Four days before I left for Japan I wrote a post that had my four main fears about study abroad. If you haven’t read it then you should probably read it before you read this post. You can check out “My Study Abroad Fears” here. In this post I thought that it would be a good idea to address those initial fears that I had since I have already been living in Japan for over 26 days.
My Study Abroad Fears! (UPDATE!)
Fear #1: What if I am placed into a host family that I am not compatible with?
I think that the relationship that you end up having with your host family can make or break a study abroad experience and because of that I was really worried before I came. First I thought, “what if my family doesn’t like me?” Luckily I don’t think that will be a problem so far. The family that I was matched up with is extremely kind and I am going to guess that they don’t hate me based on that fact that they are willing to take me to places I’ve wanted to go to, cook me foods that I like, and go out of their way to occasionally drop me off or pick me up at the train station.
I also worried about, “what if the kids are bratty or irritating?” I can’t say that there haven’t been times when I thought that the kids were irritating but they are good kids. Whenever I am home they always want to play with me which is nice but when I get home I am often tired and just want to rest. The kids speak really good English and they often include me in whatever they are doing which I am super happy about. My room is at the end of the hallway right next to the entryway, so sometimes when the son comes home from school then he unpacks his bag right on the floor mat and does his work right outside my door. It’s pretty funny. At those times I can kind of forgive the intrusion because otherwise he would just be alone since his sister and mom aren’t at home.
Next, “what if the house is really far from the school?” According to some of the other students it sucks that my house is “so far” from the school, but actually I think that it is okay. To get to school I usually walk 18 minutes to the Fujimino train station, then take the train which might take 10-12 minutes depending on when the train arrives since I never check the schedule before I go, then from Kasumigaseki station it takes another 5 minutes to walk to the campus. I personally really like the area that I am living in and I don’t mind that commute. On the way to and from the station there is a mall called Soyoca that I often stop by just to walk around. It has a drug store, book store, hundred yen shop, Baskin Robbins, a few clothing stores, an udon shop, ramen shop, and a few other places. Across the street there is also a Mode-Off which is a second hand shop and another grocery store. When it is hot or if I have a heavy bag then it is slightly difficult, but if the weather is cool then to me the walk is enjoyable enough.
As for “what if I never become comfortable with them and I am stuck with them until December?,” I don’t think that is going to be a problem. If anything it’s going to be more of a problem in December when I have to leave them. Even after only two weeks of living with them I knew that I was really lucky to have been placed here and I really do like them. I honestly feel like I have been accepted into the family because my host mom especially has made me feel welcome from the start. I am definitely being treated more as a special guest, but she can’t exactly treat me like her kids considering they are 7 and 5 years old.
My first fear has already been dispelled and I’m so grateful to not have to worry about that!
Fear #2: What if my host family always serves me food I struggle to eat?
Another big fear I had was about the meals that my host family would be providing me. I am a really picky eater to the point of feeling like I have some sort of eating disorder so I was feeling a lot of anxiety concerning this. I also really lucked out for this too. I was upfront with my host family with the fact that not only do I have many foods that I have tried and not liked, there are also even more foods that I have never even tried before. I told them that if they cooked those foods then I would try, but I just wanted to warn them that I can’t answer beforehand if I like those foods since I have never tried them.
My host mom has been going out of her way to cook foods that she knows that I eat and I feel so bad about that. I don’t know what I did to deserve this family. Even the father doesn’t seem to judge me about if I struggle to eat certain foods which is a relief. Sometimes even if a mom is more relaxed about being picky a father might express disapproval or the other way around. They both often say “muri shinaide” which means like “don’t force yourself” and then after I try many new things they say “yoku ganbatta ne” which basically means “you tried really hard.” It’s honestly kind of embarrassing but they don’t make me feel ashamed which I appreciate.
But I still don’t want to use that as an excuse to not push myself to try new things so I have been trying hard. It might sound ridiculous but within the first few weeks of being in Japan I tried my first pear, peach, blueberry, cauliflower, and egg tofu. My host mom cooks really good food and I usually have no problem finishing it all. They don’t serve big meals and it’s usually the grab-your-own food style so it’s not like they are choosing what I’ll eat and how much I’ll eat. In the beginning I thought I wasn’t going to survive on the breakfast that I was getting because it was so little bit, but I think now I’ve adjusted to that and to eat any more gives me a stomachache. A typical breakfast might be an egg with shoyu and onigiri with furikake, bread, a breakfast sandwich with ham, egg, and cheese, and/or pears. It’s super simple but I’ve come to really like it. Sometimes we also have soup that comes from an instant mix and I found out that I love the corn potage flavor which is strange because I used to adamantly hate corn. I have also discovered a new love for edamame and earned a new nickname of “edamame monster” along with the daughter since we both love it.
My second fear about study abroad has also disappeared and therefore life has been pretty gee~
Fear #3: What if I don’t make any friends?
I’m not a person who has an easy time making friends and I have known that for a while. I am a person who has a few people that became really good friends gradually over a long period of time. So as expected I have not really made any new friends here. It is true that I have met a lot of people, some of which who are really cool, but I have not found a group of people that I really fit in with without having to stretch my personality in a certain way.
The other students that I am studying abroad with are all really nice. Even though I don’t usually hang out with them or I don’t see them because we aren’t in the same Japanese class, they have never once made me feel unwelcome if I just decided to walk over and join a group of them while they were talking. They also invite me along if they happen to be going somewhere which is great for me because otherwise I would go alone and get lost for a couple hours before I made it there.
I always say that I am not good at making friends but now that I think about it, it’s kind of a lie that doesn’t do my friends justice. I have met a few cool people that I wouldn’t mind hanging out with and getting to know more but it’s just a matter of me sucking up my awkwardness and fear of rejection to just ask them to hang out.
It’s true that I have been spending a lot of time alone and doing solo adventures, but that’s not necessarily because I don’t have people to go with. I realized that I enjoy walking around and traveling by myself because then I can go at my own pace without having to worry about if the other person is tired or not happy with where we are going or if we become lost and they become annoyed. I still enjoy hanging out with others and I want to do things with other people but I also want to enjoy my alone time while I’m in a place that’s relatively safe with so many things to see and do even if you’re alone.
Fear # 4: Accidents and Emergencies
Now for the fourth fear it is kind of hard to address. I haven’t had a big emergency or accident and I don’t ever want to have one if I can help it. If I do I feel assured though with both my host family and my relatives nearby to help me out. So I don’t have much to say about this one except for the fact that it’s no longer a fear.
Almost a month of living in Japan later I can safely say that many of my big fears and worries have been settled. There’s some things that I realized I am struggling with since I’ve been here though such as not understanding the cashiers at the convenience store or at fast food places, not knowing how to throw trash away properly and worrying my host family’s trash will not be picked up, and having no choice but to go to an onsen (public bath), but these things are only natural and aren’t anything so major that they make me want to pack up and go back home.
This post ended up being longer than I thought it would be so if you read it, thank you. I think the main lesson learned is that no matter what fears you have before going into something you really just need to wait until after you’ve actually experienced it before you begin to judge or close yourself off to things. You don’t want to worry so much that it affects the results in a negative way. I realize that I am lucky and that it could have gone in a bad way although there’s no way I could know for sure until I actually arrived here. There’s also the possibility that things could change as time goes on and the “honeymoon” phase is over but I hope that things change in a good way and I get more comfortable with my host family and I can help more around the house and stuff rather than being an important guest for four months.
Okay! I’ll stop myself here. Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for the next post hopefully coming soon 🙂