Author: Brandon Polinski
Location: Kansai region, Japan
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.