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Foreign Forever Memories

Last year, bored and antsy, I sat in the cafeteria reading the Juniata announcements. I read one informing students about a class still taking students. It was not a memorable day, but the information I learned led to me emailing a professor, joining a class, and getting an opportunity to learn in a life-changing way. There are some situations that you realize will be forever-memories even as you live them. I lived a forever memory this past May in a traditional kimono. Perhaps I should mention that my forever memory occurred in Kyoto, Japan all thanks to that Juniata class.

I spent a morning in Kyoto walking to one of the kimono rental shops all around the city. My classmates and I entered the shop and were met with racks of colorful robes and sashes. We picked what we wanted to wear for the day and were herded into a room where ladies were waiting to help us put on all of the kimono—and “all” was a lot. A kimono starts with a thin, plain robe. Then, a towel is wrapped around your stomach and strips of fabric help tie it down. Next comes another more decorated robe since it peeks out of the kimono. The actual kimono and sash finishes up the look. I was also given special socks, sandals, and a purse.

My classmates and I bulged our eyes as our stomachs were tied up in towels and fabric. We twisted our ankles as we tried to walk in our high-heeled sandals with socks on. We laughed hysterically as we took two-inch steps because of our tight, straight kimonos. We oohed and aahed as we saw the hairstyles we received and checked ourselves out in mirrors. My classmates and I headed out to Kyoto with style.

We headed to a shrine to take pictures. I guess my blue eyes and blonde hair gave away the fact that I was not Japanese, so Japanese students interviewed me to practice their English. My knowledge of about eight Japanese words paled in comparison to the middle-schooler’s English. My group also interacted with a lot of tourists, whether we liked it or not. They took our pictures or got pictures taken with us. I think we all enjoyed feeling famous with our pseudo-paparazzi.

I’ve never been happier being a tourist. I certainly was not the first or last tourist to wear a kimono in Japan, but my time in Kyoto is a time I won’t be able to repeat. Studying abroad is incredibly easy at Juniata with a variety of programs, transfers of tuition, scholarship and internship opportunities, and more. I’m not quite sure how many other freshmen in colleges get to study abroad in their first year, but I certainly count myself lucky that I attend a college so open to creating forever memories. I still reminisce about my trip to Japan and how happy I am that I read that email and so easily made a life-long memory.

Talia Bertrando ’22 – Business Communication with Spanish POE, Small town Bon Vivant usually found on a sports field or singing something stuck in her head