Hi everyone! So, I know many of you have been wondering what ever happened to me, well, to put it plainly... LIFE. Upon returning from Japan I successful "readjusted" to life in good ole DC. I went home and stayed with my family for a few weeks, celebrated New Years in Atlanta with my sweetie, and went back to a life of working and school. (Sigh) In retrospect, here's what my experiences in Japan taught me: 1. You never know if you don't try... I say this because initially, my application to study abroad in Japan was rejected by Howard University's Study Abroad Office. Why? Well, at Howard in order to spend a semester abroad one must have a least one year residency at Howard. I transferred to Howard from the University of Alabama at Birmingham after my sophomore year. At the time of my application, I had exactly 2 months to go for exactly one year residency. @ Howard, this wasn't good enough. But, instead of accepting this answer I e-mailed and visited everyone I possibly could to get this decision turned around... Thus, Sista in Tokyo. 2. You won't alway have enough money. Now I have been learning this lesson for quite some time now. (laughing) But it's very true. I ran out of money around the end of October... Of course this would have been fine if I had went back home. However, I had two more months to go. (laughing) Wow, my broke days in Japan were some of the best times I have had in my life. Anyway, the lesson here is that you don't always need money to have a good time. My not having money in Japan actually motivates me to return to do things that I wanted to do such as travel to different areas in Japan. 3. Being in a foreign country is an extremely humbling experience. The time I spent in Japan helped me place many things into perspective. Your way isn't always the right way... And, sometimes there is more than one right way to do things. While in Japan, there were several instances, and I do mean several, where I did not want to do something. And while I really wanted to be stubborn, I am glad I decided to push myself beyond my comfor zone. I really grew as a result of this. I am sure my family, boyfriend, and friends appreciate my less- stubborn/selfish position and outlook on life these days. 4. Education is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT... Of course, I have always felt this sentiment, however, after my experiences in Japan I now understand another aspect of education that can, in my opinion, only be realized while living in a foreign country. So what am I talking about? Well, education in Japan plays a significant role in Japanese society. From my observations, Japanese education plays a critical role in behavior control, political participation, and public policy. Of course, in America education plays these same roles, but this was not realized until I spent time in Japan. 5. It's OK to want to return home... Looking back at my experiences and over a few my previous posts I thought about my ability to handle being away from my comfort zone. At first I thought, man, I didn't handle my time in Japan too well. But now, I realize that living in Japan for four months was my very first time outside of the United States and I can honestly say I am proud of myself and accomplishments. Japan helped me to appreciate home, in every sense of the word's meaning. I really felt at home with my host family on Saturday mornings when I would wake up and have breakfast with the entire family. I really feel at home now, in DC living life as an undergraduate student. And finally, I still feel at home everytime I return to Decatur, Alabama. Home to me is no longer a physical place... Of course I learned more, but I will save those lessons for later! (Gotta keep you coming back for more!) So what's next? I am currently in the process of preparing for graudate school. I am planning to pursue a Master's degree in Public Policy. I have exactly on semester and three classes to go. Also, I will be returning to Japan! When??? Next fall 2005... I will keep you posted! Many thanks are in due for all of you who posted comments of encouragement and enlightenment. You are all welcome to e-mail me! All the best, T.S.