Here I Am: 2015

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:

  • Travelling alone 

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.

  • Spring in Japan

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.

  • Living in a shared house

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.

  • Studying abroad

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.

  • Rice planting

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!

  • Hot springs

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.

  • Zen Trip

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?

  • Rollercoasters!

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.

  • Fireworks

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.

  • Osaka Aquarium

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!


The Decision to Wait

How do you know when you’re making the right decision? Most of the time, you don’t — well, not until the moment is over. I guess that’s the reason so many people are obsessed with the concept of time travelling. Let me stop there because that’s not the purpose of this post. Tonight I’ve made an important decision.

You see, I’m greedy. Studying abroad in Japan has changed me. It has given me a lifetime’s worth of great memories, broaden my perspective of the world and allowed me to meet some of the most amazing people in the world.

I left Australia seeking for answers but only to return home with more uncertainty. That experience caused me to question myself, my potential and my future. There’s a lot I don’t know about the world, but I want that lesson to be learnt abroad in Japan.

Since coming home, I’ve been juggling with the idea of participating in the JET Programme as an Assistant Language Teacher.

There’s just a few small problems. For one, I don’t finish my studies until June next year — which makes it incredibly risky for me to apply for a July departure. Secondly, I don’t want to miss my graduation ceremony. I don’t see myself pursuing further studies, so this may literally be a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” There’s also the matter of my current finances.

The deadline is approaching quickly and I’ve yet to begin. I remember applying for another exchange program during high school. I managed to submit my application in time, but it wasn’t my best effort. I knew it wasn’t. Needless to say, I did not get in.

With everything at stake, I want to make sure I am putting my best foot forward: I will wait for the next intake in 2016.

This gives me half a year to focus on saving up and brushing up my language skills. I also intend to study for the JLPT N2 and volunteer during this time. It will also be a nice break; I have been studying for the past sixteen years. There’s a lot on the line: I’m literally putting a halt on pursuing my professional career. With that said, I’m feeling reassured.

Do you recall the saying “all roads lead to Rome”?

Although I may not be taking the conventional route of finding an office job immediately after graduation, it does not mean I am bound for failure. Success is measured in more ways than one. As long as I’m working hard and pursuing my dreams, I have succeeded.

Back Home in Melbourne

I’m baffled that it has been two months since my last update. Before leaving I told myself I would blog regularly – so much for that!

It was probably for the better. Rather than being caught up with documenting the moment, I was living it. I have little regrets. However I pray that my memory will be good enough when it comes to future updates.

I’m slowly adjusting back to life here in Melbourne; uni has already started and on Tuesday, I will be back to work.

The hardest part about leaving Japan was bidding farewell from the special people I met. In addition to that, the uncertainty of when we will meet again – although that’s the case with good-byes.

As I always like to remind myself, all good things must come to an end. What I tend to forget is that life is a never ending journey.

I wonder what the upcoming months will be like.