I must admit, I have never been confident about my own abilities and potential at any point, and I am not sure I ever truly will be. The option of studying abroad was something I had always put off, coming up with reasons for looking into it next term, or next year. I went into this experience expecting that I may end up departing early, that I would not be able to handle being somewhere so different when compared to my relatively tiny hometown and life.
The first thing was using a foreign language, with anyone. I had never been comfortable using Japanese in or out of class at the University of Oregon, so I had no idea how I would manage in a situation where it was required most, if not all the time. My confidence in communication is poor even with English. This became an even greater concern at the time when my host family’s details were finally made available, and their monolingual background. The thought of going into another person’s home, where my weakest language was the only means of communication, amidst all the other changes felt beyond me. While I must admit, compared to others my family may have been the simplest and most open in expectations, I was amazed at how well I took to living in Tokyo and using the language, and how well life went with my host family. My time there showed from the very start that my language proficiency, while not without the occasional mistakes, was actually much more advanced than I had allowed myself to believe. I was able to communicate with very few issues with my host family who spoke no English, and that I was able to effectively communicate in general conversation and day to day activities outside my host families place and class. This experience really helped build confidence in my language skills, especially Japanese.
Another major thing I was able to work on to some degree while abroad was my difficulty with public speaking and presentations. While at Waseda University I had the opportunity along with a friend to visit Seikei University as guest speakers and speak at two seminars under a professor we had worked with at Waseda University. I have always questioned whether I can actually manage a position as a teacher as that is what I would like to do in the future. What was supposed to be simple introductions followed by observation turned into four hours of constant discussion and presentation with the students of these seminars, as the professor joined the students and left everything in our hands for the day. I found that not only was I able to manage this situation, but I actually did enjoy it, and a good time was had by all.
In all this, I was able to see what I was capable of, and what I should to improve upon in communication and the way I treat myself. While I already knew this, my time abroad really brought out the issue of self-confidence, and how excessively hard I am on myself. This is clearly something I need to address if I ever wish to advance in education.
– Mykal Sutherland, Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan