Why I Am Studying Abroad

Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.

Wendell Berry

I guess it’s true when others say rumors spread like wildfire because there I’d be in school walking down the hall with books folded in arms, and a random teacher would just come up to me and say, “So, I hear you are studying abroad.” Some of the time in this situation, my first thoughts are, Who the heck are you? I never even talked to you, so how would you know? I didn’t even know you worked here!  Other times, I’d be at the lunch table, and one of my friends would suddenly turn to someone I had no clue even existed and say, “So, A’Dreana is studying abroad . . .”

Now, I only told one or two – maybe five – people about my plan to study abroad because – in all honesty – I didn’t 100% believe I would, but when everyone found out I was studying abroad, I just didn’t care anymore, and I would practically brag about my future adventure, in a nonchalant way of course. Boasting went something like this:

“I can’t wait to see you next year, A’Dreana,” said Friend.

“Oh, too bad,” I’d say. “You won’t, because I’ll be gone for the first semester.”

“Really?! Why?”

“Oh, nothing that major. I’ll just be traveling to the foreign country of Japan to live with strangers and go to a high school while being totally submerged in a language I’m not entirely fluent in . . .”

Now, I don’t actually say it snobbishly like that, but it’s close enough. However, every time the topic is brought up, every time I tell someone I’m going abroad, most of them freak out, and the first thing they’d ask me is, “Why?” and they’d follow up by saying, “I could never do something like that.” Sometimes, the question “Why?” was actually genuine and just inquired around curiosity and interest. But other times, it was just a question filled with disbelief and impossibility, like what I was doing was crazy and stupid. Why would I want to leave to a foreign country? What if something bad happened? Was it safe? I must admit, the latter irked me a bit, but I learned to ignore those people while at the same time listening to their fears. Some gave me an earful of their fears out of concern for my safety, but others simply gave me an earful of their fears because they couldn’t believe I was doing what they were afraid to do, and those are the people I ignored.

Anyway, I would always answer others by giving them extremely vague answers like, “Just to learn the Japanese language,” but it actually goes much, much deeper than that.

Why Do I Want to Study Abroad?

That is the question. Well, this answer dates back to when I was a wee six year old because that’s the time when my uncles changed my life forever; they introduced me to anime, InuYasha to be exact, and Rurouni Kenshin alongside Dragon Ball Z. Those were the three shows that led me to the path of my true existence. Just kidding (but not entirely). Ever since that moment, I have been madly in love with anime, and I even learned a bit of Japanese culture from them. And one of the proudest moments of my life was when I showed my mom InuYasha, bringing her to the side of Otakuism (yes, that’s a real word; an otaku (オタク) is the Japanese word for someone obsessed with something, mostly anime or games).

From that moment, I found myself highly intrigued with Japanese culture. As I began to do some research, I realized that some basic traditions were resembled within anime. For example: how people remove shoes before entering the house, how people say “Itadakimasu (いただきます; it’s like a prayer)” before eating, and how teachers move from class to class instead of students. While all of this was going on, I found myself falling deeply in love with not only the culture, but also eyes! Yes, eyes! And not just the large, exaggerated ones from anime but also slanted eyes in general. I would constantly doodle eyes on any paper I could get my hands on. And speaking of which, my sudden love for the anime and manga art style drove me to try and draw the figures myself, leading me to find out how much I loved art, particularly drawing.

One day while lying in bed after catching up with the InuYasha series, I ran the episode in my head over and over again and thought, “Why can’t things happen the way I want them to?” Then it hit me: “They can!” That’s when I began to test my imagination and dream up stories I loved. Before I knew it, the longing to want to keep and organize my dreamed stories lead me to writing. And boy, do I love writing. And so far, all of this was before I was even nine years old.

Left: End of 7th grade year; Right: Middle of Freshman year

In the eighth grade, I began to practice my artwork. Looking back, I remember how proud of myself I was for such “realistic” and “similar” drawings I created, but at the same time as I look back at my drawings, I think to myself, What the heck was I thinking?! But it just goes to show me how much my drawings have really improved. But anyway, this time in middle school, I attended a Kentucky college fair with my older brother and was asked what I wished to do in the future, since I was being appreciated for being at a college fair when I was only in the eighth grade. After giving it a little thought, I came to the decision that I wanted to do something art wise that involved the Japanese culture; I wanted to be an anime artist.

Going into high school with this dream in mind, I was ecstatic when my Preparing for College and Careers teacher assigned a project where I had to make a little children’s book explaining the career I wanted. In this project, I learned so much about what anime artist do and soon figured out that “anime artist” was a very broad subject that could range from anything from a Mangaka, animator, or illustrator. That’s when I thought, “Hmm. How can I fulfill my love for drawing, writing, and Japanese culture at the same time?” Then BAM! It hit me again; I’d become a graphic novelist, which is a Mangaka in Japan. And earlier in this class, I was given a college research project, and it was during this time that I found a Manga school in Japan called Kyoto Seika University. And again, a big thought came into my head thinking, “I could go to school there and learn to be a Mangaka!” Crazy, right? Well, I’m not totally crazy. I planned – and still plan – on going here, in the US, to college for my Bachelor’s in art before going to Kyoto for part of my Masters in manga, but of course, the University is located in Japan, so I knew then and there that I would have to learn the language.

A’Dreana, why not just major in comic and illustrations here in America were everyone is sane? Well, because! I don’t just want to learn the specifics of creating manga (because even though American comics differ slightly from Japanese manga, comics are comics). I would also like to work, one day, for a Japanese company with an industry around Manga! Thus, it would be wise to learn the language. But with that all said, that same year with me being a freshman, the opportunity to study abroad emerged, but I’ll save that for another blog.

Whoa! That was a lot to say. Now do you see why I was so vague when others asked me “Why?”

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