Anxiety Abroad

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By Sinead Simpkins:

On the 19th March, I packed my life for five months in a suitcase and backpack and flew to Tokyo for exchange. I counted down to this day for over several months and there was no turning back. I was really going.

I have general anxiety disorder and going to a place like Tokyo would typically make my anxiety worse. But I personally think that going on exchange made me deal with it better.

Tokyo is the capital of Japan and is home to 13.35 million people. To put that into perspective, Sydney has just over 4 million residents. Sharing a home with that many people in a confined space like Tokyo, made me appreciate a home where I don’t have to deal with trains being 150% over capacity or being in a big crowd. But needless to say, this exchange taught me a lot more than how to deal with a big population in a small area like Tokyo.

I learned five things while on exchange.

Expect the unexpected.
I know it’s a cliché but I think it is true. While exchange should be the time of your life (or a period in your life), it should not be perfect every single day. There are days when it will be average or days where it could be better. It is life, just in another country.

 

Embrace the culture and be open to new ideas.
Every exchange student will go through a period of culture shock or home sickness. But on exchange, you have an opportunity to communicate with the locals and other exchange students in your host country. Use it to full advantage. My best memories are mingling with the Japanese students, going to areas of Tokyo that tourists don’t see or exchanging cultural differences in class. In some of my classes we had students from Canada, UK, USA, Switzerland, China, South Korea and even Nepal. Everyone had a different idea or culture to bring.

 

Go outside your comfort zone.
At my time at Meiji University, I wanted to make more friends. I tried cheerleading and lifesaving. Back at home I only played hockey and I grew up far away from any beaches. If you ever plan to go on exchange, test yourself. Do something that you wouldn’t do in Australia or wouldn’t have the opportunity to do at home. You will surprise yourself.

 

Live your life in the moment, not in the past.
It is great to keep in contact with family and friends. My mum and I only Skyped once a week and we talked about what I experienced in the week gone by. I suggest doing this with your family and friends because there is nothing worse than going on exchange and missing home for the duration of your exchange. You will most likely miss some amazing experiences. Live your life in the present; you will most likely not get this opportunity again.

 

Have fun.
Whether you are on a short program, a semester or one year exchange, have fun. The best experiences I had in my semester exchange were having fun with friends. Once I get back, my second family will be all over the world including Japan. My memories and my time here will always be cherished and I will never trade my experience for anything in the world.

 

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