An Open Letter: Robert Kauffman, Drexel University, U.S.A.

City of Omagari in Akita is renowned for Firework Festival. It gathers 800,000 people from all over Japan.


As I’ve begun packing for my departure from AIU and Japan, I’ve reflected a lot on my experiences over the course of my exchange.  Coming to Japan has brought with it its own steep learning curve and unique set of challenges, but I sleep well knowing that regrets aren’t something I will be bringing back with me.  Even still, it’s sometimes impossible for me to imagine just how much life I’ve lived in these 6 months and I have so much to be thankful for.  Even my wildest expectations pale in comparison to the time I’ve spent here at AIU.

There is a well-known saying that life is what happens while you’re busy making plans and I’ve come to realize the weight of those words.  Everyone has their own image of what it means to live in Japan, but the reality of it is that I wound up exactly where I needed to be.  Early on, I complained that I didn’t often travel or spend my time exactly how I wanted because of coursework or clubs, but as time carried on, I realized that the day to day at AIU is what got me up each morning.  And although I sometimes considered skipping volleyball practice or an FLCP(Foreign Language Conversation Partner) meeting for spontaneous fun, those were the things I’ve come to value the most and I feel like belonged doing them.  Unsurprisingly, nearly all of my memories of AIU are rose-tinted, and I probably could write hundreds of pages about the fun things I saw and did in Japan.


Robert standing left side of the signboard, waiting for the festival began.


However, nothing seems to sum up the excitement or energy of my time at AIU quite like the Omagari fireworks festival.  Funnily enough, the entire experience was the exactly on brand with the perfect chaos of beginning a study abroad.  In my case, having only just arrived in the country, I traveled far off campus with people I didn’t know to see an event I had never heard of.  Rain constantly threatened to ruin the entire day, and my Japanese was less than functional at best.  In spite-or perhaps because-of this, the festival was one of my favorite memories ever.  I wouldn’t know it at the time, but pushing through the crowded streets in the rain, fumbling around getting to know my classmates and seeing some of the best things Japan has to offer truly, honestly set the tone for the rest of my time at AIU.  I’ll never forget the feeling of looking up at the night sky in anticipation for what was to become of my time at Akita International University.