From the day I mentioned to my parents I wanted to take a gap year before law school, they were pretty much against it from the beginning. The idea of putting off a “real career” to teach in a foreign country just didn’t really sit well with them. When I finally decided on Japan, it was like the Cold War all over again: death glares, silent treatment and sheer denial. I swear, even as I was stepping onto the airplane a year later, they did not believe I was actually leaving. To be honest, I didn’t either.
Like many others, I came to Japan to teach English—speaking no Japanese, knowing nothing about Japan—you know, true Gaijin style. There was something excitingly scary moving to a foreign country and I guess that is why I chose Japan in the first place; I knew absolutely nothing about it. Yeah, I could have chosen any other country in the world, but there was just that something about Japan and made me want to come.
When I finally arrived, the focused freshly-graduated me spent the first six months studying every day for the LSAT. The day the test was over, I felt I could finally enjoy my Japanese life… and I did. Everyday was spent making new friends, learning the culture, and just enjoying experiences I could never do back at home. About 3 months later, I learned that I did very well on the LSAT, and I was accepted into almost all the law schools that I applied for. However, the more I thought about it, the more I knew I couldn’t just leave the country I had learned to love. What did Japan do to me?
Two years later, I still do not really remember why I chose to forgo law school and stay in Japan, but I can say the decision to take a gap year (OK, I know… gap years) in Japan has been the best decision of my life. Living here has changed everything about me: what I thought was important in life, my interests, my beliefs, my style, my attitude… everything. If I didn’t take this break, I would be killing myself in my second year of law school right now. Instead, I have opened my mind to a new culture. I have picked up Japanese from just constantly hanging out with Japanese friends. I have been able to move to central Tokyo and just recently, I have been hired at the biggest international law firm in Japan. This truly is my new home. My whole life has changed—and I owe this all to the idea not going to school right away.￼
To anyone who is thinking about taking a gap year: do it. Even if you aren’t thinking about it: do it. Although I will always recommend Japan, it doesn’t matter where you go. There is just something about this place that sucks you in and won’t let you go. Ask any English teacher, I know they will agree.