I lived in Japan for three years — in Sapporo for two years and then on the island of Shikoku for one year. When my plane landed in Sapporo, the only Japanese phrase I could summon from my one year of study was: “Takemoto-Sensei no tsukue wa Olin no san kai ni arimasu.” (Professor Takemoto’s desk is on the third floor of Olin Hall.) Chances were I wasn’t going to need to inform anyone I met that my Japanese professor’s desk was on the third floor of Olin Hall, but I clung to that phrase as if it was a life raft and I was adrift in the Pacific Ocean.
In Sapporo I taught English as part of the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program, assisting as the native speaker for Japanese teachers of English. My experiences in Japan were life changing. I am forever grateful that I took that leap of faith and moved to another country. I learned so much about the Japanese culture and language, made lifelong friends from all around the world, and gained a better sense of who I am because of my experiences in Japan.
Each year the JET Program has an essay contest for current and former participants. After ten years, I finally submitted something. And, I won an honorable mention! Out of the foreign language category, there were 193 entries, so I am very honored by my award. You can check out my essay, What Is the Kanji for Brother? here (in the .pdf, on page 182 in English).