Joseph Tan (Fall 2018)
March 15, 2019
Hey everyone, my name is Joseph Tan and I will be graduating from the University of Illinois in May 2019 with a degree in Agricultural & Consumer Economics. Last semester I studied abroad at Konan University, having the most fun, yet personally enriching experience of my life.
I started self-studying Japanese about 2 years ago as a way to challenge myself and develop self-discipline, though I had always been interested in Japanese culture since childhood. As I was nearing the end of my time at U of I, I thought to myself that I would definitely regret graduating without having studied abroad at least once, and finally took the chance to spend a semester in Kobe, Japan through YiJ. My biggest goal was again to push myself and grow as a person. If you study abroad, you will most certainly return as a different person from who you left as. At the very least, your global perspective, ability to communicate, and appreciation for different cultures will grow ten times over.
Living abroad comes with a unique set of challenges that you might never have had to face at home. You’re thrust into a foreign country where you probably aren’t fluent in the language, and the people around you likely share very different cultural values and philosophies from your own. However, once you’re out of your comfort zone, you might surprise yourself with what you can really do. At first I was terrified of the prospect of studying abroad, but I pushed myself out of my comfort zone as much as possible, meeting some of the best friends I could ever ask for and having the most incredible experiences along the way.
One of the things that make the Year-in-Japan Program stand out is that it’s based in Kobe, without doubt a city brimming in charm at every corner. Neither a staggering metropolis nor a quiet town, Kobe is just the right size to make you feel at home in its scenic nature spots and bustling downtown area that puts most others to shame. Living here with a host family is a highlight for sure. My host family immediately made me feel welcome in their home, helping me learn about Japanese culture while also giving me the freedom to explore the country on my own. And explore I did, going out constantly with other exchange students and locals, immersing myself in as many new and interesting experiences as I could. The memories I was able to make through YiJ are as good as any I’ve ever had.
There will be hard times for sure, and you may feel tired and homesick more than once, but it’s not until you travel that you realize how much the world has to offer and how much there is left to be seen. Having made new friends from all corners of the world, I came out of the program feeling like I had become a global citizen, with a newfound appreciation for the power of language and cultural exchange. I will definitely carry this experience with me for the rest of my life and cannot recommend it enough—Get out of your comfort zone. Go out and travel, study abroad, and discover something new. There’s really nothing else like it.