ASEAN Foundation Scholarship – Kyoto University Exchange Program: What I Learn From Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone (PART 2)

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“The world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page.”

(Augustine of Hippo)

In the first part of this story, I have shared with you more about the scholarship and what I have personally learned throughout my preparation for this exchange program to Japan. This time, I would like to share with you more about my odd yet interesting journey while I was wandering around Japan and what I have learned from stepping outside my comfort zone.

Coming to the country where I do not speak the language and have never experienced the culture surely is interesting and challenging at the same time. I did not expect this country to be my second home at all. I happened to find myself living in this calm, ancient city of Japan, where you could visit different new shrines or temples every single day as there are so many beautiful shrines. Honestly, my half year stay in Kyoto was not enough to fully explore every part and every corner this beautiful city has to offer. The exchange program itself took place from September to February which means I got a chance to experience the peak of autumn by visiting Arashiyama to see the leaves turning into beautiful red to orangey color or the beautiful snowy scenery in the golden temple, Kinkaku-ji, where everything is covered in snow except the stunning golden temple. Not only I did wander around the beautiful Kyoto, I also made time to go outside of this city of zen and visited some historical places like Hiroshima with its Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum or Miyajima Island, a small island in Hiroshima Bay, Western Japan.

Miyajima Island
                                                             Miyajima Island

Been living in a big capital city where all I can hear is the car honking and people chattering out loud, the fact how calm and quiet Kyoto is really overwhelmed me at the first place. I did not like it at first as this quiet city felt foreign and cold to me. It took me quite some time to finally adjust myself to the surrounding and cope with all the barriers or fears I might have to overcome. It was no easy journey, I must say. I have been living with my family for almost my whole life which makes living in Kyoto was my first attempt in trying to living on my own and it was quite an experience though. Getting sick when you are alone abroad and having no one to help throughout your recovery, or even getting lost in translation every time you get out of the wrong subway exit are just a glimpse of it. So, here are some of what I have learned from leaving my comfort zone back home and taking the road which slightly has more obstacles on its way.

  1. You are more capable than you think you are.

Living on your own also means that you are the only person you can count on. This inconvenient truth makes doubting yourself will never be a choice and cannot be one. Before experiencing the real struggle of living in this touristy city, I realized from the beginning that I will need to do everything on my own. Even though I had everything planned at the first place, the unpredictables will always come into your life in the most unexpected ways. Well defined plans or goals without self efficacy is nothing. Self efficacy is one of the most important qualities you acquire in order to accomplish something. It is about how one’s ability to have faith in themselves that they can do things. If you have everything and your goals planned in your head, the next thing to do is you got to believe in yourself. You have to give yourself a hundred percent of trust that you are more capable than you think you are.

During this exchange program, I took 12 credits which were divided into six classes. Luckily, I could still cope with the weight of university’s works as it was not that heavy comparing to what I got in my home university. This has given me a chance to travel and to explore Japan even more and enrich myself outside of the class. As for example, I took my chance to go out of the city and visit Tokyo as my first solo trip ever. I had everything planned in my head and small checklist on my small notebook. Well, it did work but not until I somehow found myself lost in Asakusa at 11 p.m and had no one to count on but myself. It does not sound like a good experience, it does though. Looking at it from a different persepctive, I believe that these unpredictable moments somehow have given me the opportunity to push myself beyond what I think I can and also to elevate this level of self efficacy in me.

  1. Travel to find your true passion.

Lucky for those who have found their passion as they have everything that they want to do well planned in their head already. Unfortunately, I am not those people. I did go through the era of struggle to find my true passion. I once experienced how hard living in a self made bubble is, to be constantly unsure about what to do next. From what I have experienced, I could tell you how frustrating it is at the first place, to feel like you haven’t done anything meaningful in your existence. But, as soon as I decided to get outside of my comfort zone, I chose to leave that old and full of negatives version of myself behind and start a brand new perspective. I took the benefit of being an exchange student by not just studying and attending classes time to time, but also to travel around this beautiful country I got the chance to live in.

During those six months of endless adventure, I began to love travelling as I met a lot of interesting people who have played an interesting part in my life, who have helped me finding what my true passion is. I travel to learn about things that I cannot get from just sitting and listening to lecture. Lecture surely has enriched me in so many ways, but sometimes I think that I need to experience it myself, I need to feel how it is like in real life. So, I chose to travel around Japan on my own and I am now proud to say that it was the best decision I have ever made. I believe those who are now studying abroad and love travelling can relate to what I am trying to say here.

Miyajima Island 2
                                                 Travelling to Miyajima Island

Travelling shows you the hidden version of yourself which might still be hidden under the blanket of your comfort zone. As you start meeting and socializing with a lot of new people, you also start to be more open to whole new perspective of others’. Sharing is also a learning process. When it comes to sharing, there is a space for feedback and exchanging information which makes learning even more interactive. Travelling gives you this once in a lifetime chance to share and exchange your experience with some interesting people from the other side of the world. So, make the best out of your exchange experience by travelling as much as you possibly can while you have some free time as it will enrich yourself in the most unexpected ways.

To sum it all up, my jouney to the city of zen, Kyoto, was one interesting roller coaster. This journey has shaped me into who I am right now. The fact how calm and serene the city is has given me a chance to find and make peace with myself. Not only in Kyoto did I feel at peace, but also when I decided to challenge myself by travelling outside of the city, totally on my own. From getting lost all by myself in Asakusa at midnight to getting caught up in a heavy snow shower in downtown Kyoto, this exchange experience has enriched myself in so many ways that I cannot mention one by one in detail. Joining an exchange program means that you probably have to give up your first plan to graduate as fast as you can, but your life is not a race and you will reach that point in your life too eventually. I also would like to point out one important thing how one should put the biggest trust in themselves in order to accomplish something. As I have said before, well made plans are nothing without self efficacy. So, why don’t we give ourselves a chance to decide and make the best out of our exchange experience as the best as we can.