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!

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