Why I packed my bags and followed my heart

Climbing Mt. Fuji throughout the night and watching the sun rise from above the clouds was probably the hardest and most exhilarating experience I had in Japan.
Climbing Mt. Fuji throughout the night and watching the sun rise from above the clouds was probably the hardest and most exhilarating experience I had in Japan.

No, it wasn’t for a boy.

I was twenty-two years old. Bright-eyed and fresh out of college with two bachelor’s degrees. My bags were packed by the door and ready for the move.

Almost a year earlier, I had sent in my application to be an English Teacher in Japan. The application process for the JET Program is a lengthy one, so I didn’t find out until April (about six months later) if I passed the interview. Fortunately, I did and was promptly swept into a whirlwind of preparations before leaving.

One of the main reasons why I decided to teach abroad right after graduation was the fact that I knew firsthand the value of going abroad. One of the biggest regrets people have regarding their college experience is that they didn’t take the opportunity to study abroad. I, however, was one of the lucky ones who did.

So I applied for the job, packed my bags, and followed my heart to Japan. And then to Korea.

Leaving the nest and going abroad is about seeing the rest of the world and gaining new perspectives. As you learn more about other people, you develop cultural awareness and sensitivity. I bet if a lot more people in America had studied abroad or lived abroad, the results of this year’s presidential election would have been drastically different. If you’re interested in learning another language, move to that country!  That’s probably the best and fastest way to pick up a language. When you travel abroad, whether you realize it or not, you’re growing. You’re gaining independence, building self-confidence, and getting out of your comfort zone. There is a significant amount of personal development that occurs when you travel abroad. Your future employers will definitely be impressed by your international experience, too! But most importantly, go abroad because the time is now.

If not now, then when? In my case, when will I ever find the time to live as I can now? I’m young, single, and free of debt. My family is in good health. I don’t need to make a lot of money. I choose experience over possessions. So, why not? The longer I waited, the harder it would have been for me to leave.

I understand why many people hesitate to take this opportunity. I really do! Job security is incredibly important to some. To others, the time you spend with friends and family is precious and sometimes limited. Some of you may have graduated and need to pay off school loans. Or maybe you’re just more passionate about something else! That’s cool!

But if you are interested… If you’re passionate about learning new languages, trying new things, getting out of your comfort zone, living in a completely different environment, and exploring all that the world has to offer, why not try? You owe it to your future self! And think about all the great stories you’d have! If you’re thinking about saving money first, that’s a great plan. It’ll be difficult to make such a move without some money in your savings. But don’t take too long! Traveling in your 20’s or 30’s is going to be a lot different from when you are traveling in your 40’s and 50’s.

I lived in Japan for two years, teaching the cutest kids, building great relationships with my co-workers, meeting the best people ever, and exploring the side of Japan most people have never seen. It was an incredible, life-changing experience and I have absolutely no regrets at all.

2 thoughts on “Why I packed my bags and followed my heart”

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