Charleston exchange student spent year in Japan | Local

CHARLESTON — Amara Griffin never really got that culture shock she was told about before she was flown across the Pacific Ocean.

In May, the 17-year-old Charleston student returned home from her nine-month stay in Sasebo, Japan, a city with a population of more than 250,000 people, as part of the Rotary Youth Exchange program.

And looking back, Griffin said she was well prepared for her first steps into the eastern country. Landing herself a position to make it into Japan had been a longtime wish of hers.

She said she loves the traditional aspects of their culture.

“It was so old and so interesting,” she said.

Griffin sought out seemingly everything she could on the country from blogs about living in Japan to general information about its culture and heritage.

“I was looking up housing, how they make meals,” she said. “I would look up blogs of their daily lives in Japan and blogs on what not to do in Japan.”

“I wanted to learn about everything,” Griffin said.

So, it didn’t come as that much of a shock when she walked about the cramped city. Coming from Charleston, she found this a stark contrast, seeing how those in Japan live in and outside of the home.

Everything was very “tiny” from the homes to the streets to even the cars, she said. She recalled seeing only six trucks during her entire stay in the country. It was all very compact, she said.

“There is so little space in Japan,” Griffin stressed. “When you are going to different cities in Japan, you can see the rice paddies and the little farm areas, but that is it (in terms of open spaces).”

It actually became more of a culture shock coming back home than anything she experienced in Japan.

“When I came back there was a lot of reverse culture shock,” Griffin said. “I came back. The cars were bigger… Everything is so spread out. There is so much space here. I forgot how much space was here.”

That is not to say that her arrival in Japan was not an adjustment. She noted that she had to adapt early on, especially when it came to food. Most of her diet in Japan consisted of rice and seafood, the latter of which she was never a big fan of beforehand.

Meals often had some sort of fish and rice involved in the dish. She learned to enjoy these by the end of her stay.

Griffin would also have to learn quickly when it came to Japanese traditions…

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