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Classes have begun. It’s a funny thing about studying abroad; classes are often a condition. A tough aspect of studying abroad is overcoming that vacation feeling you might have towards your travel and find balance enough to get a grade or too.

I am actually studying at Temple University-Japan, a satellite campus of my Philadelphia home university. Here in Tokyo, it is the largest and oldest American university in the city. In classes English is required. I suppose that’s good for me. (Nihongo sukoshi wakarimasu – I speak very little Japanese.)

Though most of the students are Japanese (with populations from nearby South Korea and China and other East Asian countries) and have been schooled in English for years, I am still left in awe at those around me who voice opinions in a second language, the type of political and philosophical thought that many native speakers struggle to reign in under their language control.

These students remind me constantly of where I am, and make me think I’m wasting my time. There are classes in Philadelphia, but not controversial Yasukuni war memorials or Tokyo Towers or festivals in Yoyogi Koen. So, I sit in my classes asking questions and speaking in tempered English, wondering what I am missing outside the walls of Azabu Hall in Minato-ku, Tokyo.

I try to remind myself that while my location certainly has the most impressive and awesome instruction for my worldview, classes at universities on other continents, in foreign countries, or even different states present the opportunity to learn alongside people with different backgrounds, learn different takes on subjects and find entirely new and interesting points of view. This is all very true. The daydreaming subsists.

I have a forty-minute bus ride from my apartment in the Jiyugaoka section of Meguro-ku to my classes in the Azabu section of Minato-ku. I haven’t yet found a particularly efficient use of that time. For now I offer seats to older men and women and bow deeply, as per my sense of Japanese bus customs. I rest my head on the window and absorb the 100 yen stores, ramen shops, and Pachinko parlors.

I tend to enjoy classes, as in the past year or so I have begun to take my education very seriously. In that sense, I am eager to attack the semester of Asian history and politics. I’ll just have to find a way to cram hundreds of pages of reading and my own original content of academic thought into each week, when I’d like to be exploring this strange world that encircles me.

Jaa ne

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