When I was a freshman in high school at the age of 14, I knew that I wanted to study abroad in college. I had grown up listening to my older brother watch Japanese shows which started my fascination with the Japanese Culture. As I got older, this fascination grew and manifested into what it had become for me today: a serious devotion to become fluent in Japanese and live in Japan. During the summer before my senior year of high school, my dad had surprised my brother and I with a trip to Japan. As soon as we arrived in Japan, I knew that I needed to return one day.
As soon as I got accepted to Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, my plan to study abroad in Japan began. I enrolled in Japanese classes every semester and regularly met with the study abroad advisor. After two years of University, I was finally able to study abroad during my Fall 2019 semester of my junior year. I never expected my study abroad experience to change and affect who I was as a person as much as it did.
It was my first experience being completely on my own in a whole new country thousands of miles away from my family and friends. It was my first time flying and traveling alone as well. I was excited, but nervous and scared all at the same time. I had my doubts that I wouldn’t be able to make any friends, or that my Japanese classes would be way to tough for me and that I’d give up. However, these fears were far from the truth. As soon as I landed in Japan and met my fellow study abroad students, I realized that this experience would change me for the rest of my life. I was so right.
When studying abroad, I met so many amazing people from around the world. It was meeting and interacting with these people that truly changed who I was as a person. The shy and timid girl who I once was transformed into someone who felt confident in herself. I was able to start up conversations with strangers in Japanese, lead my friends throughout the crowded streets of Tokyo, guide and translate for my family when they visited me in Japan, and even travel on my own to the countryside of Japan without fear.
Throughout my time in Japan, I gained confidence in myself and truly realized that it’s alright to be myself around others. I had always struggled with being myself due to the fear that others might reject me for who I was. However, my time in Japan made me realize that the only ones who matter in life are those who truly accept you for who you are, flaws and all. Through realizing this, I was able to make friendships and connections with my fellow international students, Japanese students, teachers and even Japanese locals who I know will always be there for me even when I am thousands of miles away.
I made some true friendships in Japan that will continue to grow even while I am back in America. For those students reading this who are debating on whether or not to study abroad, just do it. As cliché as it may sound, studying abroad truly changed my life. Without studying abroad in Japan, I never would’ve gained the confidence to be myself, excelled in my Japanese language abilities, and may have given up my dream of living and teaching English in Japan. And I definitely never would’ve made these friendships of a lifetime.
Studying abroad was by far the best decision I have ever made in my life. It has not only affected me as a person, but it has also changed my life and goals for the future. So why not take that chance, buy that ticket, and go off to have an adventure of a lifetime? The only thing stopping you is you. Go and explore the world, explore who you are, and learn about yourself and others in a way you never thought was possible. I made the best decision I ever have in my life…. will you?
Dominique DiGiacomo is a student at Rowan University, an ISA Guest Blogger, and an ISA Global Ambassador. She studied abroad with ISA in Tokyo, Japan.