Alumni Reflections: Madison Mahaffey

As the end of 2019 and the fall term approaches, I realize how fast my time in Japan has gone by. Before the start of the school year, as I would tell friends and family I would be spending seven months in Japan, it honestly seemed like an unreasonably long time. To briefly speak on my academic life in Japan: I chose to take a nearly full course load, 19 out of 21 credits, because not only did I not have the luxury to waste this opportunity, but because I wanted to take full advantage of studying in a foreign country.

The entity known as Waseda University is an experience in itself. With two different, expansive campuses, and 60,000 students, it is simply something that I have never experienced. My hometown has roughly a population of 8,000 people; my home college is 2,500 students. To say that I was originally overwhelmed by Waseda University is an understatement. Regardless of the topic of the class, it is inherently structured in and around Japan. To be able to have a different starting point, a foundation in a different country and culture that is inherently different from America is truly enlightening. The viewpoint has shifted, and it’s interesting to see how certain things change or remain the same.

This new viewpoint, new foundation, doesn’t just apply to academics. Experiencing first-hand a different culture and different ways of life allows for an introspection of one’s self, and an analysis of who you are and who you want to be. Personally, it’s made me aware of the kind of life I want to live: simply, kindly, and impactfully. I’ve come to be aware of my own shortcomings and faults, and I believe it’s given me a basis to start remedying them. All experience is good experience, and I know this time in my life will play a major role in my life moving forward.

My time in Japan has been spent living with a host family. My relationship with the family was certainly something I hoped for but never expected. I honestly feel as though I am a part of the family, an older sister to the kids. I am so utterly blessed to have been placed with this family, and I truly hope that our relationship will continue even after I return to the States.

This study abroad experience has shown me that I do wish to return, hopefully in a position that is more permanent. It has influenced me to pursue something concerning international relations, whether that be through literary translations, government policies, or education. My journey with Japan certainly does not stop here.

–Madison Mahaffey (Watanabe Scholar ’19)

A video reflection recorded by Madison during her program