I spent my fourth year of college on a foreign exchange program to Japan. I was the first person from the University of Nevada, Reno to attend the brand new USAC (University Study Abroad Consortium) program to Hiroshima University. It was arguably the best year I ever had in college and quite possibly the best experience, so far, of my life. I had an extraordinary time there, learning Japanese, making friends, and exploring the beautiful country of Japan. What I didn’t expect to experience during my exchange program to Japan was more tabletop roleplaying.
You never know what you are going to get when you participate in a large exchange program like I did. I was one of forty two exchange students at Hiroshima University; so, as you can imagine, there were all different kinds of people there. Unfortunately, most of the other exchange students, especially from the States, were more interested in partying and getting drunk all the time. It made it incredibly difficult to tolerate hanging out with them. And since we all lived in the same dormitory, it was very difficult to avoid them. However, a few of us found a way to hang out together and away from the drunkards; we tabletop roleplayed.
I cannot remember how it all started, but we managed to get a group together and play our way through a few different systems. We played Dungeons and Dragons 3rd edition, Arcana Unearthed, and a couple others; one of which was a complete homebrew system where we had a lot of latitude on what and how we played. It was always with the same group of people too, as we all loved roleplaying. We used this time as a way to have fun and as a way to separate ourselves from the other exchange students.
The fun that I have roleplaying only occurred because I had experienced it in the States prior to coming. Since living in a different country for a year can be quite overwhelming, the time I spent roleplaying was used to relax and not worry about anything. During this time, my love of tabletop roleplaying grew and grew. One of the reasons we kept trying out different systems is because we couldn’t get enough of it; it was just too much fun.
The fun that I had roleplaying in Japan is one of the fondest memories that I brought back with me after the exchange program was over. My only regret is that I did not keep in contact with the friends that I had made through roleplaying. Even though it has now been 11 years since my program ended, I still think about them from time to time, wondering what they are doing. I’m going to make a promise to myself to try to track them down this year and reconnect with them.
Have you participated in an exchange program? If so, where did you go? Do you still keep in contact with the friends that you made there? Please leave a comment and/or share on Twitter.