This month I am turning the blog over to one of our amazing students, Carolyn Holt, who studied abroad in Tokyo last semester. Four months in Japan changed her perspective and goals for after graduation.
My name is Carolyn Holt and I am a junior Wilkinson College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences student, majoring in Creative Writing and minoring in Law and Liberal Arts. Last semester, I got on a plane by myself for the first time and flew 12 hours to Japan to study abroad for four months at Temple University in Tokyo. I didn’t know what to expect when I left Los Angeles, but the short time I lived in Japan showed me the life and career I want after college.
Before studying abroad, I did not know what I wanted to do after I graduated. I began planning to attend law school after my undergraduate education. I had always been told I would make a good lawyer– I’m adept at forming arguments and thinking logically, and debate has always come naturally to me. Friends and family would ask about my post-college plans and I’d half-heartedly offer law school as my answer without really knowing if it was right for me.
I had never been to Japan before, but compared to what I had always known growing up in southern California, everything about Tokyo was different. The architecture, the atmosphere, the customs, the language; nothing was the same. When I was not in class, I was out exploring my new world. My favorite place from the beginning, the neighborhood that would leave a lasting mark on me, was Shibuya where Tokyo’s young creatives gather. There, I discussed poetry with journalists in sky rises, encountered pottery makers in stylish cafes, ate tempura-don with fashion designers, and was taught Japanese slang by musicians. I went to pop-up clothing stores for YouTuber’ brands, drank matcha with paper-cutting artists, and was asked to have my photos taken by street photographers.
A wealth of artists of every variety roamed freely through the streets in Shibuya; with every excursion into the quarter, I felt more and more encouraged and artistically fueled than I ever knew I could be. I spent four months writing nonfiction work about my experiences living in Tokyo, where I was far away from home but rapidly discovered a sense of belonging and deep love for the world there. I also began capturing my daily life on camera, producing weekly video blogs for my YouTube channel that garnered hundreds of thousands of views in the first month of starting it. During my study abroad, the experience of producing written work, spending time in front of the camera, and advancing my skills in Japanese all influenced me to want to pursue writing and acting in Tokyo in the future. By the time I found myself on a flight in December from Haneda Airport to LAX, in tears over my last view of Tokyo Tower from the plane, I finally knew what I wanted to do after I graduated. I want to be an artist in Japan. I want to be among fellow creatives in Shibuya and continue the life I fell in love with.
My time studying abroad in Tokyo was the privilege of my lifetime. I grew in ways and had experiences I could never have anticipated. There’s so much to see in this world, and studying abroad is a significant way to experience more than what you have always known. I know now that I want to write and act, and until graduation, I plan to work hard on those two pursuits with the goal of returning to Japan to pursue them there. In the future, I hope to find some happy combination of screen acting and publishing my nonfiction writing. It was because I studied abroad that I now know where I need to be in the city where, at 20 years old, I learned for the first time that life could be so happy.