I’ve lived in Athens, Ohio for most of my life. I’m definitely what people would consider a “townie.” My first time ever leaving home was to study away at Musashi University in Tokyo, Japan. I figured for my first travel experience, I should go big or go home. I hadn’t really planned on going to Tokyo, but when Charlie Morgan – a sociology professor here at Ohio University – came to speak to my freshman HTC Seminar about this exchange program in Tokyo, I figured it was the perfect opportunity. So I went to an info session, applied to the program, packed my bags (overweight, I might add), and flew to Japan.
My first night in Tokyo was a doozy. I didn’t speak any Japanese, I arrived late at night, I was exhausted from the plane ride with crying twins, and I only had a vague idea of where my dorm was. When I finally reached my dorm after getting lost a handful of times, I knew that this trip was really going to force me to grow in ways I hadn’t thought of before – and I was excited for the adventure.
My overall experience at Musashi University was definitely memorable. I met so many awesome people from all over the world, as well as other Ohio University students that I wouldn’t have met if it hadn’t been for this experience. I still keep in close contact with all of the other Ohio University students that I met while at Musashi, and they’re all like older brothers to me. Of course, I also met tons of Japanese students that I still keep in contact with! One of the things that makes Musashi University so special is that there is a student center called the Musashi Communication Village (MCV), which is a place for Japanese students to go and practice English and socialize with international students.
Living in Tokyo was definitely a big change from little Athens, Ohio. Aside from the language barrier, which was some days incredibly difficult, I was often just overwhelmed with how big the city was. However, I loved the anonymity of big city life, and there were always fun ways to spend my weekends. I know Block Party just passed, and if you think that Halloween is crazy in Athens, just try navigating through Halloween crowds in Shibuya – one of the most popular shopping districts in central Tokyo, famous for Shibuya Crossing. Tokyo life was great because I got to cross things off of my bucket list before I even knew they were on my bucket list! Tokyo is a great mix of big city life and traditional, Japanese culture. Next to huge shopping centers you can find temples and shrines, and little family-run shops that have been around for generations.
I did keep a blog as well as a journal while I was in Tokyo, which I would definitely recommend to anyone studying abroad. I was able to write about how I was feeling in the moment, and my family back home was able to follow along and know what I was up to. Having that blog is also a chronicle of how I grew as a person along my journey, how I problem-solved, went through life epiphanies, and how I experienced new things.
Studying in Tokyo at Musashi University was definitely one of the most transformative experiences of my life. I met so many wonderful people, I ate plenty of amazing food, and I learned so many things about myself and the world. I can’t wait until I can return to Tokyo again, someday!
By Mailé Nguyen, an OGO Peer Advisor