Conversation No. 40 – Talking with Jonel

Jonel is from Brooklyn, New York. She was living in northern Japan at the time of her interview, and was spending her days “at work…and if I’m not at work, I’m either relaxing at home, studying more Japanese, cooking, or hanging out with my friends.”

Jonel’s Most Likely To Is: Most Likely to Do Things That Are Random

Listen to “Conversation 40 (Jonel)” on Spreaker.

Jonel explained how she ended up in the northern Japanese city of Morioka:

“I’m about two and a half hours north of Tokyo by train. During my senior year of college, I studied abroad here for four months, and I loved it. I loved it so much. And while I was here, I did a home stay…kind of like an internship where I taught English at a school as an assistant. I really loved it. And after, I learned about an opportunity where I could come back and do it full time.

I’ve always wanted to visit Japan. Which I did, when I was in high school. And when I was in college, I studied Japanese and I was like ‘maybe I should study abroad, I’m not sure. It’s so far away; maybe I can just learn the language and be content with that.’ But then I figured that would be such a waste.”

We talked about life after college, going to work every day, and the hardest transition to adulting:

“The biggest adjustment is getting out of bed, actually. Literally, getting out of bed…because your alarm goes off, and you’re like ‘ah man, do I really have to go to work right now?!’ Just getting out of bed, not trying to push the snooze button too many times…now I have to make my own lunch in the morning.”


Jonel spoke about YOLO, doing random things, and how fear nearly stopped her from going to Japan:

“Don’t be afraid to try new things is what I’m getting at. Because I almost never came to Japan because I was afraid…of just being here for four months. I did go away to college, but I could have [gone] back home any time I wanted to, you know. I always had that option. Going to a different country I don’t have that option of ‘oh, let me go home for the weekend.’”

Jonel shared some reflections and stories from her experiences being one of only a few Americans in her town:

“I think here, people are more curious than close-minded. I feel like if you go to Tokyo, there are so many foreigners there because it’s a big city, people are used to it. But here, there aren’t that many foreigners, not that many tourists come through, so I think every time someone sees me, they’re like ‘Whoa! What’s going on?!’

I just get a lot of stares, mostly. I think they’re more confused as to why I’m here! They woke up that morning like ‘oh, everything’s going to be normal. Everything’s going to be the same.’ And I just came out…I get a lot of stares, but I’m used to it now. And especially if someone hears me speaking Japanese, they’re like ‘What?! What’s going on?!’”


She described her path of personal growth over the past few years:

“I don’t think you would have met the same person seven or eight years ago. Back then, I never really thought about the future so much. And I definitely never imagined living here. I always thought it was a great idea, but not something that I could actually make come true.

I feel like 7-8 years ago, I was a very limited person. I only saw what other people did, and said ‘oh, I can potentially do that.’ But I never saw beyond that.

I would say I care less about what other people are doing in the sense that I won’t let it hold me back. Like [if] someone else is doing this, so I can’t do what I want to do kind of thing…I think I care less about that now than I used to.

I felt like I always wanted to be part of a group and fit in and just do what everyone else was doing. Even if it might not have been what I wanted, you know…and now that I’ve gotten older I see that [it] is less important to me.”

Our conversation ended with a disussion about Japanese food, J-Pop, and the joy of hearing American rap music playing in local Japanese cell phone stores:

“They actually listen to a lot of American music here. [But] I don’t think they know the words…When I first came, I was getting my phone and so I’m in the phone shop and Fetty Wap comes on.

And my friends and I are like ‘what?!’ And the lady is just fixing my phone, all casually, and we’re just like ‘what?! what?! Fetty Wap?!’…and she’s like ‘I like this song!’ And we’re like, ‘you like Fetty Wap?’ and she’s like ‘who?’ She [didn’t] even know who he is!”

Listen to our full interview with Jonel