Five years ago, if anyone would have told me I’d be celebrating my 21st birthday in Japan I would have said that they’re full of it before promptly fantasizing about it. Now, it’s almost surreal as I do that very thing. Not the fantasizing part, but the actual celebrating.
Turning 21 has always been a huge thing in the States. It’s a “We’re finally legal so let’s go out and massacre our livers in one fell swoop” kind of thing. Naturally, despite never being a big drinker, I was still affected by that same mindset. In fact, I was even looking forward to going out bar hopping with family and friends. Of course, things are a little different in Japan. The big day to be celebrated is when someone turns 20, so upon arrival in the amazing country, I was already legal for all the fun stuff. Despite this and not having the crazy “let’s kill my liver” kind of night, it was still a special and bittersweet day. More accurately, it’s been a bittersweet week.
A lot of fun things have happened, all of which you’ll have the chance to hear about in upcoming articles. I went to Yokohama for the first time, had Korean BBQ in Korea town and, obviously, turned 21. I have created so many great memories, but it almost stings thinking back on them as I write this article.
I bid farewell to the fall semester at Waseda. The official start to spring break was Feb. 2. It was a great relief and an achievement for the books. What came with that relief and achievement were farewells that had to be made as friends that were only here for half a year departed for home.
One of the best parts about studying abroad is the people we have the chance to meet. It’s a double-edged sword as what follows is also the worst part: having to say goodbye. We have this amazing opportunity to make lifelong friendships that can be so life-changing in the ways that we view the world. We connect with other people and establish relationships that essentially become a part of who we are, and then we have to say goodbye. Even if it’s not permanent it still stings watching the taxi drive away and waving furiously, emotions swirling inside us.
One conversation. A simple, “Is anyone sitting here?” question and an amazing, joyous, lifelong friendship is made. The people I’ve met and spent this semester in Japan with have made it ten times better than it would have otherwise been. It’s these people that we meet that come into our lives through the simplest interactions that enrich the experience of being in another country.
Plans are made, promises spoken, many laughs shared and, at the end, tears shed. There’s a feeling of bittersweet happiness this week as I welcome a literal new age for myself and part ways with close friends. I know it’s not goodbye forever, though. There are already plans for a New Years’ backpacking trip across Europe.