Author: Brandon Polinski

Location: Kansai region, Japan

Pronouns: He/His/Him

On Thursday, December 19, 2019 I submitted the last final exam I needed to take for the Kansai Gaidai University Asian Studies program, marking the end of my life as a student here. Since then, I have been wrapping up loose ends and preparing for the journey home. This is the obligatory “end of the semester” blog post in which I must try to concisely summarize the essence of what this experience meant to me.

The men of the 5th floor of YUI.

Unfortunately, a few paragraphs and pictures cannot remotely do justice to what I experienced here this semester. In a relatively short time span, I saw and experienced so much. I have more friends and acquaintances around the globe now then I possibly could have imagined having a few months ago. I feel as if I have gained years of knowledge and insights about the world. It was almost as if a curtain was obscuring my view and some of it has now been torn away. There is still so much I am ignorant of, but I can see the big picture more clearly than before.

Farwell party, hosted by the best bartender in Hirakata 🙂

There has always been a lack of understanding in the world, and I find myself uneasy whenever I see a close-minded view with regards to different experiences, people, cultures, and beliefs. A similar feeling of uneasiness also comes over me when I look at my past self, but this showcases how much I have and will continue to grow. Building bridges, seeking to understand that which is different from what we take for granted, and recognizing our faults is critical to building a better world. I am eternally grateful to the Kansai Gaidai exchange program for the bridges I was able to build here, and for everything I learned not just about Japan or the world, but also about myself.

YUI Kyoto trip (And this was the smallest YUI trip this semester). YUI proved to be much more than simply a place to live. It was an actual community that planned and hosted events that were far more ambitious than any past dorm I lived in.

Over the past few months, I was not just pushed to my limits. I was pushed beyond them. I had to completely crush fears that used to control me, because that sort of thing was not an option here. I remember all the embarrassing mistakes I have made, the exhausting travel, and my complete confusion and bewilderment at some of the bureaucratic processes I had to go through in order to live here. There are plenty of things I would have done differently. I wish I had done a better job of enduring the summer heat and traveled more sooner. I also wish I was more efficient of a student here (I am very anxiously awaiting my grades for my Japanese classes).

For my final trip to Kobe, I got to see the Kobe Luminarie, a massive light construction that is up for the duration of the holidays.

However, the overall sum of what I now have is a massive net gain. When I look at where I was at the start of 2019, and look at where I am now, the difference is shocking. I realize this is not an option for everyone, but people who feel as if they have hit a wall, have plateaued, are “stuck” or are just unhappy with themselves – should consider looking into opportunities that allow for traveling. It certainly helped me.

Final meeting of 2019 with an old friend.

Looking to the future, I certainly plan to come back. I have even joked (But maybe it could become serious) that I would come back for my birthday in May. Many other places are on my list as well. I used to have tunnel vision when it came to travel, completely focusing on Japan, but there is so much more out there. However, I do need a rest. As sad as leaving is, I look forward to returning to my simpler life in America and reestablishing myself. Until next time, Japan.

Final meeting with Isho, my speaking partner.