10 Year Anniversary of Living In America & 15 Life Changing Lessons I've Learned from Living Abroad By Myself

Hi my LOVEs!
Today’s post will be super lengthy, so I recommend that you grab yourself a coffee or tea ( probably more!? ) first before you start reading it! Oh, and also don’t forget a light bite, as well!

As I am starting to write this post, I am quite emotional. Today marks the 10-year anniversary of my huge move from Japan. Yes, I have been officially living in the US for 10 years as of today!!
I still don’t believe that I’ve lived in a foreign country for such a long time and been away from home for almost 9 years.
When I first came here, I was 21, and now I am 31.
The time flew by so fast!! 

I initially came to the United States to study abroad and my plan was to live here for 3-4 years because my parents allowed me to study abroad on the condition that I would return back to Japan within 4 years and find a job when I got back. However, I fell in love with it here ever since I landed today 10 years ago, and I instantly knew that this would the place I want to live my life.


I still clearly remember the day I first saw the vast blue sky, big clouds that seemed as if I could reach them, the crisp and clear air, and the wide roads. Everything my eyes captured thrilled me so much. To this day I’m still excited! 
I’ve lived out countless exciting, unforgettable, incomparable experiences over the last 10 years. I would require at least 2 more blog posts to tell you all about them, but suffice it to say that all those experiences would never have happened, had I lived in Japan.
Each has shaped me into who I am right now and will undoubtedly last a lifetime...

To be really honest with you, I totally underestimated things. I mean, I thought it would have been wayyy easier to live abroad.
I went through so many financial issues. I was so broke about 6 months ago that I literally couldn’t pay my rent. I begged my friends to help lend me money so that I could pay my phone bill.
The longer I live here, the more I miss my home country, my culture, my old friends. I still get depressed because of that.
Processing all things about being able to work here legally cost me tons of money and it takes a village to complete.
Quite often, I still feel alone, as though I don’t belong anywhere... I feel very empty inside. I sometimes cry on Monday because I didn’t have anyone to hang out with over the weekend, and that makes me feel I am so boring. I know it's a stupid thing to cry for, but I can’t help it.

Any adventure contains best and worst experiences. And both of them are truly what makes the adventure incredible and unforgettable. My adventure in America is just like that. If someone asked me “Have you ever regret making a decision to come to America and determined to stay?”, I would in no time respond “NOT AT ALL!!!”

Yes, all those past 10 years, I’ve experienced so many struggles, so many hardships, so many falling downs. But can’t we avoid them, can we? No, that’s how life is..
We can’t live happily all the time. Well, we all wish. Maybe, my life would have been less tougher and much easier in Japan, but I would rather have many interesting stories to be read in the book of my life.

Which is better, a book with only 1 chapter or 25 chapters?
What if The Little Mermaid without Ursula and Aladdin without Jafar?
ithout them, the movies wouldn't have been just as awesome and everyone's favorites.

Living in a foreign country has taught me a number of invaluable life changing lessons: lessons that have helped me create who I wanted to be; lessons that have opened my mind, my heart and my paths; lessons that I would have NEVER discovered in my home country.
I’d like to share my 15 important life lessons i’ve learned living abroad. 

1. How important my family is

Before I moved to America, I had not a very happy relationship with my parents, especially with my mom.. I'd been always tried to understand her. Why is my mom more stick on me than my younger brother? Why does she scold me all the time? How come she never gives affirmations when I accomplish something? 
Every after I came to here and ever time she called me on the phone, we always ended up having flights and me crying and left so much anger on her. I didn’t like my mom, I didn’t really value my family. I really didn’t care about what was going on among family. Even when they first came visited me from Japan, most of the time we had big arguments on small things both at the hotel and in public.. It was a quite painful me for to talk to her with my heart. 

In 2016 during our third family trip in SF, some totally unexpected thing happened.
On our way back to the hotel, my phone got snathced by a stranger, and that was a quite incident for all of us... But to me, this occurrence was when I was clearly able to see the true love from my parents.
Right after my phone was taken, I was so stunned that all I could do was shouting to my dad saying “Daaaad! My phone was just taken by a stranger!! HELP ME!” Then, he was running after him as fast as he could. You know my dad isn’t that young. But I’ve never seen my dad was running like a shot from a gun! 
Unfortunately we couldn’t catch the thief, but there were two witnesses that were young homeless kids. My mom was so appreciative to them because they called the police right away they saw my dad was running and reported the cop and gave a complete account of all things they were capturing. The kids only have a prepaid phone, so they used their money to help me out. And my mom repeatedly said thank you to those boys with a bow in her broken English, and she handed them a small token of her gratitude. On top of that, she also gave some candy, snacks and whatever that could be useable for them out of her purse.. 
I was literally standing with no words... 
That night at the hotel, my mom and I were able to have a deep conversation without no quarrels. And I was so very amazed by how earnest and deep we could be connected with each other throughout our talk. It was so calm and I totally felt that we could finally talk with heart to heart. 
I had been waiting for this moment for 29 years..
And the follwing year, my mom and I decided to do mather-and-daughter trip to New York for the first time in my life, which was incredibly awesome and never to be forgotten. 
Now I can't be more excited and happier when my mom sends me messages, and whenever my family give an international calls, I am so touched. I am so appreciative to my family every single day now.
I really cherish my relationship with my family much deeper now.  

2. Don’t be afraid of taking risks

I learned to take risks with courage. Living abroad itself can be scary, worrying and overwhelming. Yet many of my best and unforgettable memories were born when I took some extra risks.
One of them are definitely becoming a fashion/style blogger in here. I described a little bit here under About. I can’t tell you all the stories yet, but I took the biggest risks in my life back in 2013. I’ve gained so much more than I could have ever imagined at the time I decided to.
No one doesn’t wanna get hurt voluntarily and we tend to naturally avoid the worst case scenarios.
But what really important is that you give it a try with knowing the anxiety and all sorts of negative feelings, but do something out of your comfort zone anyway. That’s so powerful and profound, and these risks certainly give you further self-growth.

3. Always follow your heart

Sometimes you have to listen to others, but after all, it’s your life, it’s your path, and only YOU know what and how to make your life better.
Your parents expect you to go for a certain path, but is that what you really want to?
When your partner gives you an amazing and helpful advice, do you still listen to your heart carefully?

I’ve encountered a number of moments that I had to make agonizing choices, but I’ve always followed my heart. Because of that, I had any single regret on my decision and there has never been “what if…?” questions to myself.  
I learned to trust my instincts and know that if I listen, my heart will guide me in the right direction even if it doesn't start off in the way you plan or expect. 

4. Be kind to someone you don’t adore

I learned that everyone isn’t perfect. We always have good and bad sides. But when you change, everything and everyone around you WILL change eventually.
I once had a friend I thought she didn’t like me, so I distanced myself from her. Even though I didn’t wanna be rejected or receive a cold response from her, I tried to reach out her again wholeheartedly. At that time, she was going through many things that stoped her from socializing, but me reaching out to her saved her life, she told. 
And guess what? She has now become one of my best friends in America I made and now she has been my life savor whenever I lose confidence and feel so alone.

5. Be appreciative to little things

I learned to more focus on finding the smaller and simpler things. Like when a stranger gives a nice compliment on your outfit at a grocery store or bust stop, I say back to him/her a big thank you note with a big smile. Of course, we tend to gain happiness from the larger things such as a great job, great paycheck, success, big house, fame and freedom to travel the world.
While these are definitely make us happy but those every day little things are much more important for mental health, our moods and well-being. Also, they lead to greater happiness deep inside of your heart and help you achieve bigger goals.

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6. Never forget the gratitude.

I am a buddhist by nature, but my practice wasn’t very serious until I came to America and I had numerous unbearable experiences here. My practice taught me that “happy people make people happy or even happier” and everything starts from appreciation. I’ve always used to take things and people for granted.  

"Appreciation and joy multiply our good fortune. Complaint and negativity erase it. [ It is the heart that is important ] —there are no truer words than these. "

This is so true, isn't it? And we are all weak and easily susceptible to complaint, resentment, envy and discouragement.
That’s why we need to pay attention and strive to be more appreciative even with small things. The word “thank you” has such a miracle power that helps you attain an inner strength that make you confident and positive and power that fills a heart so warm. 
When we have such positive and appreciative attitude toward people, it is certain that it impetuses to them as well.

7. Everything happens for reasons

Throughout my experiences over the 10 years, I know now that there is no such thing as meaningless reasons for our lives. No matter what happens to you, that experiences are what you really need at the moment, for you to be able to grow as a person and for you to have a better life in the future. You don’t need to eagerly seek what the true meanings behind will be because no one can tell, even yourself. But surely you will realize them when the right time comes.
When terryble thing happens to me or whoever around me, I can strongly advice “Everything will be fine, don't give up and don't let it sway you!” And that baseless confidence is sometimes what you really need the most to get you through it!

8. Embrace the obstacles

I hate facing obstacles and never get used to that. However, I leaned how to live with the obstacles when you encounter. Obstacles are the opportunities to make things better. Avoiding and denying as if an obstacle is not there will never remove and solve it. Use obstacles as a lesson to gain something from there. Don’t panic, it will not the end of the world. When you overcome it, you will become a greater, wiser, more courageous and stronger person!
People sometimes ask me, “Aika, why are you always so positive and optimistic?” and I respond, “I wasn’t born like this, but having had to face so many obstacles while living in America, I just have known this: when you hit the hardships, that’s when you have to really bear, stand solid, and believe in yourself that you can definitely make through it with the strong will and hope, more firmly than anyone else!”

9. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

This is the first things I learned when I came to America. To be able to master other languages isn’t a piece of cake. I was made fun of because I couldn’t speak it very well. I felt very discouraged all the time for the first 2 years in school because all my friends and classmates spoke either fluently or way better than I did. But I've been keeping trying over and over.
My teachers didn’t understand me due to the bad grammar and that stressed me out so much. I constantly received Cs on my essays. But I’ve kept making mistakes to be a better speaker and better writer.
Because I made mistakes and learned from them, I’ve become a good & hardworking student and after all I was nominated for ESL scholarships in 4 times and noted for one of the 5 outstanding students out of all the 300+ ESL students. Then, when I graduated from my school, my name was listed on Dean’s List.

Failure sucks, failure doesn’t make you feel good, failure disheartens you, but they will never be inevitable. If you want to accomplish something great, you will also have to face failure. But making mistakes will teach your more than you expect.
You will notice what you are good and not good at. You will learn what to do and what not to do. You will adapt and change until you find what works for you the best.
As long as you keep learning from your mistakes, you are closer to your goals, you are closer to gain victories. 
We will never achieve anything without them. You can’t be a person who doesn't make mistakes because then you are the person who doesn't do anything or try something. 

10. How to ask for help when needed

In Japanese culture, asking for help or question is kind of considered rude because the questions cause embarrassment or loss of face and also if the favor is unreasonable or too much, or the question is inappropriate, it shows that the asker is stupid. You will notice at some points that we still have the fact that many things remain unsaid, implicit, and only indirectly implied during the conversation. That’s why when I first came here, I was having so much trouble asking for help when I needed. But in American culture, it’s so natural that people help with each other, they offer hands. I really really appreciate that.
So many of my friends have helped me in many many ways and without their genuine help and support, my American life would have ended up so much difficult.

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11. Help me learn more about myself

Living here all myself has helped me grow and develop as a person, as a woman, and as a dream-chaser. Also, it allowed me find out what kind of person I want to become. I really didn’t like myself back in my 20s. I felt like there was no substance in myself back then. I was very selfish and spoiled. I didn’t listen to other people’s advice. I only cared about ME. I wasn’t very appreciative. I was a liar. I wasn’t responsible.
But because I was able to get to know myself more while going through many experiences in America, it helped me realize what I should do to become better and be the best version of myself.
Do I love myself now? HECK YES!! 

12. Be proud of Where I am from

I didn’t like my country as much as I do now before. I always wished that I was born in America and for the first 5 years I really wanted to become an American - a small face, long legs, blonde hair, colored eyes… But the longer I live here, the more my love towards my country grows - fashion, culture, food and even the language. Still I don’t recommend to live over there because I don’t like the society and the hierarchy system. Other than that, I am so proud of being a Japanese now. In America, being a Japanese is what makes me so unique and strands out from the crowds.

13. How to live true to myself

This is so important, but it’s so hard to maintain. It took me many many years to realize how. It’s definitely a life-long practice. Because I came here in my early 20s, I guess I really didn’t take my life very seriously. But after I hit 27, things has changed and living my life truthfully is very significant to have a mentally healthy life.
Time to time, I try to listen to my heart and communicate my feelings wholeheartedly both myself and my close friends who knows me well. When I am being true to myself, I can be completely honest with my feelings, my values and my desires. That refreshes my mind. If it becomes lack of it, I am inclined to trap in melting-down moments. Sometimes I have to find out that I suffer mentally and emotionally, and I don’t wanna accept it.
But, learning to pay attention to my deeper level and feelings is really helpful to get out of the negative cycle. Having and establishing a strong connection to myself is one of the ways to live happily.

14. It’s okay not to be okay

This is actually what I learned from you guys. From my social media family. When I was depressed really badly, I decided to reveal true myself and shared what I was suffering and what I am struggling in my life via my Instagram stories. And so many of you replied and messaged me, “Aika, it’s okay that you are not OK. We are all here for you, you are not ALONE. Take a deep breath and you will be better.
Those words meant the world to me and helped me so much overcome my huge depressions at that time.
Mental illness is no joke. There is no shameful in admitting that you are not okay. I just wished I had a superpower that I preserved through people’s sufferings and struggles because I don’t want anyone to take own life. It’s just so sad to witness people kill themself from mential pains...
I was afraid and scared to show a sad Aika to my followers. I wondered what if they didn’t wanna see me like this or what if they were influenced and discouraged by seeing someone in depression? However, I was so grateful for all the warm messages and kind hearts from ya'll. It was such a great opportunity for me to learn how to get better of dealing with my depressions; talk it out, cry it out, reach out to people, and share your { true } feelings, not trapping in own shell.

15. Don’t lose hope, no matter what

I learned that we can’t live from escaping from things you don’t wanna face, and some days are painful, hard and awful. But as long as you keep the hope up, you can get through it. For sure. 

There is always hope no matter where you are.
If you think there is no hope, look for it.
If you can’t find it, then create it.
And if you completely can't find hope, start over and move forward.

I believe hope can give a reason to keep going because to lose hope is to lose your will to live. Living in America has taught me my true life philosophy - no matter what happens and no matter how hard things may be, don’t lose hope. Never! As long as you hold on courage, hope, guts to keep moving forward, you can absolutely find a way out.
Having this teaching in the core of my mind has really helped me establish to become strong-willed and also overcome innumerable hardships I faced these past 10 years.

If you made it to here, thank YOU so much for taking your time and reading this whole blog post.
It took me hours of hours of hours to organize my thoughts and type them all in. Did I ever tell you that writing is my least favorite things about being a blogger?
Writing is NOT what I am really good at. BUT I was able to do anyway because I wanted this commemorative blog to be something meaningful in remembrance of today's milestone!!
I had to pause on writing cause I got so emotional and I actually cried recalling all the memories of past years… But I wanted this blog to be something I’ve never done and something that my beloved readers and followers understand me on a more deeper level in the hope of connecting each of you personally. 
I hope you guys were able to get to know me better than before! 

I have such deep appreciation to each one of YOU for being so sweet, kind and supportive and for continuing to love me. And thank you to all my American friends to offer me big helps when I needed and to believe in me strongly. And last but not least, I want to give a huge thanks to my family in Japan for letting me go after my dreams and understanding me truly.

If you are currently live in a place far away from home or have lived in a foreign county before, I'd like to hear what has changed you and what you learned from the experiences of living overseas by commenting below! 






TOP & SKIRT SET  ::  SheIn 
MULES  ::  ShoeDazzle 

BANDANA  :: Urban Outfitters
NECKLACE  ::  Swarovski
EARRINGS  ::  Vintage
SUNGLASSES  ::  c/o zeroUV


Photographed by Jason Nakaya || 📍: Volunteer Park

Thank you for reading ❤︎