Student Voice

2019.07.22Student Voice

Unexpected Kindness on the Other Side of the World: Elizabeth Jacobs, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, USA

Elizabeth (foreground) with unexpected friends on a trip to Shirakami Sanchi

Overcoming Fear of the Unknown

Despite all of my planning, coming here was the most overwhelming and terrifying experience of my life. I had only just barely left my comfort zone within my own country last year, when I finally left America’s East Coast to travel to Chicago. I knew I couldn’t possibly be prepared to suddenly be, let alone live, on the other side of the world. But while I initially found myself overwhelmed by how much I didn’t know how to do here in Japan - from getting around on my own, to speaking to the people around me - I adjusted, in no small part because of the wonderful community I’ve discovered here at AIU.

I am the kind of person that gets afraid easily, especially of the unknown, and traveling to the other side of the world is just about the greatest unknown that there is. I often find myself afraid of the future, as it is unpredictable, and I often fear people, because they are often more so.

But here, I’ve discovered that despite the barriers of language and culture, the unpredictability of human nature can often express itself as unexpected kindness.

Unexpected Kindness

There have been many times this semester that illustrate the kindness I have experienced through other students.

I have seen it in my usual friend group, who have to come to be like a second family to me. Exploring Japan with them has been a delight, and they are there for me on the days when the world feels so big that it is overwhelming. But beyond these friendships that I have come to rely on, the kindness, the friendliness of the student body here continues to amaze me.

I think the biggest example of unexpected kindness I experienced here was several months ago, when I woke up one morning and simply felt completely overwhelmed. I felt so far from home, and I was afraid, afraid that I was wasting my opportunities here, that the friends that I had made here did not like me. These were irrational fears, I know, but they brought to tears in front of a friend one morning in Komachi as she and her group of friends prepared for a road trip to Aomori. It was the unexpected kindness of her friends, that they invited me to join them when they saw how bad I felt that morning, and I am so glad that I got to on that trip with them.

Though the day was cold and rainy, I got to experience a waterfall, a blue lake, and the fun misadventures that road trips with a large group of people often invites. By the time I got home late that night, I had forgotten all about the fears that had seemed so overwhelming that morning, and instead replaced them with great memories that I will never forget, brought on by the kindness of fellow students who I barely knew. I feel so grateful to them for that experience, for that day.

I feel like this is indicative of the kindness I experience often here at AIU, though so often it is expressed in smaller ways. Whenever I feel scared or alone, there are people around willing to be there for me, even if we barely know each other, even if we speak different languages and come from completely different parts of the world. The students of AIU truly give me hope for the world in times where, again, the future seems uncertain. But I can at least rely on the kindness of strangers to remind me that there is kindness in all people, no matter where I go.