Farewell For Now

As I’m writing this, I’m also preparing for the new school year at Notre Dame. I’ve had a week to flip my cultural switch and settle back in to my American habits. In that week, I had time to relax, unwind, and think about everything that happened during my six weeks of study. I learned a lot in class, but the most valuable things I took away from my experience weren’t linguistic in nature.

At the time I really didn’t realize just how challenging and sometimes uncomfortable it was to live in a country where practically no one speaks your native tongue. I didn’t realize how nearly overwhelming all of the kanji and new customs and attempted conversations were until I came back home. Being able to speak English again was a breath of fresh air. In comparison to having to navigate all of the new experiences in Tokyo, simple things like small talk and asking strangers questions in English seemed so much easier. I felt more assured, as silly as that might sound.

That said, I definitely picked up some funny quirks in my six weeks that have stuck with me a week later. I still bow a little bit when introducing myself or thanking someone. I drift to the left when walking anywhere rather than sticking to the right. Just little mundane things like that. My favorite quirk is how I mix up English writing and Japanese writing sometimes. Katakana and hiragana are both phonetic scripts, and they both have symbols for “to.” The Japanese “to,” however, it more like “toe.” Regardless, I got into a habit of writing quickly and writing the hiragana “to,” then the katakana “to,” and then finally writing in English. And it’s still happening.

All this rambling is to say that I really think this experience will stick with me academically and personally for the rest of my life. It seems strange to say it, but I think those six weeks are a part of me now. It wasn’t just fun, it was formative, and I think what I took away will help me shape my future. Grandiose proclamations aside, I am truly grateful for my time in Tokyo, and I can’t wait to go back.

Farewell, for now. We will meet again.