Feeling Foreign – My Journey to America
A False Start – Isolated as an Exchange Student
Growing up in Japan, my first experience abroad was a homestay in a suburb of Sacramento, California, when I was 16. I was a sophomore in high school. Although I couldn’t speak English well at the time, I liked to study and had good grades, so I thought I would be all right, that I would be able to speak with my host family and have a great time In America.
When I got there, I found that I couldn’t understand anything at all. I realized that studying a foreign language and culture in a textbook is very different from actually being in a foreign country. Most days I was in my room and didn’t talk to my host family at all. I made a calendar to count down the days until I could go home.
A Second Act – Moving to the U.S. with my Family
Twenty years later, I came back to the U.S. with my husband and our two sons to start a new life.
Looking back on those days, I really enjoyed the differences between the Japanese lifestyle and my new life. I come from Miyazaki Prefecture on the southeastern seacoast of the island of Kyushu in southern Japan, an area known for its beaches and surf points, so life in New England was very fresh and exciting for me at the time—the shiny red and orange leaves in the fall, the vast land, and nature surrounded by the White Mountains, pure white snow, and frozen water pipes in the house from the intense cold.
At some point, the newness of living in America became my routine daily life.
I began to create obstacles in my own mind. I found that I felt disconnected and lonely when I was with other people. I started to question my ability to communicate in English: Do people understand my English? Am I following the conversation? Did I say something wrong? I put myself in a hole and lost my confidence. It was very frustrating.
I felt disconnected and lonely when I was with other people. I started to question my ability to communicate in English: Do people understand my English? Am I following the conversation? Did I say something wrong?
Eventually, I decided that I did not want to hide any longer. I wanted to learn from my experience and move on, no matter what. I found the confidence to put myself out there by doing something I felt only I could do.
Finding My Passion & Common Ground
Since I could not get my favorite Japanese dishes from my old hometown in my new hometown, I started cooking my own food using ingredients from the nearby supermarket. I could not find the exact ingredients that I used in Japan, but I tried to make as perfectly delicious dishes as I could. I felt a sense of accomplishment, so I took photos of my creations and put them on my social media network. Then, my friends started commenting on my food photographs and asking how to make the food. I stepped out of my comfort zone and invited them to my home for a cooking club.
At this point, I discovered something that only I could do and I gained a new sense of myself. I built more confidence in my communication skills. I felt that I had a great deal to offer.
After that, I started teaching Japanese food and culture to my friends and students. I also got a job at a kitchen store where I was able to sell my hometown cooking. Through my newfound passion, I not only made connections with people, but I discovered new possibilities as well.
Bringing My Culture to Gould
Living at Gould provides opportunities to meet people from across the country and around the world. Working with the Global Student Organization, I have been able to share my culture as well as my experiences with students and other members of the Gould community. The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Group gives me the chance to discuss cultural differences, language barriers, and other important issues that we all face in this dynamic and changing world. We share a great gift of learning in this multicultural, diverse environment at Gould Academy.
Through my experience, I have learned to put myself out there and to embrace the challenge of new things. I discovered that I have a lot of friends from all over the world who have the same feelings as me. As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
I want to start to walk to you and I want you to walk to me, too. Then, we can meet halfway. In my experience, I have come to understand that we are much more the same than we are different.
Megumi Moses has lived in New England since 2010 and at Gould Academy for the past three years. She and her husband Peter live in Holden Hall and are advisors of the Global Student Organization.