For me, Japan had always been a country I had dreamed of visiting.
I had seen countless photos of Geisha in Kyoto and the many beautiful temples and shrines; of huge skyscraper buildings, bright lights, Disneyland and excessively busy trains in Tokyo; of the amazing food in Osaka; Incredible nature in Hokkaido with small town vibes; and confronting history in Hiroshima. I had never heard of someone visiting Japan and not enjoying their often short visits.
Since leaving Australia almost 4 months ago, I have had the opportunity to make my dreams a reality and experience all these things and more. However, I always had a deeper desire to really understand Japanese culture and everyday life – to visit places and experience things tourist blogs may not recommend or have experienced themselves.
AIU was an easy choice for my exchange for this exact reason – a small, international campus located in the heart of a part of Japan I had never even heard of, surrounded by even more nature (and snow) than I expected, rural towns and filled with kind and welcoming people – Akita was my real dream come true.
Experiences at AIU
Since arriving at AIU, I have had some amazing opportunities such as participating in community engagement activities through RCOS (Research and Community Outreach Services) and interacting with both elementary, junior high-school and high-school students; met amazing friends and people; and gained a whole new perspective on the world and where I hope to be in the future.
Akita Rural Studies Course
A highlight of my experience thus far would definitely be having the opportunity to take Akita Rural Studies this semester.
This subject involved engaging with a local rural community (Kayagasawa) to uncover the real-life experiences of people living in rural Japan. The community was so welcoming and prepared delicious traditional food for us, making us feel more like a part of their community rather than outsiders.
We also had the opportunity to participate and experience traditional rural folk culture, something I never expected to have the chance to do. I was also surprised that although there are language barriers there seems to be an understanding beyond spoken words communicated through a sense of desire to learn more about one another and with the help of Japanese students this made the experience even more authentic and less difficult.
A Leap Worth the Fall
I believe the best way to reflect and learn more about yourself and the world is to interact with people from all walks of life and jump completely out of your comfort zone. I will forever be grateful for the people I have met at AIU for making this leap worth the fall.