Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Morgan in Japan


Hello fellow readers,

My name is Morgan Overcash, a Junior Communication Studies major at UNCG. This spring semester, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Kyoto, Japan. It’s hard to put my experience into words, but I will do the best I can. The difficult point is finding out where to start. How does one put 4 months of intercultural experience into just a few paragraphs? I don’t think anyone has found the answer to that yet, and probably never will, but that’s what makes it so exciting, right? Now, let’s begin!

My dragon, Peter, and I are ready for our trip to Hiroshima
 At Miyajima (the floating shrine). Don't let that deer fool you though, it tried to eat Peter

I study communications at UNCG, but I have been taking Japanese classes as well. Therefore, when I came to Japan, I decided to solely focus on becoming better at Japanese (a dream of mine for many years). For the past few months, I have been studying Japanese at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. Let me tell you, it has truly been a unique learning experience. Transitioning from having Japanese being taught in English to Japanese being taught in Japanese definitely helps you improve your language learning much faster. It’s nerve-wracking at first, but you quickly become immersed in the language, and I honestly believe it is the best way to learn a foreign language. With Ritsumeikan’s intensive Japanese language track, holding 3 types of classes 5 days a week, you will quickly become closer to your classmates, sharing the struggles of learning a language completely different from your own. However, friends are not only made in class, but in your dorm as well.

With friends at Fushimi Inari, a very famous serious
 of gates and shrines in Kyoto
Ritsumeikan University during sakura season

At Osaka Aquarium (海遊館) with friend Momoko

I lived in the dorm Taishogun this semester. A dorm filled with about 190 other students is bound to create some new friendships, and I for one, am thankful for every single friend I have made while being here. If you’re worried about making friends, don’t be. I know you probably hear this all the time, and trust me, even I was skeptical at first, but no matter how long it takes, whether it’s two days or two weeks, friends are right next to you. Literally, right next to you...I became friends with my neighbor before I even knew she was my neighbor. See, crazy things like this happen when you study abroad, and the people who have gone abroad before you are not lying when they say friends are around every corner. This doesn’t mean you can just sit back and let them come to you though. You have to take the initiative to go up and talk to people as well. The most interesting people you will ever meet are the ones you meet while you’re abroad. I have heard so many amazing stories, and I think sometimes we forget just how big this world really is. These friends you make may or may not become your best friends, but the times you share with them will be unforgettable and you will carry them with you for a lifetime. Studying abroad does not come without your own misadventures. There will be many times where you mess up, get lost, or say the wrong thing, but hey, that’s what studying abroad is all about. We aren’t perfect, and your friends are going to be there to help you out (or take pictures of you with a cast when you sprain your ankle playing volleyball).

Me when I injured my ankle playing volleyball (nothing serious, just a sprain)

With friends in Uji, home to some of Japan's best green tea (まっちゃ)

With my friend Jess in Osaka next to this famous poster of a man running (don't ask me why it's famous, I don't actually know)

Well, enough about those things, what you really want to hear about is what Japan’s like, right? Japan is a place that holds fast to its past, while also continuing to progress through the modern age. Kyoto especially, is a very traditional city, littered with shrines, temples, gardens, and more. It’s the place you go to if you want modernity and tradition all at once. I have been to 4 other cities while living here in Japan; Osaka, Hiroshima, Nara, and Shirahama. Each place is unique and fun in its own way. However, the most surprising and interesting thing about Japan is that, no matter where you, you can always catch a glimpse of the past and the present all at the same time. So, if you love history and tradition, yet still want the hustle and bustle of tourism and city life, Japan is definitely a smart choice. 

Attack of the deer! In Nara, where wild deer roam freely and
 chase you when they realize
you have food (don't worry though it is totally safe)
Samurai in Miyajima

A-bomb site in Hiroshima

It’s difficult to say all of the things I have done while I was here, but just to name a few; I went to the Peace Museum in Hiroshima, saw the A-bomb site, went to the beach, went to Japan’s oldest onsen, watched traditional, Japanese music performances, got to pet wild deer, went to a Japanese baseball game, and literally ate as much as my stomach could hold. There is so much to do here that 4 months is only good enough if you do not have to go to class (sadly that isn’t an option). My favorite thing about Japan is the people. They can usually tell if you’re a foreigner (especially if you look like me), but that only makes them want to help you more. If you can’t speak Japanese, they will try their best to help you as much as possible. So, don’t get frustrated, just take your time with them and it’ll work out. Customer service here is something that other countries should strive towards. Some people may say you don’t need to know Japanese to get around, but believe me when I tell you it is so much easier when you at least know a little. If I did not know some Japanese before coming here, I think I would have had a more difficult time getting around or asking random people questions (directions and ordering food for example). I encourage you, if you want to come to Japan, learn some of the basics. They are very simple and easy with practice so don’t worry. Also, it is the best thing in the world to see a Japanese person’s face when they hear you speaking Japanese (no matter how bad it is). They truly appreciate it when foreigners attempt to speak to them in their language, and sometimes this is the best way to become friends with Japanese people. Step out of your comfort zone and try everything because study abroad is the time for it.

Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion)

Peter at a temple in Uji

Okonomiyaki and Yakisoba

I don’t want to give you clichés because with every study abroad blogpost you read they are all there, but some of them are true and very important. This experience has changed me, taught me a lot about myself, and has shown me just how little we know about the world (and how little we will ever fully understand). I am about to tell you something many people may neglect to mention, study abroad is not all sunshine  and rainbows. There, I said it, but hear me out because it is very important. Things you normally have help with at home, you will have to do alone abroad. Things you normally avoid at home, you will have to confront head-on abroad. Going abroad is meant to shape you, reveal things about yourself that you never realized before, and teach you things you never even knew existed. Isn’t this why you’re in the honors college, to stretch your mind as far as it can possibly go? You are still in reality while you’re abroad, you are going to go through some hard times, but the fun times are going to be more numerous and will outweigh all of the bad. All in all, studying abroad is a life changing experience. I have no regrets, and it is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. 

Me in Shirahama, located in Wakayama. Beach town and home to Japan's oldest onsen, Seki-No-Yu

If you’d like to know more about the program I did, or about Japan in general, shoot me an email:


Morgan Overcash
Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto

Spring 2017