Throughout every moment of my TUJ application process, and then acceptance, one thought recurred significantly more than others in my mind: finally, I’m out of the woods. You see, for the first two and a half years of my undergraduate education I’ve been enrolled at a small college located atop a mountain in an extremely rural part of Tennessee. How rural is “extremely rural,” you ask? I think a few phrases summarize it well: Unlocked doors! Non-existent cellular service! No Starbucks for 30 miles! Flannel worn un-ironically! Hiking! All of these things and many more were nowhere near my consciousness during my childhood in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Sure, Scranton isn’t a thriving metropolis by any stretch of the imagination but it’s definitely urban, more smog than grazing sheep, and with just over two hours separating me from Philadelphia I never thirsted for any extra concrete contact. While I’ve loved my small college experience, I’m definitely excited to be in a city again and that the city happens to be Tokyo is even better.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely got my fair share of qualms and queries about spending almost half of a year in another country when I’ve yet to leave the U.S. ever before. Every form completed, every Japan-centric blog post or Wikipedia article read, every major hit my bank account takes between my passport and plane tickets, I find myself screaming internally with equal parts anticipation and anxiety. Anticipation for all the new food I’ll be eating, the shrines, landmarks and architecture I’ll be seeing, the trains I’ll be taking to those places, the opportunity to use my two years of language experience, and the countless other experiences and events I would not be able to have anywhere other than Japan. But then, of course, each of those excitements comes with an accompanying anxiety, anxiety about figuring out the yen, about being the only American in many of those places, about navigating the train there so that I have the opportunity to be the odd one out, about the fact that I’ve only got two years of language experience at my disposal, and of course about the fact that I’ll be completely out of my element for who knows how long. I believe the good will ultimately outweigh the bad, but if you ask me after that fourteen-hour plane ride, I’m sure I’ll feel differently.
My Japanese professor and I created a mantra for the times when I start to doubt myself and my decisions: the grammatically tenuous ‘more waa than warui,’ which translates much less alliteratively as ‘more wow than bad,’ but the sentiment is still there. Right now I’m on the cusp of being overwhelmed by forms and coursework and life in general, but I’ve had the same countdown in my head since I received my acceptance back in October. It’ll be ‘sayonara, America’ on January 8th and ‘konnichiwa Japan’ on the 9th. Stay tuned for more!