I knew that it was a matter of time that this will happen. I knew that at some point my little girl would grow up and become independent and begin her own journey of braving the brave new world on her own. But little did I know her ‘preview’ experience would arrive so soon.
My daughter J is in Japan for 8 weeks on a student exchange program and I am missing her dearly. I concede that this is far from her truly leaving our ‘nest’, but in my mind, this marks a very significant milestone for her and for us.
In fact, this is the very first time that she is pretty much On Her Own in a foreign land and learning how to fend for herself. Japan is a place where almost everyone speaks exclusively Japanese and only a little bit of English, if any.
Learning the Japanese language has been something of a deep passion for J. Well actually, she loves other aspects of the Japanese culture as well, especially Japanese food.
Having studied the language for 4 years in school, she was convinced that being able to immerse in the culture first-hand would be an invaluable experience. She was so determined to do this she organized her own fundraiser events selling chocolates to friends and family raise money for her trip. When she showed me how much she raised, I tell you, I was one proud father.
Well, it is now a couple of weeks into the exchange program, how did she cope?
For a start, there were already a few things that got us worried.
- The Mastercard debit card we organized for her did not work as expected. For some reason it was not accepted by many stores. So there were quite a few nail-biting days J was afraid she would run out of money! Thankfully, she could still use the card to withdraw cash from the post office or 7-11 stores.
- She fell quite sick on the second week with a bad sore throat. We know how bad it gets for her each time she gets a sore throat, especially when a fever sets in and this is the first time mummy wasn’t around to fuss and care for her. She did really well here, good job!
- The Public Transport system was quite a challenge and can be quite confusing, especially when all signs are in Japanese and it was not easy to figure her way around with her current level of language proficiency.
- Weather was colder than anticipated and she was not equipped enough to keep herself warm. She now needed to buy some emergency warm clothes but needed to budget (see point 1).
- Her iPhone decided to switch itself off every now and then which effectively meant that our line of communication was down occasionally without warning. She managed to find a way to revive it each time it happened
Despite the above hiccups, I think J has coped brilliantly. She seemed to have matured tremendously overnight and impressed us with her train of thoughts and planning. I am happy to say that she has started to integrate and initiate conversations instead of cooping herself in the room (a common behavior for many exchange students, I was told).
She is now pretty confident when it comes to doing a bit of ‘research’ to figure her way around, budgeted her spending so that the little pot of money can last. She has learned how to interact with a family with a completely different cultural background and learned how to take care of herself when unwell.
I can’t say this enough times, but I felt really proud of her.
She has transformed into a confident young lady. It seemed like just yesterday when she was a tentative, quiet girl lacking in confidence. She has grown in so many ways and for that I am extremely thankful.
I know some people may think these are small things. But to me, they are big steps for my little girl.
At a personal level, I truly feel that I am having a foretaste of what it feels like not have her around me all the time. It felt strange to be honest, and I think I underestimated how badly I am dealing with missing her. Having said that, ultimately this is exactly what I am trying to prepare her for – independence.
If anyone else has a similar experience, I would love to hear your thoughts.
Still Learning to Be a Better Dad,