Exchange at the University of Tokyo – by James Grimes

Time flies by so unbelievably quickly. I find myself having this thought pretty much every day, sometimes more than once. I’ve been in Japan for nearly four months now, long enough to see the seasons shift, and somehow it feels like it’s only been a few weeks. I wish I could just freeze time because I’m very aware that I’m more than halfway through my time here. Unfortunately I cannot, but it does fill me with a sense that I have to try and make the most of every single day that I’m here.

If I had one piece of advice, it would be this: make the most of your time. Whatever it was that inspired you to run off on exchange, chase after it every opportunity you get. For me it was immersing myself in a cultural experience, surrounding myself with new friends and seeing as much of Japan as I possibly could. This has seen me taking more trips than my wallet would like, plunge off the beaten track and get lost more than a few times, and throw myself into social situations that I never would have seen myself in before. It means sitting in theatres watching traditional art that the day before you had never heard of, in a language that you can only speak a small amount, simply because someone invited you on a whim. It means not being afraid of talking to someone new each lunchtime, especially if that person does not speak very much (if at all) English. It has meant eating something first and then asking what it was later. Sometimes it has been terrifying, but it has always been so very rewarding.

In my time here I feel like I have matured more than the last three years combined. Newfound self-reliance is always daunting for each of us, but it is also a new experience that is a tremendous opportunity for each and every one of us. You very quickly develop the skills to know more about the way you think and solve problems. Not to mention, you will learn how to organise yourself before you know it. You will be busy but being busy is part of the fun! It is part of the whirlwind of activity that blurs each day into the next and of new experiences that whip past at lightspeed. Treasure being busy, but remember to stay focused. It is very easy to let busyness become routine, one that you slip into despite of your new surroundings and fail to make the most of each new day. Embrace what is new and take the time to break up your routine. You will thank yourself in years to come.

Exchange is a once in a lifetime opportunity. It’s an easy cliche to understand in abstract, but the reality will definitely take you by surprise. Take that surprise in stride and run with it as far as you can. For time is short, but the possibilities are endless.

All the best from Tokyo,
James Grimes

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