Slowly but surely the time has almost come to leave for Japan. With only four days left the excitement has started to become weighed down by fears and anxiety. I think it started about a week ago when I realized that I was probably not going to receive a response to the email I sent to my host family at the end of July. Or it could have been when my Aunty sent me an email all in Japanese and it finally struck me that soon practically my whole life would be in Japanese. It’s pretty freaky but I think it’s a natural response to starting any new endeavor in life. That is why in this post I would like to talk about my worries related to studying abroad and also offer my ideas on how I could possibly combat them. I don’t just want to complain thinking that they are things I can’t change, rather I’ll do my best to find a middle ground so that I don’t lead myself into a rut. Okay! So here it goes.
My Study Abroad Fears!
Fear #1: What if I am placed into a host family that I am not compatible with?
Since my program places all participants into host families, I have been feeling a lot of anxiety about that. There are endless “what ifs?” Like, what if my family doesn’t like me? What if the kids are bratty or irritating? What if the house is really far from the school? What if I never become comfortable with them and I am stuck with them until December? There really are many of those concerns that I have. But with anything else, I can’t predict how it will go. It is just something that I have to remind myself to relax about and force myself not to create biases based on fears rather than my actual interactions with the family. My solution for now is to tell myself to be flexible and to give them a chance. I shouldn’t make any snap judgements when I first meet them and in turn I hope that my host family gives themselves a chance to like me as well.
Fear #2: What if my host family always serves me food I struggle to eat?
Our host families are required to provide us breakfast and dinner every weekday all all three meals during the weekend. As a extremely picky eater, the host family component of this program has become one of my biggest insecurities. I have always been a picky eater. It is so bad that when I really don’t want to eat something I might actually become physically sick. However, when you stay with a host family, especially in Japan, you are supposed to eat everything that your hosts give to you otherwise it would be rude. In my previous home stay experiences this always caused me a lot of stress because I would be faced with foods that I know that I don’t like and be faced with the prospect of either needing to force it down, or leaving it on my plate which is embarrassing.
My plan of action: Try my best to be open minded about the foods that I am given. I should at least try something once before I decide that I don’t like it, rather than saying I won’t eat it when I’ve never even tried it once. I’ll try my best to eat whatever they give me, but if its a month or so into the program and it becomes a big problem I will probably have to discuss with one of the program staff about what to do or just talk directly with my host parents. I don’t want to be someone they think is narrow minded who is stubbornly refusing to try something that is important to Japanese culture but I also can’t be living with constant anxiety around meal times.
Fear #3: What if I don’t make any friends?
History has shown that I am not very good at making friends. For the first two years or so of high school I really only had one friend, appropriately nicknamed “Only Friend.” I am extremely shy and introverted and I also have social anxiety. This deadly combination basically means that making friends is a nearly impossible task. I’ve tended to be someone who won’t talk unless spoken to, but also someone who wants to hide away from people. This is even more problematic going into my study abroad because I’ve heard from a few people that Japanese people tend to be more shy and will most likely not approach someone first. That means that if I want to make friends it is up to me to “get them.” But I am worried because what if I can’t? What if a couple months pass and I still have not really made any connections? I think it would negatively affect my time in Japan.
My idea to beat this: I need to be brave. I can be scared but I can’t let that fear crush my high hopes for what this next year is supposed to become. I will have to step even further outside of my comfort zone than I ever have before because that’s was I need to do if I want to make the best of this experience. It’s not going to be easy and maybe sometimes I will become discouraged, but during those times I need to pick myself up quickly and continue on.
Fear # 4: Accidents and Emergencies
Here in my home country I have a good idea of what I would do in the case of an accident or emergency. My phone breaks? Go to the store. Chip a tooth? Go to my dentist. I get lost somewhere? Call my parents for help. Break my glasses? Go to Costco to fix them. But what about when I’m in Japan? I will lose the support systems that I have relied on and possibly even taken for granted this entire time. Even when I was away at college the support systems were clearly advertised. If not it wouldn’t be that hard to figure it out myself as it’s all in my native language. However, once I go to Japan that would change. Even the simplest things might become more difficult because I might not understand important instructions or be able to read a certain sign. Even if I can, my response time will not be as quick since I would have to go through translating it first into English from Japanese.
My solution: Read up on what I should do ahead of time at my own leisure, that way if an emergency every arises I will already have an idea of what to do and not be so panicked. I think that this is the same way you would prepare for anything in life. You just have to do the work beforehand to be able to reap the rewards when and if the time actually comes that you need it.
Yes, I do have a lot of fears and worries going into this new journey but I also have so many things I am looking forward to. Eating good food, seeing family again, making new friends, improving my Japanese level, getting a more international viewpoint, getting to explore, experiencing daily life in Japan, and so much more. So while I am very scared, I just need to remind myself that once I push through that fear many great things await me.
If you are also starting a new study abroad adventure I’d love to hear about it. I love hearing about other people’s travels as well even if they aren’t going to Japan. Anyways, my next post will hopefully be written after I have arrived in Japan. Woo! Only four days left so I better get back to cramming, packing, and cleaning.
Thank you for reading!