I am so thankful that I decided to go abroad this summer to study in Japan. Being that it was my first time leaving the United States, I expected some culture shock, but was pleasantly surprised with how quickly I grew comfortable. It was almost immediate! Our friends at our sister school, Osaka Ohtani University, were so welcoming and made us feel right at home from the time we arrived until we departed from Osaka. Spending time with local university students was a great experience. We even lived with other college students of similar age; it was amazing. Exchanging funny stories and getting a better understanding of what life is like for people of a similar demographic in a different country was really fun. Comparing similarities and differences of our day to day lives was enjoyable to hear.
Experiencing the peace memorials in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki helped me realize the multitude of perspectives different people have on, not just the attainment of peace, but any issue in general. The peace and atomic bomb-themed museums in these cities offered an entirely different view into the events than we learn throughout our education in the United States. I was deeply moved by my experiences in these cities and am grateful to have seen some of the other side of the story regarding WWII. Knowledge of others’ perspectives helps to either reason through your own perspective, or adapt it to new information, maybe even change it all together. The beauty of this is that the more you know and experience, the more you can be confident that your take on any given situation is rational.
My favorite part of the trip was what it helped me realize about myself. What I think I gained most is critical thinking skills and analytic strategies that I didn’t even realize I lacked. Through the different types of people we talked to and the sources I studied before the trip, I gained a better understanding of effective and persuasive communication. I was able to pick up on who is telling you “x”, why they are telling you “x” and why they presented “x” to you in the way that they did, and also how that relates to who you are. I truly think the trip helped me in my studies as a Philosophy and Global Religions major to really dig deeper into information given to you, and weigh that in with other beliefs you already hold. Experiencing a new culture really helps to recognize how narrow just one perspective is, and helps to appreciate differences among people. I think that experiencing a new culture helps one realize that just because something is a given or “norm” for them, does not mean that it is a given anywhere else. I see it as very humbling to recognize these cultural distinctions and to consider the endless possibilities of minute differences that exist from any one culture to the next. I am so happy to have experienced Japan as my first foreign country and introduction into different cultures abroad.
Issues can arise when facing multiple or conflicting perspectives on any given topic, but these issues can be alleviated once you are able to take in and analyze all sides. Using them to base your own individual perspective on one of them, a combination of many of them, or a refutation of some or one of them we are able to become more well-rounded people because we understand more than just our own take on a situation. These issues also subside when you realize how many perspectives there really are and how they all relate, and often, are trying to reach a similar goal. I found this to be the case while traveling in Japan and I strongly recommend to anyone considering studying abroad to go for it and to keep in mind the innumerable amount of perspectives that exist around any topic you choose to study!