Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Why am I doing this?

If you would have asked the freshman me if I was going to study abroad for even a term at Yale - and Japan of all places - I would have laughed. Why go now when I have everything I want here? My friends, my major - heck, even my job - made my sophomore year one of the most awesome years out of the near twenty years of my life. Taking a year off also meant I wouldn't graduate with the closest people to me at Yale. But I guess I started thinking about it seriously after my summer in Japan last year - I had made leaps and bounds in learning Japanese, but I knew I still had a long way to go. Learning Japanese was, at first, just a fun thing for me freshman year, a way to fulfill Yale's foreign language requirement, and an excuse to apply for Yale's super generous Light Fellowship. But even three months in Japan changed my views on faith/religion, culture, and identity - so how much could an entire year bring? I also wanted to break the barriers of overbearing overpoliteness and stoicism that all too often characterize the Japanese people - and form legitimate relationships, which is a challenge in a country that limits intimacy to only the closest of people. A summer wasn't enough to do that, and maybe a year is pushing it too, but as I flew out of Narita last summer, I knew I wanted to go back and try.

Not to mention the fact that my academic interests almost require mastering East Asian languages - was I learning languages to be able to research religious texts or did I start studying religion as an excuse to learn languages? Ha, either way, I'm already running through ideas for my senior thesis (crazy!) and am legit excited about exploring Western religious movements in East Asia - but if I'm serious about grad school, I'll need to know not only Japanese, but at least classical Japanese, modern Chinese, and classical Chinese - oh yeah, also French and German to do "scholarly research" by early philosophers. But let's focus on Japanese/Chinese for now.

Last, but not least, when are you ever going to have the chance to live in a foreign country for a year with no strings attached? Well, actually, I know the Japanese program I'm attending will be INTENSE, but I'm promising myself that the majority of my time in Japan will NOT be spent shut up in my apartment memorizing kanji. Many, many thanks to Light Fellowship for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - I want to travel, I want to meet people, I want to try new things ... and go clubbing hehe. The possibilities are endless. And I think five years from now, that one year off won't seem like such a big deal - I have so much more to gain than lose.

So the breakdown of my year and a quarter in Asia - three months in China at the Harvard Beijing Academy and Sept. to June 2012 at the Inter-University Center for Japanese Studies (IUC) in Yokohama. It's not like I think everything will be one big party abroad - I know I'll experience times of loneliness, missing people at Yale, and burnout from four-hour language classes everyday. Um, I haven't arranged housing in Japan or even bought my plane tickets to Tokyo yet - but who cares because I know I'm going!!

Next posts - a finalized itinerary (hopefully) and some goals (because I suck at setting goals). Thanks for reading.
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Elizabeth Kim said...

MIRIAM! I'm so excited to read all about your adventures abroad. You are in my prayers.
Love, elizabeth.

TJ said...

yo this is amazing, and congratulations, seems like an awesome year ahead of you.

sparks said...

Miriam you are SO COOL. <3

Kelly McLaughlin said...

Put me in the Miriam fan camp, too! =)

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