Friday, September 30, 2011

More Self-Discovery

It's been a long time since I've updated, but I feel like it took a whole week to come up with something interesting to write. I don't want this to serve as a diary of each individual, tedious event I experience during my stay in Japan. I'd much rather it be a topic of discussion, controversy, and overall, I want my words to spark deep contemplation of everyday matters or events that a monolingual speaker may take for granted.

After a four-day orientation for Ritsumeikan University, I was placed in the Intermediate Japanese classes. The Japanese Program Director from my home institution thought that I would have been a Lower-Intermediate student. I was really glad to hear that I made it to a harder class, but at the same time I know that means I desperately need to catch up on a lot of studying. It's interesting thinking that once all of the "difficult" parts of being an exchange student are over, it will be fine. In reality though, it's never going to be truly easy. Even if I spoke at the native level, there would still be some things that are difficult.

During my time here, I've grown. I know that much, and it has been almost three weeks since I arrived. The difficulty of every day life is something I've been fortunate enough not to experience in my home country, but I feel that every day in Japan throws a new challenge my way. Last Sunday, a man I didn't know went into grand mal on the Shinkansen. I wanted to help, but didn't know how. I found myself saying, "Train Person. Train Person." The man ended up being okay, but I can't even begin to describe how frustrated I was. I wanted to help him, but I couldn't find the words. The words for sickness, medicine, help, and man ran through my mind faster than I could say them, but none of them fit. The man eventually came out of his seisure, and he was escorted off the train at a local station to receive treatment from an ambulance. It was one of the scariest moments I've experienced in my life, but it made me understand how much I actually want to speak this language fluently.

Despite these feelings, however, I feel as though I'm losing sight of why I'm here. I am still passionate about the language I'm learning, and I'm enjoying my time here, but loneliness is the problem I'm facing. I am not homesick, and I don't feel as though I'm experiencing culture shock. I think this is more of growing up. I'm not around anyone I know very often, and while I have made some good friends speaking English, I don't want to speak my native language the majority of my time here. I want friends, and haven't (excuse me) got the balls I need to just step out and make Japanese friends. It's a really weird feeling, and I'm not sure what to do with it. I know in order to get over this feeling, I just have to do. I can't try. I just have to do. I never thought I would say that my boyfriend is right, but when I feel this annoying twang of self-pity, I can hear him say over and over, "Stop trying. Just DO it."

I need to remember the people I have supporting me rather than worry about the people I go to school with. That sounds a little insensitive (probably a lot), but I really want to make more Japanese friends. I don't want to be less than fluent by the time I leave. I want to spea like a native, and the only way to do that it is to go out and do my damnedest.

I think I will go out tomorrow morning and visit my most favorite place on earth. I'll sit down and just think for awhile and collect myself. I'll ask for guidance from an old friend and learn to control my emotions. I will e-mail a few of the circles on campus and ask to join or watch, or whether I could be a part of their group in any way. I'm going to find inventive ways to study and make a schedule and stick to it.

I've got to get better.

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