breaking free

Authored By:

Rachel F.

Isn’t is wild how much can change in just one year? If you stop and think of all the things that have changed in your life, it’ll seem pretty crazy. I do a lot of this kind of self-reflection often and every time I am still shocked at how different my life is right now than it was at this time last year. Let me explain.

Last year I was, of course, a senior in high school. I confess, I was not the type of person who was really into school spirit or school activities. All I could think about was graduation. I spent 10 months waiting for one day. Out of the 8 classes I was taking, I only really cared about two- guitar and Chinese. Forcing myself to go to class every day (like the good student I am) was draining. Pretty depressing, wouldn’t you say? At a certain point after I knew I was going to take a gap year, I began to set my sights on a different experience. Yes, I would be leaving high school (which I felt was long overdue) and yes, I would be going to the place I had been thinking about nonstop for the entire year, but to get where I really wanted to go would take even more time. My gap year program did not begin until the end of September, so I really had the longest summer break ever.

The difference between last year and this year is like night and day. Quite literally, actually, considering back in America while it is the morning here, it’s the evening there and vice versa. I am able to focus all of my energy and brain power on the one class I have and I have noticed HUGE improvements in my ability to speak, comprehend, and write all in just over a month of being here! I feel wildly accomplished and I’m not even finished yet. I like being in class, which isn’t something I could say about any of my core classes last year. In addition to my Japanese class, the time I spend outside of the classroom has kept me highly entertained. As I have mentioned before, there is no shortage of things to do in Tokyo. Often, I find myself in a museum (shoutout to Ueno park for being wildly convenient to walk to from school) or exploring an area I haven’t been to before. Exploring on foot is great because it helps me develop my personal mental map of Tokyo, which I take great pride in. And if Tokyo isn’t enough, I can take a weekend trip elsewhere! In fact, just this weekend I was in Osaka (more on that later ;-) ). I have so much freedom to plan how I spend my time, I never feel like I am stuck anywhere.

Being able to meet new people has been so refreshing for my life, I really feel like a completely different person. Not only have I met some people the CIEE college students have met in their classes at Sophia University, but I am able to meet people on my own at the language school. All of the people attending my language school are foreigners, but I think it is great that I will be able to forge memories and connections with people that live elsewhere, too. I am very excited to meet with them in the future? Also, because my language classes are on a weekly basis (meaning it is short-term so new people come and go each week) my classes are always changing.