My Decision

February 18, 2010
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I am alone.

People around me do not look like me. They do not speak the same language as I. They
have a different way of thinking about everything from me. Why have I come here?

I have been studying abroad in America for one and a half years. I have a lot of good
memories. However, it has been the hardest time in my life.

When I was in the Narita airport with my family in July, 2008, I was very excited about
going to the U.S. to learn English, more than I was worried about my new life in another country.
I did not imagine how hard life would become.

When I arrived at my high school in Waltham, Massachusetts for the first time, many
people, including students and teachers, welcomed me warmly. I was very nervous talking to
them because I had never seen them before. However, within the day, I felt comfortable spending
time with them even though my English was not so good. They spoke to me slowly so that I
could understand what they said more easily. I thought that I could get along with them well.
However, after a while, my comfort ability decreased. I was surprised by the fact that no
Japanese student was in the school except me. When I heard this, I could not say anything for a
little while. I was shocked. I could not imagine that I would live within the community in which
no one could speak my native language, Japanese.

Living in a different culture was very hard. I needed to do my laundry by myself, live
with my roommate who spoke only English, take classes that were conducted in English and do
homework in English. When I went to the dining hall, I could not see Japanese food. I could not
celebrate my birthday with my family. Everyday life was as hard as I imagined. I had to speak
English every day, all the time. In addition, this is my first time living separately from my
family, so I cried almost every day. When I cried, many people around me spoke to me kindly.

“Are you okay?” a girl in my dorm asked.
“Why are you crying?” my classmate asked.
“Do you miss your home?” my teacher asked.
“Talk to me,” my advisor said.

Even though I could feel their empathy and consideration, they could not console me.
They spoke to me in English and of course I had to answer in English. I could not tell them
exactly what I was thinking, so it stressed me out. All the time I had to hear English words, so I
felt very tired. In addition, I thought that the people in school could not understand my feelings
because they were not in my hard situation. For me, my family and my friends in Japan were the
only support at that time.

In Japan, I always stayed with my friends. In school, when we had a break between
classes, we would have a chat and even talked nonsense. Unlike the U.S., Japanese school does
not have so much homework every day. Therefore, I hung out with my friends after school and
whenever I had worries, I consulted with my friends immediately. Every day was very fun and
irreplaceable time.

On the other hand, in the U.S., I have so much homework every day that I do not have
time to hang out with my friends as I did in Japan. Last year, I always felt lonely. I made some
friends, but they were different than my friends in Japan. We just exchanged “Hi” to one another
when we went by each other, not hanging out comfortably because of the language barrier. When
I had worries, I did not tell anyone and just kept it inside. If I had tried I could have told
someone. Everybody was a stranger to me and also I did not trust the culture. One difference
between how students behave here and how they behave in Japan is that they hug each other a lot
here, but in Japan, students do not do that. I always thought that I wanted to go back to Japan and
forget everything. Why did I decide to come here?
However, one day, my mind began to change slowly to a positive way. After I finished
my soccer practice, I was in my room and I was crying as usual because I was homesick. I called
my mother and she told me “You should not cry. What will change? Nothing will be different.
You should think about your situation positively. If you have many Japanese people in your
school, you would always talk to them in Japanese because it would be comfortable for you.
Actually, your situation is very good. You have to speak English, so you can improve your
English more. You decided to go to school in America because you want to study English, right?
You should have confidence!”
When I heard her words, I was very happy because I felt she had been thinking about me
very deeply. I was relieved because I realized that I had a great supporter. My mother gave me
some advice before, too. However, this was the first time I felt like she was really listening to
me. Her kindness helped me to remember to trust her advice. Therefore, her words stuck in my
mind. I agreed with her, but first I could not accept her words. I thought that she could say these
words because she was not the one who experienced my situation. I struggled with myself
because I could understand what she meant.
I was thinking about it for days and realized that I should think about my situation
positively. It was very hard to accept it but it was my decision that I came here.
“I do not want to run away from where I am now,” I said to myself. I was determined to
do my best.
This year, there are still no Japanese in my school. However, I do not feel that I want to
change my school. Of course, sometimes I miss my family and friends in Japan, but my mother’s
words made me strong. After my mother gave me the message, I decided to change. I have tried
to think about everything positively. I began to challenge myself to talk to people around me.
Whenever a bad thing happens to me, I think that tomorrow will be a very good day for me. If I
stayed in Japan instead of coming to the U.S., I would not experience such difficulties and would
not be as mature as I am now. I am very proud of myself for deciding to come here.

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