Sofie Otero

Nationality: U.S.A. University: University of North Carolina at Asheville

Nationality: U.S.A.
University: University of North Carolina at Asheville

Every day in Saitama has been slightly different from the last. It’s been really refreshing to me to step out of my daily life and remember to find novelty in the seemingly mundane. I sometimes struggle to make myself understood in what I would call “beautiful” Japanese, and instead convey my intentions with broken phrases and words, but that struggle has only made me work harder to blend in and learn from watching others. Just last week, I missed the last train and ended up stranded in a part of the city I’d never been to before. This experience however created a situation where I was able to meet new people and find my own solutions to problems I would never have faced otherwise. I think this has really helped me to grow as a person. In my mind this trip has been the quest/journey/coming-of-age event that has helped mark my understanding of who I am. That’s the great thing about Saitama and Japan in general: I always feel comfortable and safe making mistakes when trying a new experience.

Tokyo is close by, and you can easily find new friends who are interested in exploring with you. A surprising fact is that many Japanese students haven’t visited many famous places either, so they are often eager to join. I think that Akihabara and Shibuya for people like me who never really got to see the vibrancy of a large city growing up, but even less known parts of Tokyo retain a similar charm. Many places in the Saitama area, like Kawagoe, are wonderful examples of a melding between the old and Sofia Otero pic 1new sides of Japanese culture. My advice is not to over-plan, and to see the world around you with open eyes. That is when you discover things you never expected.

I would encourage anyone coming to Saitama to try and keep an open mind in order to make the most of every opportunity: our own cowardice is often our worst enemy. Take the subway, talk to the cashiers, join a club, and even when you struggle you can know that you are living life to the fullest and learning so much at the same time. You will find that when you do this, people will step up to help you, and that you won’t feel alone. Ganbatte!