I have no plans for this New Years Eve, so I am following my yearly tradition of writing a reflection post.
It’s always a challenge decide what I want to write, so I will just cut to the chase without getting to sentimental.
To sum it up, 2015 was a whirlwind of adventure. The amount of things I accomplished in the past twelve months really amazes me. There was a lot of first-time experiences, including:
I have always travelled with family, usually my mother. In Mid-March, I flew to Taipei by myself and spent a week with my brother.
I then made my way to Tokyo, but not without sobbing like a baby before taking the shuttle to the airport.
Despite all my research, I still got lost on the streets of Jimbocho, Tokyo. It was then where I held my first Japanese conversation with a native speaker and had a taste of what Tokyo has to offer.
The timing of my study abroad programme coincided with springtime in Japan. I was able to enjoy the cherry blossoms in the amazing city of Nagoya.
After our first day as exchange students, my housemates and I had a flower viewing party at Tsuruma Park.
I still live at home with my family, so staying at a shared house was something new to me. I learnt a lot about caring for myself and how to live with others. Additionally, I made new friends who I believe will continue to be a significant part of my adult life.
This was the reason I was in Japan for four months. It gave me the experience of a lifetime and completely changed my perspective of the world. There were many instances where I pushed myself out of my comfort zone and I’m very proud that I did. Coming home, I am more open-minded and eager to improve myself.
As a part of the cultural enrichment program, NUCB organised for us to go rice planting in Gifu. We also took a walk on the Nakasendo, Japan’s ancient highway.
- Attending a baseball game
Despite not understanding the rules, this was an item on my list of things to do in Japan. After a private tour around Nagoya Dome, we watched Chunich Dragon play against the Saitama Lions. The synchronised rhythmic clapping was my favourite part!
My first authentic hot spring visit was at Nagato-shi’s Otanisanso. This is easily one of the best ryokans I have visited. The food was amazing and the baths were at the perfect temperature.
After that, I also visited another ryokan in Takayama as well as a public bath in Gifu.
- Teaching at a Japanese middle school
One of my language teachers had a friend who taught English at a middle school in Nisshin. I was a little reluctant to go but somehow ended up spending an afternoon there as a special guests. They sent me some handwritten letters a few months letter too.
This was another activity organised by NUCB where we stayed overnight at a Buddhist temple, saw fireflies and tried za-zen.
- Appearing in a Japanese newspaper
I was chosen to give a comment about my experiences from the Zen Trip. Pretty cool, huh?
We visited Universal Studios Japan during a short weekend trip to Kyoto. It was my fist time at an amusement park. I made a point to visit again during my trip this month. I’m addicted to the adrenaline.
Nothing compares to summer festivals in Japan. Our timing in Japan worked out perfectly, so I was able to attend Oiden Matsuri in Toyota (the city). It is one of most famous festivals in the Kansai region spanning across a few days. On the second day, there is a huge two-hour firework display.
My friends and I attended in our yukatas. Even the guys got dressed up!
- Placing 1st Place at a film festival
My class made a film about critical thinking and submitted it to a student film festival. Somehow we won and earned a bunch of JCB Gift Certificates. I spent my share on make-up at BIC Camera.
- Overnight at a haunted building
OK, I’m not sure if it’s actually haunted but my friends and I joined the Cultural Night at NUCB. They had a building with fully furnished rooms and a huge TV. Despite renting out a bunch of futons, many of the students stayed up all night.
- Watched a sumo wrestling match
Usually tickets for these matches are crazy expensive. It was something I really wanted to do and somehow NUCB was able to organise it for us. Talk about blessed!
- Climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge
It wasn’t scary at all.
I petted a stingray and took a selfie with a friendly seal. Life is good.
- Sumo wrestler and maiko spottings
Only in Japan where you see a sumo wrestler taking the train and two maiko taking the taxi.
See what I mean by whirlwind? I’m really grateful for everything 2015 has offered me, both the good and the bad. I’m not sure how 2016 will fare, but I guess we will find out.
Happy New Years everyone!