Getting back into the school year from the summer warrants some reflection, I think. Looking back on junior year it was definitely tough. It was ultimately a test of stamina – how much longer you can study, how much more effort you can put into club and extracurricular activities. Because junior year was challenging and tiring, I emerged stronger and more resilient after it, not to mention even more excited for summer.
Speaking of summer, picture this. Spotless bathrooms. Hole in the wall restaurants with only three or four tables. Insanely polite and courteous people. Still need a hint? Okay, how about bonsai trees. Zen gardens. Yep you guessed it, I’m talking about Japan. I was lucky to travel there this summer and experience a whole other culture walking around Tokyo and sailing around Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost main island. Everywhere I turned, I saw customs and practices that contrasted with American culture. Small, appetizer sized portions (Japanese tapas?) that together make up a meal. Working men and women all dressed in identical crisp white shirts (and tie for the guys) and black bottoms (or skirts for the girls), making their way through the spider web that is the Tokyo subway. And I mean identical! It looked like a scene from a futuristic dystopian movie. Oh and the excessive courtesy! Hindered as I was, not knowing Japanese, I felt inclined, no, obligated to express my gratitude for everything from a delicious bowl of ramen to an extra gift thrown in by the shop owner. It was certainly interesting and afforded a valuable opportunity to learn about and explore a culture on the other side of the world, not to mention have an AP World flashback visiting the Meiji Shrine and talking about the Tokugawas (shoutout to Kraig Bauer and Laura Parsons).
Whether you spent the summer staring at blue skies and fluffy clouds floating by, relaxing in the backyard, or traveling to faraway lands, you can bring aspects of your summer vacation with you into the school year. Just how I was able to bring aspects of the school year (AP world learning) into my summer, I can also bring aspects of my summer as I continue to head into the school year. I can bring awareness of differences in culture, appreciation for those who are different than me, and perhaps most helpfully, Japanese Zen into senior year. When homework piles up, recall the peaceful bliss sky gazing brought you. Incorporate your observations of others in a different culture into helping you better understand where classmates’ actions and thoughts may be coming from.
We live in an amazingly international school, with students hailing from all sorts of backgrounds and cultures. they say at the way a peer does something or what, apply your summer travel experiences before you judge. Did you mean to be rude by not giving a respectful mini-bow to an elderly person? No, it just isn’t part of your culture. The same applies to others who perhaps aren’t as used to making eye-contact when speaking to others; it’s just not part of their culture. As you continue to get back into the school year, be on the lookout for ways to keep summer memories and experiences alive. As in all aspects of life, the school/summer year is a connected cycle. Instead of mourning the end of summer days, let them continue to inspire you throughout the year.