One year ago on this day, it was my third day after arriving in Japan.

Imagine, after a decade of dreaming and yearning, you finally arrive in the country of your dreams. It takes a few days until the feeling that it’s all fake goes away. It all feels so foreign, but also so familiar because you’ve seen it so many times in movies and YouTube videos.

That is how I felt when I came to Japan in September 2016. Not even a year before that, in November 2015, I had a revelation: the reason I didn’t make it to Japan so far was that I always had excuses. Most of them were about money: Japan is so expensive, how could I ever save up enough to pay for it? How do I even start with that plan? And so on.

But then, I don’t remember exactly how, I had the idea to go on a student exchange to Japan. I found out that our university has partnerships with several universities in Japan, and if both my university and the one in Japan accepted me, I wouldn’t even have to pay for tuition. That’s when I finally applied for the exchange program.

At that point, I haven’t studied Japanese in about three years. I forgot nearly all of what I’ve learned back in 2011 and 2012 when I took some Japanese classes here. I knew that I’d basically have to start at zero. But I also knew that, without going to Japan, I will never have enough drive and motivation to actually learn the language.

My university accepted me for the exchange program and helped me with the application at the university in Japan. I chose Kansai University in Osaka because it was very central and someone else at my university had good experiences there. A few months later, Kansai University accepted me as well and I finally bought the flight ticket. There was no turning back now!

After I got accepted at my own university and before I actually went to Japan, I started working the maximum hours I was allowed to as a student. That’s how I was able to save up some money so that I wouldn’t go completely broke.

I also tried to refresh my Japanese knowledge, but it was hard. The test I did for Kansai University wasn’t so bad, but I knew that it could have been much better a few years earlier.

Not even a month before leaving, I also received notice that I got accepted for a scholarship in Japan. Enough to pay for the dormitory rent and food every month. All my worries started to go away.

On 6 September 2017, I started going on a 26-hour journey to Osaka, Japan. It was that long because it was cheap and I started at a small airport in Denmark (where I was on vacation with my friends). A day later, around 15:05 local time, I finally arrived at Kansai International Airport.

After going through the whole immigration procedure, the first thing that happened was that a TV crew asked to interview me. It was mostly in English through a translator, but a few times I answered a simple question in Japanese. The interviewer was so happy about every Japanese word I said, it was weird, but also fun. Right after that I met a girl who was also going to Kansai University and waiting for the meet-up. I had made my first friend in Japan (well, she was also from Germany, but anyway :D).

When I started writing this today, I didn’t actually know where it was going and what I wanted to have in the end. So far, it looks like I’m going to tell the whole story. But for today, this has to be enough. If you are interested in this and enjoyed it, please let me know! I will continue to write this and post it in irregular intervals. I hope you understand. ☺️

Link to part 2!

PS: I guess there will be no separate update post today. Basically all it would say is:

  • I’m finally done with my exams.
  • I miss Japan.
  • I’m going on vacation to Denmark with my friends again, starting next Saturday.

There will definitely be a new update post next Sunday. 🙂