By: Reede Lowery, Northern Lights College, winner of the BC Study Abroad: Stories from Abroad Scholarship
Study Abroad Destination: Japan
My year-long stay in Japan is almost completed. There’s a lot of mixed emotions when returning back home. On one hand, I'm excited to see my parents and friends but on the other, I have to leave all the connections I’ve made in Japan. But besides those mixed emotions, I also feel a sort of anxiety. The anxiety I feel can neatly be summed in the question “Did I do/experience enough during my time here?”. I’m sure many students abroad have this type of question running through their heads as their stay comes to a close. As students who study abroad, it is only natural that we want to do and experiences as much as humanly possible during our short stays. We have to see this event. We have to go to that place. Then we see the social media accounts of others and feel even more pressure to fill up our schedules with as many things as possible. If we don’t “pack up” our schedules then we’re made to feel as though we’re not spending our time well enough.
Throughout the first months of my stay in Japan, I tended to be more concerned with what I wasn't doing than what I was doing. I was terrified that I was wasting my time and that I wasn’t taking full advantage of this amazing opportunity. For the first 2 months, I tried to fully book my week with numerous events and schedules. I tried to visit, participate, and experience any and everything I could. Obviously I burnt out pretty quick. Between my schooling, part-time job, and all the events I had almost no time to enjoy Japan in my own way. While all the things I was doing were fun they were also exhausting. Sometimes I’d rather see and experience things on my own, without a group or guide. Sometimes I’d rather just walk around and take photos of odd statues in Osaka city (such as a giraffe made of legos). It’s not bad to have a list of things you want to do/see but you shouldn’t let that list control how you enjoy your time abroad. Don’t focus on the things you didn’t do, instead focus on what you did do. Your time abroad is unique to you so spend your time how you want.