I grew up in the rural Ohio countryside where the nearest store was at least thirty minutes away and I was surrounded by five acres of woods. Living in my small 600 sq. ft. home, there were only a family of other Caucasians living across the road. Everyone at my elementary school was also Caucasian except for the one or two African American and Asian kids, but for the most part I had no experience with any other culture other than my own – white.
My parents, uncultured, didn’t have anything to contribute to this obvious challenge. Therefore, until I went to college, I had the same image of the world that I’d always had: that America was basically the center of the universe. It was the center of my universe anyways.
In high school I’d started watching a bit of anime, but never gave a second thought to learning the language. Learning another language for me was just a requirement that I had to take to graduate high school. I took the only language class available since we were a tiny high school, Spanish, and just barely passed. I didn’t care at all.
After high school I went on to college. I met my current boyfriend online, and he happened to be Mexican. This was my first introduction to other cultures. I still remember how my parents used to make tacos and I wasn’t a fan at all: there was never much flavor in them and they used giant tortillas made for burritos. No offense mom.
As soon as I bit into one of my boyfriend’s mom’s tacos, I knew I needed to experience more of the world. An opportunity at my college came up: a study abroad trip for a whole month to Japan. The credit happened to be International Business, but if I’m honest, my peers that attended the trip and I didn’t care about that. We just all wanted to go to Japan.
It was an amazing experience. I learned so much about Japan, and that made me realize that I wanted to learn more about the world. So I started taking Japanese at my new college, and will continue to learn other languages throughout my lifetime and travel if I can. I plan to apply to the JET program this fall in order to live in Japan and teach for a year just to experience Japan culture more. I fell in love with it immediately.
Don’t assume that your culture is the only one. There’s an entire world out there, much, much older than America. It’s changed me for the better.