For those who don’t know me, my name is Sawyer Culberson, and I’m a junior at Keene State studying Graphic Design and Criminal Justice. I arrived in Osaka, Japan on August 19. after traveling 6,790 miles from my home in New Hampshire. The flights were… interesting, to say the least. Spencer, Autumn and I’s first flight to Vancouver was delayed a few hours due to a severe weather warning, and we were stuck on the runway for quite a while. Being 5’11 with a joint disability, I was not having a very fun time in those tiny Air Canada seats. But alas, we arrived in Osaka (after a fun sprint through Vancouver airport and some not nice words from the passengers on our connecting flight).

After being shuttled from the airport to YUI (our dorm building), I stumbled up to my room and passed out immediately. But of course, jet lag woke me up around 3 am. It took a bit to completely flip my sleep schedule. I’m going to preface my first week’s story with Culture Shock is real guys. You can’t read anything or understand anything that the 7/11 cashier is desperately trying to communicate to you. You feel lost and scared and like you shouldn’t leave your room lest you somehow insult the entire population of Japan and get deported.

I spent the first week anxious and very sweaty. I wish someone had warned me about how awful the humidity and heat is in Japan during the summer, seriously. If you ever want to know how a clam feels being steamed, go to Osaka in a heat wave. When you travel anywhere, but especially a foreign country, you very quickly learn the status quo, by observation. I’ve begun to attribute moving to Japan (or any foreign country) to getting a new job. You learn how to not be a nuisance to others, how to work efficiently with the tools you’re provided, and how to communicate effectively with others.. Basically, learn how to not be a bad foreigner, or gaijin as we call them in Japan.

Gaijin is what Japanese citizens use to refer to foreigners. Sometimes it can be taken as an insult, but it’s mostly just a word to refer to foreigners. It’s strange, and almost funny to be a gaijin who looks very foreign, especially outside of the larger tourist areas. Japanese citizens will stop and stare at you, like you’re a circus freak. I especially get stared at, being blonde-haired and blue-eyed with multiple tattoos and piercings. I even made a short comic for my Manga Production class about my experience with a very brazen old man on bike who did not approve of my existence. But like everything you experience day to day, you get used to it. The pros outweigh the cons ten times over.

I love living in Japan. Like every place in the world, there are the good things and the bad things. I can barely read anything here, but the McNuggets here are ten times better than the U.S.’s (not that they compare to a Sizzler. Please someone mail me a Sizzler I’m begging you). Do I recommend studying abroad? Absolutely. It seems scary (and it is for a bit) but once you get used to the country, you’re 100% set to have an unforgettable experience.

Sawyer Culberson can be contacted at

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