By: Reede Lowery, Northern Lights College, winner of the BC Study Abroad: Stories from Abroad Scholarship
Study Abroad Destination: Japan
Sometimes as foreign students we can get caught up in a cycle of continuous comparisons between our home country with the country we are studying in. Of course this isn’t always negative (especially as it can help increase understanding of two different cultures) but if you concentrate solely on comparing everything you see or experience you risk losing focus of the present. I have met plenty of other foreign students who seemingly do nothing but compare their lives in their home countries to their current lives in Japan. When I chat with them I almost always hear phrases like “The food in Japan is so much better!”, “My house in Sweden is way bigger.”, and even “The sunsets from my home town are much prettier than the ones in Japan.” Why does everything need to be compared to something? Is it really that essential for all foreigners to put all their current experiences against the ones they had back in their home country? Again, I don’t mean to say that you should never compare two different cultures (because that can lead to plenty of issues) but when you fixate on only the differences/similarities then you restrict your ability to fully appreciate the cultures for what they are.
For example, In Northern BC (where my home is) the sky is vast and the landscapes seem to stretch forever. There’s not a single building to be seen for miles. Japan, where I am currently studying and living, is a different story. Japan is a highly urbanized country with a limited amount of land so completely escaping the influence of humans is exceedingly difficult. But despite this, I love the landscapes here just as much as the ones in Canada. It would be astonishingly easy to compile a list of the ways the scenery is different or describe how Canadian landscapes are better/worse. But I just find it more worthwhile to simply enjoy what I see. Sure, the landscapes in Japan are vastly different from what I’d normally see in Canada but it seems unfair to compare the two since both come from radically different sources. Both are beautiful for different reasons. So instead I just try to appreciate what I see or experience on its own. Not everything needs to be put against my Canadian standards or expectations; some things are better savoured on their own. Especially sunsets.