Studying abroad is an emotional rollercoaster in all the right ways. You learn so much about yourself. You learn so much about the culture you’ve entered. For me, the end of my semester in Tokyo has been a whirlwind of realizations and melancholy consciousness. I wanted to write this post for anyone who may be feeling a bit loopy with thoughts as they finish their semester abroad. You aren’t alone.
1) You aren’t entirely sure about your life direction now.
When I first came to Tokyo, I felt like I was sure about what I wanted to do when I returned, my post-graduate plans, and the career path I wanted to take. However, studying abroad made me question all of that. I’ve seen the possibilities that exist outside of my own framework of understanding and boy…they are appealing. Realizing that there’s more to life than what I previously thought is incredibly scary, but also incredibly liberating. Leaving Tokyo, I’m more unsure of what I will do in life, but also confident that whatever it may be, it will be rewarding.
2) You’re wondering if staying in your home country for the rest of your life is what you really want.
Now that I’ve spent a substantial amount of time living outside of the United States, I’m wondering if living in the United States my whole life is something that I actually want. I’ve seen the possibilities of a life that doesn’t involve the things about the US that I dislike, and that has been pretty great. Living in Japan has made me want to live in other countries and explore what else the world has to offer.
3) You feel like you’re leaving a piece of yourself behind in your host country.
I can definitively say that the past four months in Japan have been the best months of my life. I’ve experienced happiness and joy here that I never thought I was capable of. Leaving Japan will be like leaving a piece of myself and that is obviously quite heartbreaking. However, if I understand that I’ve left a part of myself here, there is always incentive and reason to return.
4) You’re ready to go home.
As sad as I am to leave Japan, there is also a part of me that is more or less ready to go home. I’m ready to eat home-cooked meals and I’m ready to see my family again. I’m ready to play with my dogs and I’m ready to see my best friends. This past semester has really been non-stop, and returning home will be a time for me to rest and recuperate.
5) You’re amazed by how attached you’ve gotten to your friends in your host country.
When I came to Tokyo, the last thing I expected was to make such good friends. I truly didn’t think four months was enough time to make meaningful relationships and my main goal was to explore on my own because I knew I would be leaving any friends I made behind after a few months. Interestingly enough, I’ve made some absolutely wonderful friends here, and for that, I’m extremely grateful. A huge part of my experience in Japan has been shaped by the wonderful people I shared it with. I didn’t think I would be this sad about leaving them.
6) Shock…that you’re actually leaving.
I still can’t really wrap my mind around the fact that I’m actually leaving next week. It genuinely feels like I arrived in Tokyo yesterday, and I’m shocked by how fast the semester flew by. I know when I return home to the US, I will be experiencing some major reverse culture shock as I adjust to the American way of life. I wonder how long this phase will last.