5 months in Japan, but there were times where I felt overwhelmed by my limitations at expressing myself. There are times that I just wanted to say what I wanted to say in English, even if no one could understand me. I can't even imagine how hard it must be to be living in a country for years at a time and not speak the language at a native level. To go through the stress of 'Am I saying this right?' or 'Is this the right word' on an everyday basis takes incredible resilience and bravery. To anyone and everyone that's currently doing that I really applaud you.

Now Vs Then

When I think about who I was when I stepped off the plane 5 months ago, I think about someone that thought they had everything figured out. I thought that my study abroad would be a stepping stone to me living and working in Japan but I couldn't have been more wrong. Through experiencing my 'dream life' firsthand, I realize that I enjoyed living in Japan but only temporarily. I discovered that I'm not one of those people who's meant to live in Japan, and that's perfectly okay. 

I know Japan is always going to be a big part of my life and I'm sure I'm going to vacation there a countless amount of times, but at this time in my life, I feel that I do not want to live in Japan. 

I'm happy that I had the chance to grow and have these experiences, and that it's changed my perspective for the good. Right now my biggest focus is my blog and my education and once I graduate I can start exploring the world and go wherever my heart takes me.