Don't Be Afraid to Move Forward
Don't Be Afraid to Move Forward
  • Tae Min-seo
  • 승인 2024.06.03 09:59
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In one year, I challenged myself and explored a world I never knew existed. I had never dreamed of living abroad before because I was too scared, but I overcame my fears as an exchange student and now I aim to find a job and live abroad. I have learned that not thinking too deeply and having a just-go-for-it mentality is the most effective and fastest way to take the first step. Gaining this experience has helped me to get rid of my anxiety and worries and has given me the confidence to do anything.



A step towards opening a new door

I started learning Japanese in high school and joined the Department of Japanese Studies. As a major, I have been diligently building up my knowledge of Japan, its culture, history, politics, and other areas for several years. However, in the back of my mind, I kept asking myself questions such as "Is the Japan I understood from my classes the same as the real Japan?" and "Do Japanese people behave in such a way?" I felt that there must be something that I could only understand by experiencing life in Japan firsthand and living with Japanese people. I decided to go to SHOWA WOMEN'S UNIVERSITY in Tokyo as an exchange student because I felt that I could only solve this frustration with direct experience and getting practical knowledge that cannot be gained from books.


Every day is a new event

My main goal for studying abroad was to live in Japan, so I planned to go to school, make friends, and visit new places occasionally. In contrast, when I looked at the international students around me, they had their own goals for the year, such as traveling a lot and attending concerts of their favorite bands. When I heard about other people's plans, I felt anxious and worried that I had come to study abroad for the wrong reasons. However, I soon realized that my plans made sense on my terms and that worrying about them was a waste of time. I didn't have a grand plan, but instead, I treated every opportunity that came my way as a unique opportunity and took it. Early on in my studies, I was living in a shared house, and there were a lot of events such as barbecues and fireworks for those who were free at the right time. Normally, I wouldn't have actively participated in every single one of these events, but I made a promise to myself to cherish new experiences for at least the first year of studying abroad, so I eagerly mingled with people. There is something to be learned from everything in life, and it's up to each one to find meaning in it. I started by participating in various international student events, joining clubs on campus, doing part-time jobs, short-term internships, and other challenges to make my days full and meaningful. Thanks to this, I was able to achieve not only what I had planned, but also what I hadn't planned, and I was able to change many things about myself as I grew, changed, and gained various experiences. I also realized that the 'challenges' that I thought were unsurmountable were not that difficult, and I was proud of myself for gradually breaking through my fear of new things and taking on challenges with a light heart.


Everything is a learning experience

Another thing I realized is that learning isn't just about sitting down and holding a pen. I've never been much of a traveler or outdoorsy person but living abroad has forced me to move around a lot. There's something about seeing, hearing, and feeling things in person that resonates with me in a way that no other method of study can. For instance, in Japan, pedestrians usually walk on the left side by default, but in Osaka, they walk on the right side, so when you arrive there, you can blend in with the crowd and naturally walk on the right side, and it's an interesting experience to realize, 'Oh, I'm in Osaka.' Also, when you go to Okinawa, which used to be an independent country called the Ryukyu Kingdom, you can feel the atmosphere and landscape as being very different from mainland Japan, as it was influenced by American culture. I realized that each region has its own culture, food, dialect, etc., and that it's a good way to learn to feel it with your whole body, so I became more and more active in outdoor activities. Even if it's not a planned trip, just experiencing a new place I've never been before has been very stimulating and educational.


Finding new dreams in a new place

Japan is a country that is both near and far, and while there are certainly many similarities, there are also so many differences that it's fun to notice and analyze them. Through my many experiences in Japan, I've learned that there are many different paths to take and many ways to live your life. I think it was a year that made a big difference in my thinking, as I had vaguely thought, "When I finish school, I'll be like everyone else and get a job and go to work." In fact, during my exchange year, I participated in internships and interviews with companies. Through this experience, I became very attracted to Japanese companies and decided to prepare for a future working in Japan. If you ask me about studying abroad, a year is a long time, but it can also feel like a short time, so I think challenging myself and facing hardships in such a short period will have a huge impact on my life in the future. If you are hesitating by thinking that being an exchange student will be a waste of time, I would say don't hesitate and give it a try. I think you will grow from your exchange student experience.


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