Who doesn’t love all the girls who aren’t afraid to dream a little bigger? The girls who go out and experience the world to its fullest. Since I started my Women Collecting Memories interview series, I already spoke to so many awesome female travelers and explorers. I can’t even tell you how excited that makes me! All these women discovering the world and sharing her experiences here, on this blog, with you guys! So you can learn from them and get inspired for your own adventures. Today, this interview is all about Tracey, who has been studying in Japan – twice!
Tracey first studied abroad in Japan when she was 15 and again through her university at 22. She is now 31 and currently lives in New York. Since she’s now supposed to be an adult, she has to go around my work schedule to travel. But there’s still a ton of traveling Tracey hopes to do. You can see all her adventures on her blog Exploration Addict.
HER STUDY ABROAD EXPERIENCE
Where did you go for your exchange? How long have you been abroad?
I spent a total of 2 years studying abroad in Japan. I spent my first year in Hyogo during high school when I was 15, and a year in Tokyo during college.
What made you choose Japan as your study abroad location?
My dad was the one who introduced me to Japan, since he spent a year in Tokyo with his family after the war when he was 12. However, I got the idea to study abroad from my friend’s mother, who worked in the travel industry. My friend’s mother had taken us to a travel expo where I came across pamphlets for study abroad. Originally when I asked for my parents’ permission I only wanted to go for half a year, so I could graduate high school on time. But my mom gave me a condition if they were going to approve me going. I go for a year or I don’t go at all. From my mother’s experience learning English she explained that I would only have started getting a good hold of the language by the half year mark, so it would be a shame to leave then.
What is the most remarkable memory you have of our time abroad?
At the end of my year in Hyogo I ended up meeting my host father, who was drinking with his coworkers after work. He was my ride home, but as I waited for them to finish up he started to get emotional about me leaving. He went on rants to his coworkers about missing me, and even got them to go out for cake with us after they finished drinking. The funny thing was the surprised look on one of their wife’s faces at seeing me with the drunk businessmen when she came to pick-up her husband. I’ll never forget the heart and caring my host father displayed. Especially because, in the beginning, he was the only one in the family that knew no English at all so we initially had the biggest language barrier between us. My host family was so open to me, making me really feel like part of the family, so they will always hold a special place in my heart.
Name one thing that study abroad-ers MUST do when in Japan.
One thing I learned to love and Japan has many to try is Onsen (natural hot-springs). It can take a moment to get used to because you’ll be naked with a bunch of strangers, but it’s almost always separated by gender. I personally love the outdoor baths, especially when it’s snowing.
Has the time abroad changed you? If yes, in what way?
That one year in Hyogo opened me up so much that I don’t know who I would’ve become if I hadn’t gone. I was so shy and a really picky eater, but since I knew almost no Japanese when I first went I had no way to say ‘I didn’t want to’ or to try and talk my way out of something. So, I unknowingly put myself in a situation that forced me to come out of my shell, in more ways than one.
Do you have any tips for girls planning to study abroad or travelling to Japan?
Japan, generally, is a very safe country for women, but it is still a very patriarchal country. For the most part I don’t think you’ll have much to worry about, but every now and then you’ll have a random guy come up to you either speaking English or just being friendly. They’re usually harmless, but after some drinks some guys can become very forward or aggressive towards women, especially foreign women. Sometimes they’ll try to get you to go with them for a drink or to a love-hotel, or they might just grope you (like when on the train). This is not the usual interaction, but I feel the need to bring it up as Japan has such a safe and polite reputation. It’s just something to be aware of, especially if you’re traveling alone. Most of the people you’ll meet, however, will be very nice, and it can make for a fun night to chat with people at the bar.
If you could plan a trip anywhere in the world for yourself (with money not playing a role) where would you like to go?
It’s hard to pick one specific place as there’s several that I REALLY want to go, but if there were no limits to my expenses I’d have to say Norway. It looks like an incredibly beautiful place, and I’d also like to experience the change of seasons.
Like it? Pin it!