So, What is it Like Leaving The USA For The First Time?

So, What is it Like Leaving The USA For The First Time?

On my first day back in the US, I felt like I should have never left Japan. The way of life there suited me more and the amount of dread I felt leaving me host family was something I’d never really felt. Although I was ecstatic when my bag was finally unpacked a week after I got home, I still really missed the relationships I made while I was in Japan. I miss walking down the streets unlike I could ever do in my small hometown. 

What was it like leaving the USA for the first time?

I was told before I left that what I was doing was really brave. I didn’t feel brave though.

Traveling to Japan felt more like traveling home than returning to America actually did.

Being there, I was able to walk anywhere. Personally, I hate driving and I don’t believe I should be allowed on the road but I have to get places somehow. I felt like walking was just a better way for me to get around.

Street Emily would walk everyday.

Was there anything that really surprised you about living in a different country?

Of course! The shower room is something I really miss now. You shower outside of the tub and it doesn’t sound weird when you turn the water off and on when rinsing your body therefore saving water. I also really like that the toilets were in separate rooms but those rooms got really hot because there was no central cooling and those rooms did not have an A/C unit.

Emily’s first run in with a Japanese toilet (bidet) at the Narita Airport.

How much Japanese do you know now?

Definitely a lot more. I am a little out of practice now and hope to find the time to get it done along with my school assignments. I am also hoping to go online and get a teacher to help me further my studies once I get a job. The teachers in Japan where so sweet and taught incredibly well. They didn’t mind straying from the lesson when you were confused and asked a question.

Picture of the board telling what time words use the particle “ni” after them.

Why should other teenagers do this program in Japan?

This beats just about anything I have ever done during the summer (except for the trips to Disney World’s Epcot which originally got me wanting to do things like this). I think it was definitely an eye opener to how other people live. I’d say it was close to America in a way but completely different in others.

I really enjoyed being there and I can’t wait to go back. I bought a really nice tea set, a hakata doll, and a bunch of snacks. I will be sticking with my original plan which would be to go to Japan for college after a year or two in the United States and hopefully find a way to work there. Fukuoka will always feel like home to me and I definitely plan to visit my wonderful host family some day.

Beautiful beach on island “Shikanoshima”


Emily Pipkin, from small-town Illinois, is a Greenheart Travel First Time Traveler Scholarship recipientLearn more about Greenheart Travel’s scholarship opportunities to help you travel for a change!


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One thought on "So, What is it Like Leaving The USA For The First Time?"

  1. Meruchan says:

    Emily made a brilliant comment when she stated that “way of life suited me more.” That is the way I’ve always felt when visiting Japan, but I was never able to put it into such smart words. I hope Emily will be able to return to Japan to study as she wished or even join the JET program! Fukuoka/Hakata is very genki compared to northern areas of Japan, like Kanto region. But I will also say that living with a host family (ideal) is very different from living by yourself in an apartment (reality) whether being a student or employee. Best of luck and gambate!

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