The summer I spent in Matsue, Japan studying at Shimane University was the most impactful in my entire life. I have been studying Japanese since the age of 9 and going back to Japan was one of my life-long dreams. I enrolled into the University of Florida with the hopes of making this dream come true. The journey to Shimane was the longest travel experience that I ever had in my life. I essentially went almost 4 days with less than 2 hours of sleep, but there was not a moment that I felt tired. I was so looking forward to arriving at my destination that I was energized the entire time. When I arrived to the University, I was extremely overwhelmed. As an international student you must register with the post office, city hall, health insurance, learn how to pay your bills and many more things. Matsue is in such a rural area that not so many people there speak English at all. That really made everything so much more challenging. Luckily, the University assigns Japanese peer tutors who help you adjust to daily life and complete all of those tasks. I became very close to my peer tutor, and we spent a lot of time together. She showed me around Matsue and introduced me to a lot of new foods. It was so comforting knowing that there was always someone I could turn to if I needed anything. The students at Shimane are so supportive of international students and their education on Japanese language and culture. I made a lot of friends during my time at Shimane who I still keep in contact with to this day. Because of them, I have a much greater understanding of Japanese culture, and my Japanese language ability is better than ever. This experience reignited my passion for studying Japanese and gave me more ideas about my future career options.
While I was in Shimane, I had the opportunity to travel and see historic sites around Shimane and in Hiroshima as well. My favorite place that I visited was Itsukushima Shrine on Miyajima island. It was one of the most beautiful natural sites that I have ever seen in my life. When I return to Japan after graduation I definitely want to visit there again. Out of everything the best part of my experience in Japan was the opportunity I had to visit the city where I was born. Yokohama is so beautiful and there were so many things to see. While I was there, I was able to meet my younger siblings for the first time. They’re both Japanese and have lived in Japan since they were born, so we’ve been separated our entire lives. I will never be able to put into words the emotions I felt upon being able to meet and spend time with both of them. I am so grateful and elated to have had the chance to fulfill one of my dreams.