Journal 5

When we are a tourist, it is very common to only recognise and show our interest towards the glamorous part of that country without understanding the historical aspects. This allows us to keep our faces away and leave out all the significant meanings each places or things are trying to tell us. While many Japanese people have the desire to go on vacation abroad and admire cultures from different countries, it made me wonder how many of us visits a country without being ‘the typical tourist’. The last time I visited America, New York, I felt like I was one of them. I’m very glad I made up my mind to participate in this program months ago, because this time, it helped me see America from a different perspective and gave me a chance to learn as well as think deeper about the history, culture, and issues we face today that we don’t have a chance to discuss in Japan.
A month ago, I didn’t have a specific image towards America. All I had in mind mostly came from the media or from classes at school: the country was enormous, politically and economically influences other countries, takes an important role internationally and is diverse. Also, recently people have had many debates regarding the new president. Now that I am back, while I noticed that most of them were true, I also realised how much I was missing out.
Living in Japan, I had thought that it was difficult to maintain the idea of a diverse society because we are surrounded by people with the same nationality. Yet, going to America helped me understand that diversity is not only about race, ethnicity and religion, but it also applies to other things too such as regional, political, economical and educational aspects. I still remember how fascinated I was when I got to figure out how one thing could be complexly related with another, and that cultural studies wasn’t only about seeking one answer, but to be able to view it from multiple perspectives. Sadly, we cannot do this overnight, we need to have the knowledge to do so and moreover, the key is to observe the situation. This is one of the things I also gained during my stay in America. I often noticed myself looking around trying to spot the difference from Japan. It was interesting to find out the ‘why’ based on the things we learnt and coming up with the possible answers.
While we got to cover many historical parts of American culture that lead to what the country is today, the things that were currently relatable also caught my attention. I had always thought that people in Japan did not to show much interest in politics and are conservative. On the other hand, from what I saw from the media, people in America were the opposite; they had their own voices and seemed like they were always seeking for improvement and didn’t look back. Therefore, I was taken by surprised to hear that so many people were afraid of changes and fear diversity, which turned out to be the result of the election of Trump. I am aware that many people still oppose of him being president, but I felt it ironic that although people are afraid of changes, they still chant for America to be great again while so many issues are getting worse, which causes a gap between expectation and reality.
Sometimes it was difficult to understand every detail we were taught in the lecture due to the lack of background knowledge and cultural difference, but seeing things with my own eyes and interacting with other people really helped me with the process of learning and understanding things. Citizenship and consumption could be seen everywhere, something that is not as usual in Japan. I think we tend to value a smaller scale; which school we go to, what classes, clubs we are in are important and within that small community we try to unite and create a bond together. I also realised how people in America are friendly and how they have their own opinion towards things. Wherever we were, it didn’t seem unusual for people to talk to strangers, while in Japan, it is common for them to mind their own business. Nowadays, even children are told from elementary school not to speak to people they do not know. It is also common for us, especially younger generations, not to have an opinion especially towards past or current events, and even if we did, people hesitate to express it. I think there are several reasons to this such as, people aren’t interested and the education system is all about memorising rather than thinking by yourself. It made me think how it’s a shame not to be able to take part and participate, even though we have our rights to think about the future of our own country.
During my stay, not a moment did I feel bored because it was full of surprises and discoveries. I was amazed how people could discuss academic topics even in a daily conversation, and admired how they all seemed very confident. Looking at them made me think that if I continued to fear making mistakes, I would never get the chance to learn more. Meeting everyone who was eager to listen and know more about us, who had their own dreams, goals and interests motivated me to step out from my comfort zone and challenge myself to do the best I can. Now that I have participated in this program, I can say with confidence that I have a better understanding about America than before, but it would have been interesting to learn about the roles media and social network has played in America both culturally and politically. Although I am back home and can’t stop feeling nostalgic, I want to keep in mind everything that I have learnt this summer, cherish the memories and hopefully see everyone again.

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