Lessons in Culture and Life in Japan by Joo Young Ok, Class of 2020

Joo Young Ok Photo After taking Japanese courses for several semesters at William & Mary, I decided to journey to Keio University in Tokyo for language immersion. I embarked on the experience with the hopes of improving my listening and speaking skills; however, I learned so much more.

While studying the language, I enjoyed lessons about art history, religion, and culture in Japan. Outside, the things I learned in the classroom came to life. From art exhibitions and shrines and temples to interactions with native speakers, this study abroad opportunity granted me the unique experience to explore a whole new world with people from Japan as well as Singapore, France, Hawaii, Germany, Mexico, and Korea. On the weekends, I traveled alone and with new and old friends throughout Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Okinawa.

My journey was filled with unforgettable moments. I climbed Mount Fuji to see the sunrise at 4:30 a.m, and I sang karaoke for 12 hours straight. I also went to the Tsukiji fish market for sushi at 7 a.m. and enjoyed walking through the streets of Tokyo and eating amazing food. Oh, the food was wonderful.

Before this study abroad experience, Japan was just as a country halfway across the world full of strangers.  After spending four months there, it is now the place where I grew more independent and confident and gained a deeper understanding of the world around me. It is a place that holds many precious memories and people I hope to see again someday.

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