Program: Kansai Gaidai University
Time Abroad: Fall 2008
Major: Psychology & Biology
The single greatest day I had while studying abroad in Osaka was also one of my last. It was a Friday morning, and I had just completed my final exams at Kansai Gaidai. With my free afternoon, I decided to visit Fushimi Inari-taisha, one of the amazing nearby shrines. I had planned to visit Fushimi Inari much earlier, but just hadn't found the time. I wouldn't be disappointed.
Fushimi Inari is famous for its tightly spaced rows of gates, called torii, which follow a winding path up a mountain peak. The gates are so densely packed, they seemed to form tunnels through the forest, leading to the summit. It was a quiet winter day, with very view visitors at the shrine. I took out my camera, and started my hike.
As I walked through the forest, shrines, and torii, I began to reflect on what my study abroad experience meant to me. I had missed out on an entire fall at DU, been absent from my friends and family, and had been out of the country for the historical presidential election, the first I voted in. Yet I had gained so much in comparison to those small sacrifices. I learned a foreign language, participated in a different culture, and succeeded academically. I explored the most modern parts of Tokyo and Osaka, seen ancient shrines and temples in Kyoto, and witnessed an atomic bomb survivor speak at Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park. I made countless friends from across the globe, with whom I stay in contact with to this day. I visited my old host families, reconnected with my brothers, sisters and parents from previous programs, and saw how much we had all grown. But most importantly, I had confirmed my independence and maturity. As I reached the top of the mountain, I realized that if I managed live in Osaka, I could live in Denver.
The light began to fade as I climbed back down, but the view of Kyoto in twilight was amazing. The homes' and business' lights began to twinkle, and I knew that while I had come to Fushimi Inari late, it was precisely the right time for me.