My Fulbright scholarship filled in all the cracks for what I was not able to learn while studying at Columbia University’s East Asian Institute or while in Japan the year before as an honored guest of the Japanese government. During my first trip, I traveled throughout Japan for the purpose of immersing myself in Japan’s cultural richness and for observing and comparing the country’s educational system with our own. This time around, as a Fulbright scholar, I took delight in focusing on what it was like to live in Tokyo, to develop real friendships with the Japanese people I met along the way, and of course, continue my studies of the Japanese language from where I left off previously at Columbia University’s East Asian Institute.
I experienced what it was like to feel the earth tremble below me while sitting in a classroom and while laying in bed. Like a native, I continuously socialized while speaking in Japanese as I sat along the long tables found in all the local bars while eating and drinking gyoza and Kirin beer like the rest of the crowd. I learned what it felt like to be pushed, shoved, have your shirt sleeve ripped off in a crowed train every morning while commuting to school, and I learned and appreciated most how invigorating it was to take daily morning jogs in a vast land of green forest right in the middle of Tokyo where I found and grew to love The Meiji Jingu shrine. The ability to replace my thoughts there with the simplicity and beauty of Shinto, which values harmony with nature, was priceless! My distinguished professor was an inspiration and I was also able to learn from her very effective teaching methodology that I was able to apply back home when teaching Japanese and four other foreign languages on both the high school and college levels.
In Japan, I had the unique opportunity to study Japanese art and learn about antiques on my own and so there, I first became an avid collector. My biggest challenge was having to publish my first article in Japanese in an educational journal and my proudest moment was receiving my diploma. I will look back at this time in my life where I was given the opportunity and freedom to live a dream that I could never have been able to simulate anywhere else but in Tokyo. Just today, as I taught a class remotely in Japanese, I was able to bring back and share pertinent memories with students who share the same thirst for knowledge that I once had about Japan and it’s language and culture. This experience gave me an even better appreciation of Japan and it’s culture which has become a part of me. To this very day, I speak as enthusiastically as ever about these experiences to my students so that they can continue to pique their curiosity about exciting places on Earth. Thanks Fulbright Association!
Wendy Weiner – Fulbright to Japan 1985