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A Year Abroad with Kara

by Kara Goughnour

The hardest thing about culture shock for those interested in Japanese culture is not recovering from unfulfilled expectations, since there is no shortage of the thriving and bubbly pop culture and the rich and traditional food that most people know.

Instead, the hardest thing about culture shock is not only remaining respectful and controlled in the exciting and new environment, but also breaking free from feelings of isolation as a foreigner in Japan or any other country you travel to.

Of the many differences between Japan and the western world, those that seemed most surprising at first could be quickly summed up into two words: community and convenience.

People in Japan rely on convenience every day, from freshly packed lunches at the grocery store to public transit available at every corner.

Japan also has the ideal that bettering the group is more important than the self, and this with the lack of diversity can lead foreigners to feel as though it’s impossible to fit in.

There are other problems as well. It’s extremely easy to run out of money quickly once you’ve found the shelves upon shelves of merchandise for your favorite Japanese game, show or band, so make sure to keep careful watch of how much money you’re spending and what you’re buying.

Learning the new, different manners of a culture and going out of your way to be polite and make a good impression becomes stressful once you become afraid of making constant mistakes and offending someone.

But the most important thing to do is continue to try your best, and not to worry so much that it harms the wonderful experience that is traveling abroad.

Each issue this semester, we will follow Kara’s journey of studying abroad in Japan. Check back next issue for more stories and tips from Kara.

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