I had always known that Japan was a mountainous country, but I had never really been conscious of that fact until I was climbing them and reflecting at their peaks. At the top of the tallest hill in Sanriku Fukko National Park, I was wondering how I got here. A year ago, if you asked me if I wanted to study abroad, I probably would’ve said it was too expensive and left it at that. But one day I opened a random email that I would usually delete and ended up here. My thoughts were racing, so the unimaginably wide ocean opened itself to me and I to it. A year ago, I was having the worst summer of my life. I was struggling with a bad breakup, a roommate I didn’t get along with, and a rough freshman year. I woke up, ate, and went back to sleep for what seemed like forever, but this year I’m in Japan admiring the beauty of the ocean, listening to the quiet hum of a small boat, and the sound of nature. I have been through the deepest valleys and found myself in a country of mountains with people I actually love spending time with.
Before I went on my flight, I told my mom I was afraid I’d be uncomfortable traveling with strangers and that the discomfort would ruin my trip. She told me to just let go of everything and focus on enjoying myself since these moments with these people in this place will only happen once. She was right, and I had no reason to be afraid. I’m usually very withdrawn until I’m comfortable with people, but I got comfortable with people on this trip, bonded, and found common interests almost immediately. I’ve tried sea pineapple, seen the Shibuya crossing, carried a freakin shrine, bonded with Japanese people who have seen tsunamis, been to a maid cafe, woodworked, had the most fun I’ve ever had on some random playground in a National Park, and so much more. I have never felt freer from responsibility, from fears and worries as I did when we were running around like children asking for 5 more minutes on the playground and another ride on the zipline. I can barely believe I can call any of these experiences or memories, mine.
College has shown me the bitterest moments and the sweetest moments, and it was in that park that I realized how happy I am here, on this program, in this country of peaks. I wish this mountain would never end.