By Rena Kondo
English Language Program
Studying abroad has changed my personality. Before I came to Chatham University, I was neither talkative nor optimistic. I am a shy person and worry about anything. For example, I am waiting just for someone to talk to me while I want to talk to them. Also, I am not a risk taker so if I see a risk of making a mistake, I wait and delay my action every time. I am still nervous, but I am trying to challenge myself more than before. I’ve decided never to think I have more time to do something in the future. If I did not act, I could not do it forever. So I acted. I said “Hi” to international students , and we’ve become closer to each other. I joined an activity outside of Chatham University to explore my experience. I made friends from more than 10 foreign countries. I want to tell my past self, “You will have many more friends than you expected.” I learned there is no difference between friends even when we are from different countries. We can be friends and spend our time in the same way as with friends from the same country.
Moreover, my friends have helped me to be more positive. One international friend who I met here shared her experience that changed my thoughts. When she came here, she spoke English without confidence. She worried about her English ability when talking to American people. One day, she talked to a friend who lives in the United States. She said, “My English is not good, I’m sorry” before starting the conversation. Her American friend said to her “You mustn’t say my English is not good. You know more than two languages., It’s amazing.” When I heard this experience, I also thought I was good at speaking in English, but I could try to talk and improve my confidence. My friend was also in the same situation, but she could overcome her shyness. Now, I am going to go to the next step like she did.
Personally, this is the second time I’ve studied abroad. However, the first time was not what I wanted because of Covid-19. My previous plan was staying in Australia for 9 months, but after only 1 month, I stopped the program and returned home. For studying abroad, I took TOEFL more than 20 times. If I could not get a high score, I could not study abroad. To get a good TOEFL score, I dedicated much time. When I was going to return to Japan, I could not believe it and kept asking myself, “Why did I lose all of the opportunities while not doing anything bad? Why?” I was waiting for my next studying abroad experience. I was not just waiting without doing anything. I took English classes and tried IELTS and TOEIC. Also, I tried TOEFL again from the beginning. It was the hardest part because I only had one chance. Failure was not an option.
I went through every wall, and I could finally get the opportunity of studying abroad. It was time to choose country, but I did not want to go to the United States because of my fear of guns. However, since the United States opened its border, so I chose the United States reluctantly. Before I came here, I worried about safety and security. However, when I met the staff from the Office of International Affairs, I started to like American people and the city. A few days later, I met Chatham staff and students, they said to me, “Welcome to Chatham!” My image of the United States completely changed with a 180-degree turn. Now, I can say the reason why my first study abroad stopped in the middle was for me to get here, the United States, with a positive mind.
Everything is happy for me here. It is not only traveling to another state with my friends but also some difficulties I face and overcome. I first must study English, do homework and exams as well as do laundry, go to grocery store, and manage myself without my parents’ help. Sometimes I cannot sleep well during the week, and it is extremely exhausting. I do not know why, but I still feel fulfilled. I can say being busy is happiness.
I have now realized that my choice was not wrong. If someone does something before me, it does not mean I’m behind them. Thanks to Covid-19, I now have an experience of studying abroad in the US and confidence to pass the TOEFL exam for the second attempt. In fact, I postponed graduating from my university by 2 years. My friends of the same age already started to work more than 2 years ago. Some friends studied abroad and have graduated as usual. During the days, I was thinking why these bad things happened only to me. However, if I had given up a second chance of studying abroad, I might regret it and blame it for not challenging myself. I learned that I must do what I want now without comparing myself with someone else.