I believe that challenges and hardships are there for us to make us stronger. I did not always have a positive outlook towards trying out new things, but I have since changed my mind. Now I believe that whatever I put my mind to achieving I can do it with the right mindset. I was born in the United Arab Emirates where the cultural conditions in root in society discourage women from trying out and experimenting with their lives.
Growing up in a society where boys are valued more than girls was an obstacle in itself from an early age. Earlier in my life, I used to think I that boys were worthier than girls. I was apparently wrong, but I did not know back then. It would take time before I changed my mindset. Going to Tokyo would give me new insights and perspectives on being a woman who is not fazed by any challenge.
I got the opportunity of learning a new language Japanese, and I grabbed that opportunity with both hands. I was a timid girl and the fact that I managed to challenge myself headfirst surprised many people- myself included. I did not believe in myself much; I just wanted to do something out of the ordinary. After all, I would not lose anything even if I failed as nobody in the community set-up expected much of me especially as I am a woman.
After doing a beginners language course in Japanese at home in the UAE, I decided to do an intensive language for one month in Tokyo, Japan. I was criticized a lot for this decision by my friends and colleagues. I was disappointed that some close friends tried to discourage me from going and pursuing my dream. The voices telling me not to go were very loud, and I almost listened to them. Thank God, I did not. My family supported me a lot. I thank them a lot for believing in me when I lacked the confidence. They encouraged me to break out of my shell and stop being the hesitant young girl I had been up till then.
Upon arrival at Tokyo, I was hit by culture shock. The language, the buzz in the city, the sights, sounds and smells- everything was different. Homesickness hounded me everywhere. I almost regretted my decision to go to Tokyo. I missed everything about home, the closeness of family, the conversations and the general sense of belonging. However, I reminded myself that I had come so far and it was too late to turn back.
I called home every day and held long talks with my family. The phone calls helped me accept my new reality. I resolved I would make through the month; I would do it for my family if not for me. In Tokyo, transport was a big problem. The schedules were hectic, and I missed the morning train on a few occasions. On such an instance, I had to ask somebody for directions. I was glad when the stranger understood me. It gave me a boost of confidence in my Japanese language skills. The time I spent in Tokyo passed so fast; surprisingly, when I returned home, I missed Japan.
My experience in Tokyo turned me, a shy reserved girl into a risk-taker. I trusted in myself to go away to a new country, a unique culture speaking Japanese from a place where my first language Arabic is the official language. It was not easy, I was terrified, and I had low self-esteem, but I managed that one month. I made a couple of friends in Tokyo- lifelong friends who I interacted with and got to appreciate their culture. Now, I am passably fluent in Japanese. The decision to go to Tokyo is the highlight of my life so far as it showed me that I could do anything I put my mind and heart to do.
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