So I'm in a little bit of a dilemma right now. I'm a junior in college who is planning on studying abroad this coming spring. I'm a Chinese and government major with a minor in Japanese.
I'm stuck deciding where I should study abroad this time. I've been studying Chinese since my sophomore year in high school and I started studying Japanese my freshman year of college. I've always been a bit more interested in Japan but was unable to study Japanese in high school because they only offered Chinese (however I've still enjoyed my time learning Chinese). I've studied abroad twice in China already, once for the summer after my junior year in high school and again after my freshman year in college. I also went there once just for vacation, so I've been 3 times. I've never been to Japan, but it's always been a dream of mine since high school to go, as I'be been very interested in their culture and everything since then.
As I've been to China 3 separate times I feel much more confident in my Chinese than my Japanese. I'd say I'm pretty conversational in Chinese, I can communicate in most situations as long as it's not too business environment specifics. I'd classify my level as low advanced. However, in Japanese I'm a bit past just beginner, I'd say lower intermediate, but still in that stage where you're not that confident in using it and have to think about what to say before saying it and often have to look things up so you don't make a fool out of yourself when using the language. Perhaps because of my longer period studying Chinese, having studying Chinese before I learned any Japanese, and having been to China several times, Japanese comes much more difficult to me than Chinese. I have to work twice as hard to grasp a grammar point in Japanese as I would in Chinese because my foundation in Chinese is much more solid.
So the real problems is this. Part of me feels like I should go back and study abroad in China again because I'm already father along in the language and could likely leave being near fluent or close to it after a whole semester. However, since I've already been 3 times I've seen most of the main things over there and would likely end up repeating some of the same experiences while over there since the program I'd be enrolled in would put me in Beijing or Shanghai, both of which I studied abroad in for a summer each. I've already been to Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Qingdao, Xi'an, Hangzhou, Mount Wutai and a few other places. I'm also already accustomed to the culture and tried a lot of food and all that, so going there again wouldn't feel like something new. Not saying it wouldn't be fun, because I know it still would, but I'd end up studying in a city I've already studied in and going to see things and places I've already spent time exploring, which could take away from the excitement of studying abroad.
On the other hand I feel like I should go to Japan because part of what made studying abroad so special in my past experiences was discovering a new place in a different country, being in a country you've never been in before and having every experience feel like something new, every day is full of adventures and new places and things to discover. I love the culture and language and food of Japan and would love to try someplace new this time. I'd also love to improve my Japanese skills since they aren't as good as my Chinese. But also, since my Japanese isn't as good it would be more of a risk going there as I might run into more trouble getting around and be more work to get my Japanese to where my Chinese currently is and I somehow doubt I could leave after a semester being near fluent. I remember how difficult it was going to China for the first time and finding my way around and communicating with people in Chinese, and I know going to Japan would result in all those difficulties all over again whereas in China I could immediately communicate and find my way around on day 1. I'm just afraid going to Japan may not be a worthy investment because I'm not sure how much my Japanese will be able to improve and my end goal is to use either chinese or Japanese or both in my career.
So ultimately it does down to, do I go to the new and exciting place I've wanted to go to for a long time to get a more exciting and unpredictable experience but that will also have more difficulty with language? Or do I go to the place where I speak the language better and feel more familiar but end up sacrificing some level of excitement/enjoyment and get a more predictable experience?
Just note that no matter which place I go study in I plan on continuing learning both languages. Also, the programs I'm looking at in both countries are language intensive programs designed to help really improve language skills. I view going back to China as more of an investment to make sure I become fluent in Chinese for potential jobs, essentially the pragmatic choice. I view going to Japan as more of a new life/learning experience and more for my personal enjoyment while also somewhat for the language, essentially the idealist choice. What should I do?