As I was preparing to leave for Japan, many people told me that the perspective gained from studying abroad would change my life. I’m happy to say that they were right! From classes to clubs to RCOS activities, Akita International University provided me with innumerable opportunities to experience new perspectives that had a profound impact on me.
But while I knew all along that my time at AIU would provide me with a new perspective on the world, I didn’t expect to also gain a new perspective on myself.
Stuck in a Rut
I was in a rut before I came to AIU. While my grades were good, I just wasn’t getting what I wanted out of my social life or my involvement in extra-circular activities.
I realize now that a big part of the reason I felt this way was the fact that I spent too much time thinking about who I should be and not enough time thinking about who I actually was or what I really wanted. I spent a lot of time building up an image of myself as well as a social network to reinforce that image and I definitely took myself way too seriously.
That is, until I came to AIU.
Studying abroad cut me off from the image I had built and forced me to look at myself more honestly.
I remember that being a really scary prospect in the beginning, like freshman year all over again. But whereas freshman year often comes with the pressure of needing to find a community for the next four years, AIU felt like a community from day one.
There was a genuine sense of goodwill between everyone on campus that was unlike anything I’ve experienced before, even at my home university. I didn’t feel like I had to be anyone or anything at AIU. I could really let my guard down and as a result, I enjoyed closer friendships and more rewarding experiences outside of the classroom than ever before in my college career.
I really like the person I became at AIU. I came away from my time there feeling happier, healthier and more fulfilled than I have in years.
That feeling wasn’t just a matter of being away from home, it was a direct result of being at AIU. I couldn’t have gained this new insight into myself without the peace and beauty of the Akita countryside, the friendly and supportive AIU community and the incredible experiences I had around Akita.
As I return to life at my home university, I hope I can continue to be the relaxed, easygoing kind of person AIU showed me I could be. I’m grateful beyond words for the time I got to spend at Akita International University and for the lessons it taught me.