Part 2 (Of Lessons Learnt Living Abroad)

2. You can learn a lot.

I love learning. In fact, I would go so far as to say I am a learning addict. Every day I fly through information on a quest to learn a little more. It is this insatiable drive that perhaps makes me Jack: “A jack of all trades is a master of none, but often times better than a master of one.” So for me, the chance to move far from home to a new country, has given me even more chances to learn.

As I mentioned in part 1, sometimes the learning has been personal. It has been about learning empathy and kindness when trying to understand what situations are like for others. At other times it has been about understanding something I didn’t earlier in the day, facts, information and such.

My favourite examples of learning a lot fit into both of these categories. Firstly, learning facts about my new home. Japan is a pretty fascinating country. I have learnt a great deal about education here, which I hope will continue to support me in my future career. I have also learnt a lot about Japanese culture. Before arriving, I assumed it would be the history I would delve into, being a history graduate and all. However, it has actually been the culture, and in particular the arts, that has peaked my interest.

In June 2017 I started volunteering for a arts based non-profit in New York, called Artsmith. Artsmith is the brainchild of Tricia, who wants young people to access arts in the Bronx to support their creativity, communication and childhoods. I have always loved art, dance, drama and music. I have never had the skill in these areas as much as friends of mine, but I have tried my hand at them all (my degree minor was dance).

When I reached out to Artsmith to share my experience of Japanese arts, I stepped up my learning game. Since then, I have written one blog per month on a different form of Japanese art and culture, which has expanded my own learning and love of this unique country. My blogs have covered the art of Japanese fan making through to historical Japanese sculpture. This relationship with Artsmith has been perfect, as it has allowed me to share my enthusiasm for learning, understanding different cultures, and the arts, whilst also learning more myself! If you should be so inclined, you can check out these articles here.

Secondly learning about people. Now, people learning is pretty complex. It can get pretty deep! But for the sake of this blog, I’m going to keep the people learning bit nice a light. I have learnt that some people can be extremely friendly, kind, and helpful. Others can be rotten terrors, but then we all knew that anyway.  TRUMP.  Sometimes it can be hard to remember the kindness of others. In particular, for Dan and I, we have been adopted by a student of mine and her mother. We have mentioned them before in blogs, but they deserve another mention in this learning section. They have not only taught us a great deal about Japanese culture and history, but they have also extended kindness towards us by welcoming us into our local community.

When we arrived in Japan, we quickly found out that there are some people who are looking to make international friends and will regard you as a true friend and others who are looking to collect as many non-Japanese “friends” as possible. The latter group are usually, but not always, looking to use you for your ‘free’ English lessons. This in itself wouldn’t be a problem if it was upfront, but it quickly becomes one when the conversation becomes one-sided and the relationship only beneficial for one party (hint, that was never us…). We have encountered experiences like this, but have also been lucky enough to meet Noriko and her daughter. They are simply looking to share as much with us about Japan as they can, whilst enjoying each others’ company.

I have learnt from them about how to truly welcome someone into a community – be kind, don’t use them for only what they can offer you (I guess unless you intend to pay them), show them new things, and share your own experiences with them. It also helps if you throw in a confident teenager and a fairy wand!

So moving abroad has included learning new things every day. You learn about your new home, new language, yourself, those people with you in the new country, those people in your home country, and much more. It really is a learning journey and one I hope Dan and I will keep on travelling along for some time!

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