By: Kyle Lee, Simon Fraser University, winner of the Spring 2022 BC Study Abroad: Stories from Abroad Scholarship
Study Abroad Destination: Japan
Even though I’m more than halfway through my exchange semester in Tokyo, there are still moments when I can’t believe I’ve made it here. When I first found out I was able to go on exchange, after trying for two years throughout the pandemic, I was extremely grateful. I promised myself that I would take full advantage of this opportunity. However, despite all the planning I did prior to travelling to Japan, there were still many aspects of exchange that surprised me.
The first was the international community that I found among the rest of the exchange students. As I got to meet people and make new friends, I’ve almost learned just as much about Japan as I have about other countries around the world that I’ve never been to before. It’s also easy, especially in a big city, to live out your life similar to how you would at home. I’ve been able to speak English most of the time, buy the brands I’m familiar with, and otherwise live comfortably once I adjusted. But I didn’t travel halfway across the world to live like how I do at home. I had to be intentional about learning Japanese, meeting people outside of the exchange student community, and living less like a tourist and more like a local. It’s been a very rewarding experience and I highly recommend anybody going on exchange to immerse themselves in the country they study in. Living in a country is vastly different from visiting during a week-long vacation.
Another thing about the exchange I didn’t anticipate is a newfound appreciation for my hometown. Occasionally I would chat with new friends about our home countries, and after sharing more about where I’m from and learning more about their countries, I realized that there’s a lot I took for granted after living in Vancouver my whole life. In Japan, I would visit temples, parks, and just wander around the city and think to myself about how nice it all is - how nice would it be to have these things in Vancouver? Of course, there are many fun things to do in Vancouver as well. I’ve just been living more adventurously here in Tokyo.
While I’m sad to think my exchange semester is almost over, I am also excited to return to Vancouver and explore the city like a tourist and appreciate all the things I once overlooked.