Alone in Japan

There is so much I have experienced and learned in just my first few days of living in Tokyo, but I would first like to mention that this whole trip was made possible mainly through the funding I received from the Gilman Scholarship.

Anyway, now that I am here, I would like to give an organized mess of my initial thoughts of being in this country. Having never traveled or left home before, my thoughts and feelings may be a little sporadic.

Here goes:

“I have always liked to figure things out on my own. I thought I would be perfectly fine being alone and relying solely on myself, but I quickly realized that living alone doesn’t mean doing everything on your own.”

Where is the Emotion?
Upon arriving in Japan, I was completely underwhelmed and felt literally nothing. No excitement, no fear, no joy, no sadness. I was basically in a daze, but not from jet lag or shock. I can’t really explain why I was void of emotion, but if I had to guess, I assume it was I couldn’t believe that something that I’ve wanted for so many years had finally come true. So, I spent my first two days very indifferent.

I Found the Emotion
I left campus my third day; I didn’t go far but I was able to really experience Tokyo. I saw shrines, temples, KFC and McDonald’s all in the same vicinity. That little bit of traveling revived me and suddenly I was very thrilled to be in the country I’d always wanted to go to.

Culture Shock
After studying Japanese for two and a half years I wasn’t surprised by some of the things I saw, though I did forget that they have trashcans to separate pretty much everything (plastic, bottles, cans, burnable items, non-burnable items, glass, etc).

Since I only left campus once, I experienced very subtle culture shock. The first thing I did, which branded me as an American, was enter a car on the wrong side. My American-thinking brain had me to believe that the right side was the passenger side, and although I knew driving was opposite, I still was surprised by it.

All the bugs are different. They make different sounds, and some are abnormally large — I’m talking about the ants. The ants are so big I thought there were a different insect. It took so much to convince myself that those huge insects are, in fact, ants. I don’t know how big they get all across America, but in San Diego they are very small.

The average printer paper size is slightly longer and thinner than the paper in America.

The honesty and integrity of the Japanese people really baffled me. The majority of people in Tokyo ride their bikes everywhere but there are no places to lock your bike. People just leave their bikes unattended anywhere and no one steals them.

The sun comes up really early. It’s completely sunny at 5 in the morning but it feels like 8 or 9 in the morning, so that’s really messing with my sleep schedule.

So Much Confusion
The first few days were crazy. I was given little-to-no direction as to what to do the day after I arrived and that continued as the days progressed. I felt lost and confused, as if I were just thrown into the ocean and expected to fend for myself with no tools to survive. I didn’t even know where to go to ask for help. So, I found myself having to ask around for help, asking other international students or the staff if I had to, which meant using my Japanese language skills.

The I Lesson Learned
I have always liked to figure things out on my own. I thought I would be perfectly fine being alone and relying solely on myself, but I quickly realized that living alone doesn’t mean doing everything on your own. People need other people in order to make it in life. So even though it was very out character for me to ask so many people for help, it was necessary for my survival and I’m better for it.

My final thought is, doing something completely new and different is always going to be a struggle. There will be challenges, but challenges help you develop and grow.

Therefore I will delight in any obstacle I face while I am here.


Dalayah Baker is a third-year transfer student majoring in Japanese. She is studying abroad spring semester in Tokyo, Japan.

4 thoughts on “Alone in Japan

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  1. Hi Dalayah! I hope the next few days and weeks get better. It takes courage to admit that you need help, and I’m sure that you will keep learning this as your semester goes on. The good thing is that you already speak some Japanese, so be confident in that! Imagine those who come to Tokyo or Japan with little to no language skills and how much more difficult that could be.

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  2. Experiences abroad make your lives enriched indeed. I appreciate all mw experiences, friendship and support I was given as an exchange student at SDSU years ago.
    I hope many students from SDSU will continue to enjoy and love our country Japan too.
    God bless you all at SDSU!

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  3. I am so proud of you gbabygirl, When I fell overwhelmed and feel lost I call on the Higher Power and HE will take me through.

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  4. You got this! It’s one semester full of life lessons and scholastic studying and then a lifetime of basking in the achievement afterward. May the path in front of you be abundant with blessings

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