Towards the end of my six month stay in Australia for study abroad, I was fortunate enough to take a week-long trip to Tokyo, Japan purely to experience, appreciate, and learn from the sights and sounds, as well as Japanese urban culture. I am a local student, and until my trip to Australia and Japan I had only ever traveled within the Eastern U.S. and Canada, so I never even believed I would see Europe, let alone parts of Australia and Asia. It had always been a dream of mine to catch a glimpse of what life is like on the other side of the world, and thanks to the Giltz, DeLauder, and McCullough International Travel Award and the France-Merrick Pinkard Fund for International Study, my dream was realized.
My trip to Japan was an empowering, eye-opening experience, and though I was not conducting research, I learned so many invaluable lessons. I finally feel like a global citizen. Traveling so far from home, and alone no less, was an exhilarating and terrifying experience, and I absolutely plan to do it again in the future. I never realized how scary it can be to arrive in a country where you do not speak the primary language without a group for company and safety. It was extremely empowering to navigate the bustling streets of Tokyo without any help, to just wander and lead myself with no set itinerary.
During my stay in Tokyo, I spent all of my time in the center of the city in Ueno. I got lost in the Ameya-Yokochō market trying to find my way to the hostel I would be staying at because all I had was a screenshot of a google map to lead me, but I never really felt unsafe, and I ended up using landmarks to find my way, even though it was night time. This made me feel so independent and empowered, and finding my way around other parts of Ueno had the same effect. In addition to the personal growth, I was also able to see so many beautiful sights, artworks, sculptures and architecture, as well as a variety of fascinating animals native to Japan and the surrounding areas when I went to the Ueno Zoo, like two adult Pandas and their baby. I prayed at Kiyomizu Kannon-dō shrine in Ueno Park, following the traditional etiquette of prayer and cleansing in these holy spaces. I was able to people watch in the park and the market, and I ate street food and more traditional dishes which helped me gain exposure to the culture, tastes, and values of urban Japan. I cannot express in words how grateful I am to have had this amazing opportunity. I will carry these memories and experiences with me throughout my entire life, and it is all thanks to the generosity of donors like the Giltz and Pinkard families.