Japan hadn’t been my first choice when I first signed up for the international exchange program at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) two years ago. Back then, I applied and was selected to go to a university in the US. However, things didn’t go as planned, and I ended up with a rejected visa application and deflated hopes. Originally, I had planned to go to the US for one year and Japan the next. However, Plan A failed and I was left with only Plan B and a fear of getting rejected again. Still, I was determined to try my best to make it work the second time. I completed the application forms and prepared the required documents early and worked hard on improving my Japanese. I took Japanese classes three times a week, three hours each time. This went on for a year.
My efforts finally paid off and I passed the international exchange interview and got a visa without a hitch. Still, I couldn’t help but feel nervous, somehow expecting customs to stop me and tell me I’m not allowed to go through. Imagine my relief when I finally set foot on Fukuoka safe and sound.
It’s only human nature to notice what is different when one arrives at a new environment. I immediately took notice of the serenity and rurality of Kagoshima but marveled at the same time at how clean and organized everything was. It was also my first time to have my own apartment so I basked in the moment while worrying about the expensive rent. When classes officially started about a week after we arrived, I took in the differences between the classes I have been to in the past and the ones here in particular. Compared to the fast-paced flurry of life in Taipei, everything seemed to be laidback and relaxed in Kagoshima.
In an effort to chronicle my yearlong adventures in my new and exciting life and share my experiences to my friends and family back home, I started a blog (http://kagojen.blogspot.com/) and recorded everything interesting that crossed my path during my stay. And my stay was nothing short of interesting and memorable. Short as one year is, I had the chance to become part of numerous meaningful activities. I took part in numerous Canada Project activities, wrote research papers, articles, and reviews, hosted events, made presentations, and met a lot of important people. I also took part in many local events and met a lot of people and made lots of friends. I experienced local festivities and got a clearer glimpse of society by taking part in numerous volunteering activities. I also worked at a house-moving company for a day and learned a lot about the working culture of Japan. I also taught a total of 10 regular and non-regular students English. All my students were professionals, thus giving me more chances at getting acquainted with the local culture. Most of all, I made a lot of friends, both at school and outside, and enjoyed my downtime doing various activities and visiting several places with them.
This year, I experienced snow for the first time, climbed my first mountain, hitched my first ride, learned how to cook, developed a liking for karaoke, improved my bowling skills, published several articles, worked as a volunteer for the first time, and immensely improved my Japanese. All these and more changed me for the better, and I now have friends and experiences that I will cherish for life.
I would not exchange this experience for anything in the world!