Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas (eve)

Hey everyone! Just popping in with a quick Merry Christmas to everyone! I hope tomorrow is awesome for all of you!!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

15 days

Hey everyone, so there isn't a lot really to talk about right now. Not much has happened since my last update. I received notification that my verification stuff for the Gilman Scholarship was approved and mailed off my Freeman Asia verification information. I should be seeing the Gilman money in 2-3 weeks (but I'm really hoping it will be two weeks, you know, before I get on a plane). However, I won't hear about Freeman Asia until after I am abroad. So there is that.

Right now I'm shirking Japan preparations and instead I'm focusing on Christmas. Right now I've been sewing non-stop to get all those Christmas presents finished and in the process wondering just how much I really like all these people. Just kidding. Love you guys, but seriously, sewing needles and pins just don't like my fingers.

Not quite sure where this one came from, but copyrights to it's original owners.

Anyways. I think the biggest issue for me at the moment is all this fear and worry that's circling around in my head. I think I've called off the whole study abroad thing about 4 times this week, but somehow I'm always right back on board the next morning. Long story short I'm having doubts about my language skills (which at the moment seem next to none), fears about leaving my family and life and doubts about well, just about everything. I'll be doing normal things, going grocery shopping, cleaning the house, watching a movie and I'll find myself bursting into tears because I'm leaving so soon.

I know that this will pass though as soon as I'm abroad, it's just weird to think that this is not how I imagined I would be feeling right now. I always imagined that at this stage in my trip I would be so excited and making plans, but instead it feels like I'm walking up to the executioners block. Funny how that works out. Any who, I'm sticking it out with a lot of help and support from everyone I know. It's amazing just how many people who have my back right now. It really does help.

Next up on my study abroad experience is my first ever going away party. Yes it is December. Yes it is freezing and we did get just a teensy bit of snow the other day. But we are barbecuing on Friday because let's face it, that's just the way we Oregonians roll. Oh and note to dad: back off the ribs; I'm cooking them this time! :) A few days after that (you know, assuming the world doesn't end and all) will be Christmas and then I'll start packing my apartment.

Again, copyrights to it's original owners.

I've tried packing before now, but every time I start I find myself in a weird nostalgic everything makes me tear up state. So I'm waiting until after the festivities and I'm getting the gang together and we'll just power through this. Hopefully.

Oh also, Heather, if you're reading this, that Quillow was awesome. It's totally going in my carry on.

I'll try and pop in again on Friday, or maybe Saturday before my Resident Evil 6 marathon (because I totally haven't had time to play it since you know, it came out). Until then, I hope your holiday season is going wonderfully!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Preparations for Japan

Hey everyone! It's been a while since my last personal post so there is a LOT to cover. I'll make a bullet list so that I remember to talk about it all.

  • Departure and living situation
  • Orientation
  • Scholarships
  • Sponsorships
  • Yakkan Shoumei
  • Visa
  • Other Preparations

Departure and Living Situation

As I said in my Point of No Return post I will be leaving for Japan just after New Year's on January 3rd. Due to date mix ups which are still beyond my comprehension I will be taken in by an amazing friend, Ayumi, for the first month of my stay in Japan. This will be a great opportunity for me to begin adjusting to Japanese culture and using Japanese on a daily basis before I move into my host family's home on January 27th.

Once I move in with my host family I will have a couple of days to settle in (more on that later) before orientation. I am told there will be some kind of testing, but more on that once I have the details. 

I'm not going to lie, I was REALLY shocked when I received my host family's information. Typically when I think of host families I think of younger people, or couples in their 30's to 40's. I myself host (and am actually quite young as far as the standards go), but I was surprised to find out that my host family will consist of an elderly couple and their two daughters who are nearly twice my age. This is a bit daunting for me, mostly because I am not used to being around people who are much older than me. However, I am told by friends and my program coordinator that older host families are the best ones to get because it allows for a greater level of time they can spend with you and a bit more freedom in the process.

So, after about 5 weeks I will move into my Japanese dormitories through most of the remainder of my stay. My first impressions make me a little bit worried about my experience with them. In America we experience a very high level of freedom and independence when we go off to college. If you live in the dorms you aren't very regulated past no candles, hot plates or alcohol.

Photo from Mormon Cartoonist

However, from what I've learned so far I will have a very strict 10:45 pm curfew which, if I break more than 5 times, can get me kicked out of the program entirely. Yikes! No late night partying for me! Another surprising fact is that, because I do not have a legal guardian (Uh, can anyone say I'm 22 here!?!) in the country, I must receive permission from the international affairs office if I wish to stay overnight anywhere except my dormitory which I then must pass onto what I'm assuming will be the dorm mother or dorm administrator. Last, but not least of my recent discoveries is that alcohol is permitted in the dormitories. Just seemed strange to me that that would be allowed yet I have a curfew. Hmmm....


Okay, first off let me start with this. You'd think if a study abroad program e-mailed three participants and asked for available meeting times that they would pick a time that works for all three participants. Falling short of that, you'd think a 2/3 majority time would be picked. As for our orientation they happened to choose a day when two of us were in the same class, preparing for a final, during dead week (for those of you who don't know, this is the week before finals which is known for it's high level of intensity and work that is due). A few e-mails later and the date and time were changed. Unfortunately for me, this coincided with the last quiz/study day of my Chemistry class, but being the oddball out, I had to miss it and instead attend orientation.

Photo From Bestflag.blogspot.com

Now, orientation is mandatory for every study abroad program. Basically, to make it to orientation you must have applied and been accepted for the school. From what I understand, some people were finding out about their acceptance right as they were being signed up for orientation. The University of Oregon likes to split people up into their program rather than lumping them up by country. I liked this because it allowed a smaller group more tailored to our actual program than the generics of "Oh, Japan. Yeah, they have sushi. And take your shoes off before you go in a house."

Originally I thought a one and half hour session would be a) too long and b) intensely boring. But we kept up with a good pace and everyone had questions to ask so the time went rather too quickly. At orientation we went over (and skipped) many things. Because my classmates and I are fairly well versed in Japanese culture, etc. we skipped the generic intro and background on Japan and it's culture and delved right into the meat of our discussion. We covered everything from program contacts to financial aid, clothes, driving and working in Japan to health and safety. You can view my orientation documents >>here<<. Please note that for the privacy of my coordinators I have removed some information.


Gilman Scholarship
So, as of this last week I have learned that I have been selected to receive the Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship as well as the Freeman Asia Scholarship. These are both great programs, however, I have recently discovered the the Freeman Asia will no longer be offered as of this Summer. This is very sad, but it is always a good resource to check into in the future in case funding becomes available once more. I talked about the application process before and the application is VERY important. As I tell the high schoolers I have presented to, if you don't apply you can't receive them. Get help working on applications and give yourself plenty of time to complete the application. However, even once you have completed the application, as I recently discovered, if you are accepted there is more work to be done.

Once accepted you must complete the verification process. This can include everything from proving your financial need, available assistance, grades, bank account information (for direct depositing your scholarship), and verifying that your information (including program dates) is still correct. It can be as simple as a few steps, or as difficult as an entire packet of information that is required. The Gilman program does require proof of insurance for your program which can be provided with your insurance card or one or two other means. However, please be warned that some scholarships require a voided check and will not accept other proof of your bank account, so it is a good idea to have a few on hand if you are planning for applying to a scholarship program because there is a limited window you have in which to respond.


I really, really wanted to take a moment here for a breather. Ready, breathe. I have been extremely blessed to find myself in the company of many fine people who have been generous enough to sponsor my program. I am honored to know every one of you and I truly appreciate your support! So here is a shout out to my three, well four really, most generous sponsors this month. Laura Harris, John and Kim Hutchinson and Julie Hutchinson. Thank you all so much for your assistance!

Yakkan Shoumei

When you go to Japan there are many rules regulating what medications are allowed in Japan, how much you can bring, etc. Certain things like Nyquil are illegal in Japan because they contain something or another as are many other medications. While you might thing "well, my doctor prescribes such and such it must be fine." On that count you might well be wrong. Some medications which can be prescribed to you by a doctor can be considered illegal substances in the same category as things such as meth in America. So it is best to air on the side of caution and do your best to find out if your prescription is legal in Japan.

Photo of South Park character. I claim no rights, owner retains all rights to image.

If you are going to Japan, you can generally bring your personal prescription with you so long as you don't carry more than three months worth and as long as it is not illegal. In some cases if your prescription is illegal and there is no alternative, or if you want to bring more than three months worth of medication with you (prescription OR over the counter) you will need to apply for the Yakkan Shoumei. Basically, you fill out a form stating what you will bring with you then for each medication you fill out information such as manufacturer, dosage, etc. After that you will need a letter for each medication from you doctor stating the medical necessity of it.

Then you mail it off and wait. If you don't hear back, everything is all clear and you should receive your certificate within a month. If, however, you forget to attach something (like I did) you will receive an e-mail (as long as you provided it) stating that you forgot to attach a document or form. At this time you can fill out or acquire the document, scan it into your computer and e-mail it or fax it to the office. Once you have sent it you probably will not receive a response and one to two weeks later your document will arrive in the mail. It will look very familiar to you, in fact, that is your handwriting on it! The first page of your application is the certificate. It will have a few stamps (mine are purple) and signatures and you should be good to go.

For more information on the Yakkan Shoumei you can visit the Japan/US Embasy page or you can view and download this document which contains the Yakkan Shoumei application and instructions


No, not the kind you spend money with. The kind that gets you into countries.

This past Wednesday my fiance and I made the two and half hour drive to Portland to apply for my visa. There are a lot of rules regarding visas and as such, you must apply in person (at least in Oregon, not sure about anywhere else). So it's best to look for your nearest Japanese consulate and plan ahead. In some cases it can be farther away than a day trip will allow. To apply you will need a completed application, a 2" x 2" photograph of yourself taken against a white background  within the last 6 months, a certificate of eligibility (usually provided by your school) and your passport. Please note that I was told they do not accept home printed photos and they will make you go to the nearest photo printer to print a "real photo" on actual photo quality paper if you do not bring one that is up to their standards.

Photo Copyright of Out Adventures

It's simple and straight forward enough. There are some sections that I was not sure of. When it asks for your occupation, if you do not work you are supposed to list student and then give your school's information. As for guarantor/inviter, each case will differ. In my case I was not invited to the country so I was to leave that blank and my guarantor is Japan Women's University. As for addresses where you will be staying, list all known addresses (tedious, I know) and use a separate sheet of paper if necessary for additional addresses. When in doubt call the consulate and if they don't have the answer, generally they are more able to help you upon arrival. Please note that visa regulations are changing all the time. As such you want to wait until close to your arrival to apply.

It takes about a week to receive your visa which you then pick up in person. You will want to do this in any case, not only because it is required, but also because you will receive your passport back from the consulate. Silly me, my family does not travel and so I did not know they would take my passport or that a visa goes INTO the passport. Well, you learn new things all the time I suppose.

Other Preparations

So, what else have I been doing to prepare? It feels like everything and nothing at this point. I have purchased some new clothing to match the more dressy/modest fashion sense I am told is present in Japan. I have also purchased some very Oregon お土産 (omiyage) or gifts for my friend and host family. Gift giving is a very important aspect of Japanese culture, so I figure it will be good to start on a positive note. I will also be making an Oregon photo album for my host family with photos taken by myself and Forever Photography of the beautiful nature and places in our area.

Next week I will begin to pack my apartment up so I can put the items I will not be taking into storage at my parents house. Switching bills into my fiance's name is also on the list of priorities as is purchasing necessities such as luggage tags, power converters and thermal underwear. (There is still time to get them from my wish list if you are in the giving mood!) Space saver bags are also a must as is spending some quality time with my friends and family. I don't think the importance of the last once can be overstated. I am big on friends and family and I will miss them all so dearly that I want to spend what time I can with them now.

Let's see. I can't think of what else I have been doing at the moment, but I will keep you apprised of any updates prior to departure!

Until next time!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Study Abroad Tips

As promised, awesome 友達 Naomi has written a guest post for us! It's full of a lot of GREAT advice that I personally plan to follow in the coming year! I hope it helps you prepare for study abroad no matter where you find yourself!

Studying abroad is an experience that everyone should try to take advantage of while in university. Even if it is just for a semester, the relationships and experiences you create while abroad will shape the rest of your life. It sounds corny and cheesy, I know; however in the few months I have been in Japan on my own study abroad experience, I don’t want to even consider a life without the friends or the memories I have made here. There is only so much the books and advisors can prepare you for before coming to the country you want to study abroad in. Everyone is different and has different needs, likes, dislikes, so it’s hard to create a “what to bring/not to bring,” “do/not do” list for everyone. But there are a few things you should definitely check into well before you start off on your journey.
Firstly, if you are taking any medication of any kind, check to find out if your medication is LEGAL in the country you are going to be going, and if not what paper work you need to file in order to import your medications. For example, in Japan the over the counter cold medicine, Nyquil is illegal because the active ingredient is considered a stimulant. You can’t claim ignorance if you are randomly selected to have your luggage searched, and they find what they consider to be an illegal substance in your possession. Also, if you are staying abroad for a year, some countries require you to file paperwork, they want to make sure you’re not going to bring it over and sell it on the street. This may require doctor notes and other such complicated things. Check with your program coordinator ASAP, sometimes even the coordinator may not know, and in that case you could be on your own to figure things out, or if you give them enough time, they could be super nice and do the research for you if they don’t already know. Also, I suggest bringing Ibuprofen, allergy pills, and whatever over the counter brand of pills you think you may need.
Is your size of clothing sold in the country you are going to be studying abroad in? I am a bit overweight, so when I packed my clothes I did so knowing these would be the clothes I wore for the next year, and if I needed something I would need to buy online or have my friends it ship to me. Also, shoes are another important thing to bring along. Especially if you are going to be staying a year, bring sturdy shoes, and bring more than one pair. Granted if you have averaged sized feet, you should be fine to buy shoes, however, if you are US lady size 11 wide, you should stock up on shoes before leaving.
Toiletries, not all deodorants are made equal. My friend warned me that Japanese deodorant is not the best, so I brought enough to last me the year. Also, purchasing US brands in foreign countries can get expensive. US brands in Japan are more expensive than Japanese brands. So if you have skin allergies it is better to either make sure the country you will be staying in has brands available that will not irritate your allergies. Don’t be afraid to try new brands when it comes to hair products and skin products if you don’t have allergies. You may even find that the ones available to you are better than the ones back in your home country.
Know your customs. I know this sounds kind of obvious, but the other day while observing my kendo circle’s practice an American man walked into the dojo without taking his shoes off or bowing to the dojo, he then proceeded to start asking my friend questions. Granted not everyone knows you should bow before stepping into a kendo dojo, however it is pretty obvious that when you enter a Japanese style room(or house), you should remove your shoes. It is one of the more basic things that you should know if you come to Japan. If you intend to join a club, especially a martial arts club, do your
research beforehand and know the basic proper conduct. Don’t try to impress them with knowledge on the subject, just do your best to be polite and show your interest.
Know appropriate behavior. In America, it is fine for a girl and a guy to hug and there is no implication. That is not true for all countries. If you are a hugger, you might want to hug your new guy friends to express your feelings; however this could be culturally inappropriate. And cause awkwardness for the person you are hugging and yourself, so be aware.
What side of the street should you walk on? When in doubt follow the crowd. Sometimes even if there is a sign posted indicating which side to walk on, the majority will ignore it and walk on the opposite side. Don’t be the person to follow the sign in that case, get behind someone going in the same direction, and do what they do. When you first come to your target country things will be a little confusing, you won’t have the luxury to fall back on your native language, so it can be a little overwhelming at first. Just do your best and mostly people will see that you are giving it your best shot and help you out a little, or at least be kind. Also, don’t feel the need to be talking all the time at first, observing is very helpful as well, especially if you don’t know how to act in a situation. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. So long as it is legal.
Don’t be afraid to say you don’t understand something. It’s embarrassing, but it’s better to be honest and tell people you don’t understand and ask them to repeat what they said. You won’t be in a classroom anymore, and believe me, what is taught in the classroom is different than what you will be hearing and speaking. Also, if you claim to understand something, then later make a mistake because you did not understand, that will bring up issues, especially if you join a club. People will really question whether or not you understood them. Be honest, especially in club situations. Mostly if a club does not want foreigners in the club, they will make an excuse or be honest about why they reject you. If they let you join, then they do so with the understanding that you since you are a foreigner you may not understand 100% of what they say.
Know how to ask for directions. In the beginning you will get lost, I still get lost all the time and I have been here for 3 months. Just accept the fact that you will get lost. Know how to ask for directions and know your direction vocabulary. If you have a cellphone, don’t be afraid to call or text a friend for help if you are just not understanding the people who you ask for directions. Pay attention and know how to get back to where you started. People are mostly friendly and will be willing to give you directions, and sometimes if they are super nice, they may guide you to where you need to go.
Don’t come with the expectation that your language and culture skills are bad ass, even if you are an A+ student in your target language. Or that you’ll be able to communicate with perfect ease at first. You are not in the classroom anymore. Yes, living in the country of the language you are studying will help you learn faster, however you are going to make mistakes. You are going to look like an idiot from time to time. And there will be times when you get frustrated with yourself for not understanding as much as you think you should. Learning is about making mistakes, believe me I have made some pretty big and small mistakes since coming to Japan. It is better to laugh it off in front of your friends, and if you’re really upset, cry later. Every chance is a chance to learn, or make connections with people.
Even if it feels like you are not learning fast enough or not at all, just be calm, you are learning faster than you think, and you are indeed learning. My best suggestion if you want to get a better grasp on your language skills is to try and join a club. Depending on the club you join, it may be that no one speaks your language. Also, depending on the country you will be staying abroad in, there times when someone wants you to teach them English(or your native language), if you feel that by teaching your native language is taking away from your precious time abroad, suggest doing language exchange with them. You speak for a certain amount of time in English(or your native language), and then switch to the country’s language. Everyone wins, and you won’t get the reputation of being rude and unfriendly. Also, if you live with a host family, watch tv with them. My host mom will turn on anime if her favorite drama is not on. Listening, even if you don’t understand is really helpful. Even if I don’t understand everything said, I will recognize grammar structures and from the context of what is happening, guess the meaning of the conversation.
Never give out your information to people you don’t know. Just don’t talk to strangers. Don’t do it. Depending on which country you will be living in the possibility of being approached by cults is high. In Japan you will be approached by men or women and they will hand you a golden Buddha card thing. Then ask for your name, email, and phone number. Politely return the card and walk away. I was in Harajuku once and one of the cultist’s came beside me and pressed the card into my hand. I was shocked, I am used to people handing out tissues and flyers, but having someone walk and force something into my hand was a shock. I didn’t know what was happening at first, so I thanked her and looked away, but she pulled out a book and asked me to write my name. I had been warned at orientation about cults and I immediately returned the card as politely as I could and walked away. Just be wary of people who hand you books or shiny gold Buddha cards. However, if you are coming to Japan, businesses will hand out free tissues for advertising. Take the tissues. You can always use free tissues. Back to the main point; don’t give your information out to people if you don’t know them. If they are not a student at your university, be careful, even if they are be careful. Religious organizations will sometimes walk around the campus and offer flyers or invite you to come to their events. Just be careful, if you give them your information they will spam your phone with messages and never leave you alone. Be careful of overly friendly seeming people. Just because you are not in your home country does not mean everyone is super nice, super safe, and it’s ok to give out information. Humans are humans. Don’t abandon common sense.
If you go drinking, make sure you can get home safely after. Don’t go out and drink yourself into oblivion and expect someone to take you home. Be responsible. Know phrases to politely let people know you don’t want to drink too much. In Japanese culture drinking is pretty big, especially if you join a club, going to drinking party could be after every practice, or once a week, depending on the club. However, if you are a lightweight, 「二日酔い」 =ふつかよい= two day drunkenness. Basically, if you say this it will let them know you don’t want to drink too much. If it is against your religion, then don’t be afraid to say so. They will invite you along, but you don’t have to drink alcohol. If you are living with a host family, let them know when you are going out drinking and when you intend to go home, especially if you are going to be late. Just be careful and responsible and know your limit. Know how to ask for help if you don’t think you can make it home by yourself. Also, what happens at the drinking
party stays there. Don’t upload drunken photos to facebook. If someone confesses their undying love to you, even if you like them, do not respond, think of a way to change the subject or pretend that you didn’t understand, whatever. Keep it real. People say things when they drink that they don’t mean. However, it could be true what they are saying, but if it isn’t, and you really like them and confess your feelings, it could get a little awkward later on, especially if they have a girlfriend or boyfriend. If they don’t have a girlfriend or boyfriend, then just try and get to know them when they haven’t been drinking and if something happens, good for you!
Can you work while studying abroad? If you want a part time job for some extra cash, check to see if it is legal, and if you can get a student work permit. This process is actually very simple in Japan, so long as you have the paperwork filled out, you can submit it when coming through the first check point after landing in Japan. Ask your program coordinator for the information.
Also, know the politest way to say “no” in your target language. In Japanese, you don’t outright say you don’t want to do something. It’s a little abrupt and can been seen as rude. So you kind of beat around the bush and hint at what you want to do. The other person will then take the hint and move along. However, if they don’t simply walk away, go find a place with a lot of people, call a friend, or walk to the nearest police station. Also, at least in Japanese culture, if I invited a friend out for say a movie on Saturday, and he said he had to study, so I suggested going on a different day and he still said no, then I would understand he is not interested in going to the movie with me, unless he makes a suggestion himself. If you ask twice and the answer is no, then move along. If they really want to go, they will work with you in figuring out a time that works. Also, be careful when people are asking you to go do something and keep the same thing in mind. Again this is for Japanese culture, I am unsure of other cultures. It is best to learn these social dances before going to the country in order to avoid misunderstandings or hurt feelings.
As for the academic…don’t think that your year abroad is just for pleasure and play. Failing a class in Japan is failing a class in any country, and will transfer as such. Balance your time so that you have the time to study and to play with your friends. Don’t be afraid to tell your friends you have to study and can’t go out, just make sure that you don’t make it a habit to where they stop asking you out. Also, don’t count on a two day weekend, at Waseda University some classes are on Saturday and attendance is mandatory. Having class on Saturday has forced me to re-work how I study and prepare for my classes, and honestly, since classes have started it feels as it has been one long week. I have Friday and Sunday off, but there is something about having two consecutive days of rest that signals my brain that there is a new week. For me this has been both physical and psychological change that I am still trying to get a handle on.
Don’t go on a crazy shopping spree the moment you get settled. Figure out your budget, especially if you plan on joining a club, there could a yearly fee, or they could hold retreats during breaks. So make sure you save your money for important things. Also chances are you will be able to find cheaper stores later, after you have gotten used to your surroundings.
I think I have rambled on a little bit too much at this point. I hope some of what I have mentioned will be able to help you on your own journey abroad. I tried to think of things that they didn’t tell us in the manual or in orientation. I hope this has been a little bit helpful to those reading it!

Friday, November 16, 2012


Here is a special little post about yesterday's fiasco. As you know Tuesday morning I purchased my ticket to go to Japan. However, yesterday I received an email from the program coordinator saying that we should arrive on January 27th, not January 5th as the acceptance letter says.

This close to departure finances are tight. While I would have reveled in this news had out come two days earlier, yesterday it came as a matter of panic. The minimum charge to change international flight dates is $250. If I changed the date I would be or $250 for my trip. If I went ahead and left early, I would have nowhere to love for that 18 day time period and hotels are even more expensive than flight change fees.

To put it simply, rock met hard place yesterday.

Thankfully I do have one SUPER AMAZING FRIEND who now lives inTokyo, Ayumi. Thanks to her I will have a place to stay and someone to help out a bit those first few days. So huge round of applause to Ayumi. I'm eternally grateful to her!

That's all on that. I should hear back about my official acceptance package on Monday. So fingers crossed!

Japan, study abroad, flight, home stay, japan womens university

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Point of no return

Every time you do something that feels large, whether it's studying abroad, getting married or taking your drivers test, there's always that one point, that one moment when you reach the point of no return. Now, obviously sometimes it is the moment the tester gets in the car or that spot halfway down the aisle, at the very last second that you feel you've reached it. For me, that moment was on Monday.

What's so special about Monday? Let me give you a hint.
On Monday I bought my airplane ticket. I will be leaving on January 3rd at 6:10 in the morning (man it will be a long day) to head to Tokyo and my future at Japan Women's University. The AAA travel agent who helped me with my ticket probably thought I was out of my mind at the time (I had a kind of mini nervous break down), but she was really nice and I ended up buying my round trip ticket for right about $1,900.

Okay, so you're probably wondering with all of the "Save money on your flight" websites out there, why I chose to go through a travel agent? Well, there are couple of reasons for that. Reason number one is that airline companies only sell tickets about 11 months in advance, so right now they are only selling tickets through the end of October. That presents a dilemma for me as I will not be returning until after December 22nd. So when it comes time to make my return date change I can go through my AAA office, or rather, my parents will do it for me since I'll be abroad, and I don't have to worry about the hassles of dealing with an airline company. A flat $250 fee and any increases in return fare will cover it. 

Photo courtesy of Google Maps. Things look a lot less green right about now.

If you've never flown (which I'll be honest, this is my first time!) then the following sentence probably makes sense. If a round trip ticket costs $2000 then the one way ticket probably costs around $1000. Seems like it would make logical sense, yeah? Unfortunately, airline companies are not that logical. What seems to be more the case is the following. If a round trip ticket costs $2000 then so does the one way ticket. Give or take. Now, I can't afford two one way tickets. I'm not made of money. So I opted for the one way and paying the fee to change the date. Saves money. I'm happy. Life solved.

Again, since I've never flown before I rely on the wisdom of the masses (i.e. the internet) to get my information. I've heard that not all tickets can have their dates changed and, not wanting to be left with a bill I can't pay, I opted to spend $50 at my local agent for that peace of mind in knowing that yes, 100% absolutely I can change my return date. The other reason for buying round trip is that I've heard two different stories on entering Japan on a student visa. Some people have said you must have a return flight already booked, others say it's not necessary. I like to air on the side of caution, so my ticket is ready. I'll let you know more after orientation on the 30th.

I'm also currently working on sponsorships. So if you or anyone in your community is interested in sponsoring, please send me an e-mail with a name and address and I will get a letter mailed out!

So that's it for today. If I don't write any more before then have a happy thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

6th grade reading level

Hey everyone. So much to cover, so little time. First off, new blog name. I wanted something simpler, not so "Huh?" inducing. So the new name, drum roll please, Nihon Kara, or From Japan. Second, please leave a comment! Let me know what you think of the redesign. Better yet, if you have an awesome design (with the code to match) in mind pitch it to me. If I like it, I'll use it AND you'll get a special gift if it is pitched and accepted before January 1st, 2013.

Back to business. Things have been moving steadily along since you last heard from me, but nothing big enough on it's own to mention.

First off is my 6th grade reading level in Japanese. Or rather, my lack of. My 4th year Japanese class was very excited to learn we had a sixth grade reading level. Our hopes were quickly dashed however when the first page ended up covered in scribbles translating each and every word. So yeah, that put things in perspective.

Next up, let's see. Next would be presentations over at North Eugene High School. On Halloween, totally dressed up in my home made Belle Halloween costume by the way, I gave a presentation on college, financial aid and study abroad. The 8 am class was, more or less, in Japanese. The noon class totally rocked. After coming back from a YG totally full of cute and adorable kids in costume, I had some candy to spare. So, while giving my presentation I asked a question and received the bored stare response. Finally someone asked a question and the class became very animated once he was rewarded with candy. The last group was by far the mildest and I think we were all tired and ready to go home. Overall a useful day full of useful information I wish someone had told me when I was in high school. Seriously.

Me as Belle, sister Alissa as Jasmine and brother Nelson in disguise as a redneck.

Which, by the way, for any high school students out there reading this, remember. APPLY for those scholarships. APPLY for financial aid. DON'T wait until your senior year. Also financial aid can and DOES pay for study abroad. Okay, off my soapbox now.

Next up,  two weeks Chelsea, the mysterious Breanna and I received our acceptance letters, or e-mails rather, to Japan Women's University. Dance party ensued. It looked something like this.

Anyways, while we may not know who our mysterious 3rd, Breanna, is yet, we're in. Officially. Which is a good thing. We should be receiving our official acceptance packs sometime in the next week, but our program dates are January 5th through December 22nd 2013. After receiving this e-mail we were also e-mailed by the equivalent of the international affairs office at Japan Women's University.  Basically, we hadn't filled out a box on the immigration visa thing because we were told to skip it. However, turns out it was necessary. After fighting with Yahoo mail to attach things (seriously, was it broken for anyone else this past week?) I was able to get my information in and things look clear.

We have also been scheduled for orientation. This bit is a matter of well, irritation for both Chelsea and I. We were sent an e-mail weeks ago asking for our available times during a given week. Naturally, our available times didn't include times when, oh, you know, we were actually in class. So imagine our surprise, and irritation, when the study abroad office e-mailed us with our orientation time and date and it just so happened to be during our Japanese class. E-mails ensued and we got the time changed. However, the new date and time is during yet another one of my classes, the dreaded Chemistry, but rather than argue it again, I'm just going to play mandatory hooky that day. Which, did I mention, orientation is mandatory.
Yakkan Shoumei - Picture copyright Shortbread and Sake

So, that's kind of where things stand at the moment. I should be hearing back about scholarships very soon. Next week I will look into and buy my ticket. Once that is done I need to fill out and turn in my Yakkan Shoumei application. What the Yakkan Shoumei is is basically a form that you fill out with lots of little rules and things saying what medications you will bring to Japan, how much, a doctors note saying it's necessary and why. Then you ship it off to Japan where they check that the stuff isn't illegal in Japan, which a ton more is apparently (more on that later), and then send you back a letter saying yeah, okay, go ahead and bring it. Or they say, no, no. You don't really need that and/or it's illegal here, so you can't bring it.

After that I don't think there is much left to cover right now. Except, oh! Naomi's guest post! Right. (Sorry Naomi, totally forgot to mention it earlier. I know there's totally this edit button and all, but eh!) Naomi's guest post will be coming right around December 1st. So be sure to come back!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Japan Experience - Waseda University

Hey guys! Exciting news! Today we have our guest blogger Jessica (remember, I told you she'd be coming?) who is currently studying at Waseda University in Tokyo. I'll turn it over to her now, so enjoy!

Hello everybody! This video covers a broad swath of observations that I've made living in Japan for a month.

I'm very sorry but my video seems to be way too long to post on the blog so I will give the youtube link below:

Monday, October 1, 2012

Scholarships and School

Hey everyone! Exciting announcement! You ready for it? We have another guest blogger coming soon! My friend Jessica is already in Japan studying at Waseda University! She will be giving us a guest post on a yet unknown topic, so stay tuned! She's amazing and has a set of awesome video posts (which I'm going to request permission to post, fingers crossed, please Jess?) about her experience thus far.

Jessica on the far right.

I'm also planning to ask my awesome 友達 Naomi (you remember her, right?) if she can give us a post sometime in November/December. Awesome 友達 Naomi has agreed to write a post for us sometime in November/December! So look forward to the awesomeness.

Awesome 友達 Naomi. Photo totally stolen from Jessica.

Okay now, today I'm going to talk briefly about my scholarship applications. First, though I wanted to mention that school has started again. What that means is I am now officially taking 4th year Japanese (which is actually a spoken class and a reading/writing class) and the ever so beloved finished to my science general education, chemistry 111. It's been a pretty busy first week, but hopefully things will steady out soon.

The start of school means that I also begin volunteering at 友人学園 (Yujin Gakuen) tomorrow! This year I will be with the 1st graders in the morning and the 4 and 5th graders in the afternoon. I'm very excited to be going back, even if it is just one day a week!

Next up, part of the reason this first week of school has been so busy (on top of the mountain of homework) is my scholarship applications are coming due. The three scholarships which I have been steadily (and frantically) working on are the Gilman Scholarship, Freeman Asia Scholarship and the Bridging Scholarship.

The Gilman Scholarship is one of the most well known study abroad scholarship foundations. Anyone looking into applying anywhere in the world should definitely apply here. To be eligible for this scholarship you must be attending a two or four year university and be receiving the Pell Grant. The scholarship awards up to $5000 for an academic year abroad. Bonus? If you're studying a critical need language (like Japanese) you're eligible for an additional $3000 on top of the original scholarship if you are selected.

Most of the Gilman application is a lot of information. Your name, where you'll be studying, transcripts, etc. The part that takes the longest? The two essays. One is a personal statement essay that covers why you want to study abroad, how it affects your goals (academic and professionally), and what you want to achieve abroad. More or less, that's the nutshell. The second essay is a project proposal. As a stipulation of receiving this scholarship you must complete some kind of project in your community to promote college, study abroad and the Gilman scholarship. In this essay you'll talk about your project and answer the 5 W's.

The project essay is straight forward enough. But the personal statement had me stumped. If it's difficult to talk about yourself in an essay (>me<) take a step back from it. Keep a pen and paper handy and talk to your friends and family about it. "Mooooommmmm!!! Why do I want to study abroad???" Works really well for me. It also helps for me to be somewhere familiar. If you have access to somewhere you spent a lot of time growing up it can help to go back there while writing your essay. Works for me, but everyone is different. Also, don't forget to make it your essay. Keep it academically acceptable, but put yourself in there. The people evaluating your essay want to know you, not a textbook version of you.

Photo from Madhulika Speaks

If none of this works for you, do as my scholarship adviser said, "Talk about how awesome you are." The judges want to know about you, what sets you apart and makes you a better choice for the award than say John Smith over in Wyoming. Another piece of advice, drafts are your BEST friend. Write one draft, heck write 7 (guilty). Call in every favor from every academically inclined friend you have (Thanks Joy!) and if you have access to editing help from a tutoring center or scholarship adviser, use it! Also, don't edit when you're tired or just after you've finished writing your essay! You need a break and taking time away will let you look at your work objectively!

The other two scholarships I've been working on are the Freeman Asia (for people studying abroad in Asian countries and awards up to $7000 for an academic year) and Bridging Scholarship (for study abroad in Japan equaling up to $4000 for academic year programs). These two are much shorter than the Gilman application and ask many of the same questions and have very similar essays. Advice? Reuse what you can! If the essay question is the same, or similar to another you've previously completed it's OK to use it again. Make it shorter to fit the requirements, or longer if necessary. Get help with this too! You'll be glad you did! Also, best advice, like EVER. Ready for this? You're still reading right? I'm going to make this very clear.

Don't do this.
Photo from The Executive Coaching Blog.
Check your deadlines early!!!

There's nothing worse than thinking you have a month until the deadline and then finding out it's due in a week and a half. Again, I'm guilty of this. I got so caught up in the Gilman that I didn't check the deadlines for the other ones. Thankfully, I have time to finish my applications (a huge shout-out to Professor Freedman over at the UofO who is writing my letter of recommendation on VERY short notice), however, you don't want to end up with one day to complete your application, or worse miss your deadline entirely. Also, it's good to know ahead of time if your scholarship requires a letter of recommendation. Professors are SUPER busy people, so it's good to ask them as early as possible so they have time to fit you into their schedule. (Again, thank you Freedman先生!) If your professor can help you out, make sure to take the time to get them. I agree with my professor that cards with a hand-written thank you are the best way to do this! So you can be sure Professor Freedman will be receiving one.

Image by Kidliquorice on Deviantart. Click the link!

So, I think that about sums it up. If I didn't cover what you were looking for please ask away in the comment section! Pretty please ask me questions? I'd love to do my best to answer them in the comments or another post! If you have stuck with me this far hoping I would get to something good,  I'm sorry. That's all I have for this go!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Still Alive

Hey everyone! It's been crazy around here for the last couple of weeks. I've had some fantastic exchange students stay with me, had a camping trip with some friends and a friend's parent visiting from Japan, helped a friend move and general life. :) There isn't much going on as far as study abroad at the moment. I'm working on the Gilman Scholarship essays at the moment, but I'll tell you more about that after the deadline has passed.

So it's short and sweet, but I just wanted to pop in to let you guys know that I am still here, still working on my study abroad process. School starts for me on Tuesday and I begin volunteering at Yujin Gakuen again on October 1st, so life will be busy, but when isn't it?

Also, exciting news! Since I don't have much going on my friend who is currently studying at Waseda University in Tokyo has agreed to write a guest post for us! You can look forward to her post on October 14th!

Until next time, don't forget, if you need any photography done Forever Photography is sponsoring my trip with 50% of all proceeds going to my study abroad fund.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The flip side of the coin

So, up until now I've been giving some advice here and there and talking about my study abroad process. You know, applying to study at Japan Women's University, etc. Well, as far as that goes, right now is fairly uninteresting. I'm expecting my acceptance (fingers crossed) letter in November and until then there is not much to do except apply for scholarships. Which, for those of you starting your study abroad in the Spring of 2013, the application deadline is October 2nd.

So now, the flip side of the coin. Being a host family. This week I am preparing to receive my third round of exchange students. Two years ago I hosted one student through the FFIS program at the University of Oregon for the first time. It was strange, but things worked out. Last year I hosted one student officially and one unofficially. The unofficial student was a friend of the girl I hosted the first year and I was glad to help out. The second one, Ayumi, has become like a 3rd sister and hosting her was one of the best experiences I've had in college thus far.

The 家族 (family), with Ayumi front and center!
This year is a little bit crazy, but I'll manage. The FFIS program had a 50% increase in the number of students requesting a home stay program. Long story short, this year I am hosting two students officially. You see where this is heading? And one, a friend of Ayumi's who unfortunately was not lucky enough to be placed with a host family, unofficially. The two official students will stay with me for about a week and half until the dormitories open while the third student stays at a local hotel while otherwise enjoying the other benefits of a home stay program, minus the program.

As you can probably guess, we're working like crazy to get my house into tip-top shape right now before students arrive on Wednesday. So, what does this home stay program entail other than a roof over their heads? For starters, it provides a home base. For some students, this is their first time abroad ever. They have no contacts, no fall back plan and they may not have 100% grasp on the English language. So by being their host family you are providing them the peace of mind knowing that they have somewhere, and someone who they can turn to if things get to be a little bit too much for them.

Second, you get to help with all the fun stuff. Okay, well, yes and no. The first priorities are usually helping set up bank accounts and help set them up with phone plans. Those are necessities anywhere. Then you really get to help with the fun stuff. Show them around town, show them where the good food is, the best places to shop, teach them the bus system and generally make sure they don't get lost in that first week or so.

Then you get to do the REALLY fun stuff. Like take a spontaneous day trip or have a welcome party. I feel that it helps the student get settled in if you have some sort of welcome party after they've been with you for a day or two and makes them feel like they are wanted rather than a burden because they really are wanted!

After they move into the dorms a few different things can happen. Things don't really pan out, so you end up losing contact with each other. Hey, you can't win 'em all. You can become fair-weather friends. Visit every now and again, grab lunch, become friends, but nothing really more than that. Or you can end up with some really new awesome best friends. I'm not saying you have to hang out every day, but sometimes you just click with a person and you end up with a new member of your BFF or family circle. It's always great when that happens!

Photo copyright of www.etsu.edu

So, the hard parts of being a host family. I love hosting students, but sometimes it can get to be a bit too much. If you're running around all day helping someone set up their life without taking out 5 minutes for yourself you're going to get burnt out. Help your student, but also remember to schedule some down time. If you're tired they probably are too (and you don't have jet lag!), so plan to be home early, watch a movie, or just take a lunch break around town.

All those trips around town can get expensive fast. Try and sit down with your student and make a list of what they need to buy before you go shopping. It's okay if you don't get it all in one go, but having a list ahead of time will drastically decrease the number of trips you need to make.

I have the "get outta my kitchen!" angst for the first day or two I have a student. My mommy raised me to be a good host, in fact, I swear we're almost Greek some days. We make sure that our guest(s) are taken care of and offer food at every turn. Are you hungry? No? Wants some water? Juice? Snack? Really, it's no problem. Just a little... we have crackers. It's a never ending dance. But without fail around dinner time usually the student wants to help make dinner. At this point my host-y self kicks in roaring to go sit back, enjoy yourself, this is my kitchen. At the same time I think it makes your host student feel more comfortable if you allow them to help out even if you have to shove your host-senses back to the 13th century.

Wow, that was a lot more than I was planning to write at 2:45 in the morning. Haha. I hope that all makes sense. If not, someone send me a comment and tell me so. Please?

On another note, we're on the FINAL LEG of summer classes! 4 days left to go! Woo! Third year of Japanese down in one summer, we'll find out in a couple of weeks just how "down" I've really got it once fall classes start. Which leads us to my last picture, my Japanese class! We've shrunk a bit since the first session this summer I think, but we're pulling through because we're an awesome group!

University of Oregon's Japanese 303 Summer class, plus guests for Japanese Hour

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Is it real yet?

So I was recently talking to a friend who I haven't spoken with in forever and they asked me if my study abroad is starting to feel real now that it's approaching. I still don't really have a good answer for her, but after talking with my fiance over yummy dinner last night I did realize something.

Photo by Illaura Rossiter Copyright 2012
So far, for the last 6 months, or however long ago I decided to study abroad, I've been terrified of it. Terrified of leaving home which I have never been more than two hours away from. There have been times where just the thought of going abroad has reduced me to tears. I was terrified of ending up in a country where I wake up one morning and don't even speak the small portion I speak now. In fact I've woken up more than once with night terrors about getting to Japan and I can hear the people and see the signs, somewhere in the back of my mind I know what they say, but I feel the utter panic of not understanding anything.

True, so far there have been days where I have thrown my arms up in the air in exasperation and said "That's it! I'm not going to Japan!", but every night before bed I understood that if I don't take my chance with this experience that I will always regret it. Yes, it's scary. Yes, I'm going to a country where I will be the minority. Yes, I can't fluently speak the language, I don't intimately understand the culture and for once in my life it won't be easy to pass a class, but if I don't go I'm going to spend the rest of my life being the girl who should have didn't go to Japan.

And what the hey, my student debt is already through the roof, what's a little bit more on top of the pile?

But last night I was thinking about my friend while waiting for dinner and got to talking with my fiance and I realized that the terror I have been feeling every time I've thought about this trip is subsiding a little bit. For now at least. Just T-5 months to go, right?

You all probably think I'm ranting right about now, but I think this is an important part of the experience and I haven't even gotten to the airport yet. Especially if you have never been far from your family and you're big on family (like me), then the idea of being separated by an ocean and in completely different time zones is terrifying. The fear of not being able to understand the language also is a completely understandable fear, no one wants to make that terrifying blunder or not understand something vital.

         "To get through the hardest journey we need take only
             one step at a time, but we must keep on stepping."
                                               - Chinese proverb

However, I'm finally reaching the stage where I've cried about as much as I can until it's about time for goodbyes and I'm starting to really, really be excited about this again. So many things to do, so little time. So much to learn. So much to see, experience, eat, people to meet. There are so many opportunities and experiences I don't even think I've thought up yet, so it will be an experience to remember.

So if hurdle number 1 was the paperwork, then the next hurdle is an emotional and mental one. If you're doubting yourself asking "どうして日本に行きたい!?!" (Why do I want to go to Japan!?!), then just step back and take a breath. You can do this! It might not be easy, but you'll be all the better off for it. If you have any friends or family backing your study abroad experience now is the time to talk to them! Remind yourself why you want to go, what you want to accomplish and that you have people backing you every step of the way! Don't forget, you've already taken the biggest step in your study abroad experience, deciding to go.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

So you want to study abroad?

There isn't much to report on the study abroad front right now. Things are pretty tame other than the fact that I can now apply for the Gilman Scholarship. I won't hear back on if I receive a scholarship until pretty close to my departure date I think though. On the topic of scholarships...

So you want to study abroad?

Well, obviously I’m not an expert on the topic as I’m still going through the process myself. Nevertheless a month or two back I was asked to do a college and study abroad presentation at North Eugene High School a couple of months ago. So I thought I’d pass on what I told those students, starting with college.

My first piece of advice was YOU CAN AFFORD COLLEGE! Yes, I said it. You can. You don’t have to come from a rich family to attend college. These days between FAFSA and scholarship websites you can easily afford college. Okay, maybe not easily. You have to be very careful of the websites you use for scholarship searches. If you find a scholarship that’s too good to be true, it probably is; back away quickly. Otherwise do a web search for that specific scholarship, see what other people have to say. The internet is a great place for information and you can usually find out if something is a scam with a simple search. Second, file your FAFSA, it makes you eligible for all kinds of grants and federal loans (which can be used to pay for study abroad!).

Copyright of scholarshipforcollegestudents.org

Second. No 4.0? No problem. You don’t need a four point grade average to get into college or even to earn a scholarship. There are hundreds of scholarships out there that don’t focus on your academic history in the least or even some that are specifically for lower end GPA’s. If you’re interested in basketball or sewing or if you speak a foreign language or are intending to study one there are scholarships out there for you. Also, check your family’s union for scholarships. My first scholarship came from my grandmother’s union.

When to start looking? Yesterday. Seriously. The minute you enter high school you should be looking and applying for scholarships. There is a golden window in high school where every conceivable scholarship is out there for the taking and many are not awarded because no one applies. So look early, plan and APPLY early. Trust me, you can’t start soon enough. There are still scholarships available after high school, but they are fewer and far between unless you are a non-traditional student.

How does this tie into study abroad? Money, pure and simple. Scholarships, financial aid, savings they are the key to your study abroad program. You can study and keep your GPA at a 4.0, but unless you have the money that program is unaffordable. Of course, financial aid students can’t afford to study abroad in say Japan right? Wrong. You’d be surprised what your financial aid will cover. The key to this is selecting a program that is within your budget. By that I mean a program that costs the rough equivalent of the same amount of time spent at your home college. For example, studying abroad at Japan Women’s University will cost around $24,000 for the year while I receive about $18, 000 a year in financial aid. Add on the extra I’ve saved over the past year and I’m just less than $4,000 away from studying abroad, which isn’t nearly as large a gap as it seems.

That said, back to scholarships. APPLY for them! There are scholarships available for study abroad as well ranging anywhere from $500 and up. Don’t think any amount is too small to apply for. That $500 is $500 closer to your study abroad goals. The trick is to look early, start looking into programs your first year of college, find out the rough costs and start researching. If your school has a study abroad office pay them a visit and get the information. More than likely they have a list of scholarships for the country you want to study in and can help you select the right one.

DO remember that most financial aid and scholarships cannot be disbursed to you until your term actually begins. That means if you need vaccinations, doctor visits, passport, visa, a suitcase, etc. prior to leaving for your trip you will need access to funds to pay for them. That’s where saving comes in. Vaccinations and luggage sets can be expensive, not to mention the start-up costs of moving to another country for any amount of time. You’ll need to have that money to spend ahead of time. Oh, and usually you’ll have to pay for the cost of your round trip plane ticket (right around $1500-$1800 currently to Japan from what I’ve found) out of pocket prior to departure. There are some short term loans available in most places for this type of expenditure, but usually they must be repaid within 90 days and they have high interest rates.  So plan ahead. 4 years or however long it may be until you leave on your trip may seem like a long time, but you don’t want to come up short at the last minute and have to cancel your plans.

Also, don’t forget to apply for your passport early. It can take a LONG time to get your passport so it’s best to get it early. The first thing I did when I decided to study abroad was get my passport and it made the whole thing seem a lot more real. The prices can be easily found on the web but it can take anywhere from a month to six months to get your passport depending on waiting times. Your best bet is to go during a not so busy time of year (I went in October) so that the wait time will not be as long. Do keep in mind that different countries have different rules and sometimes you cannot enter a country if your passport is within a certain time frame (such as 6 months) prior to expiration. So make sure if you have one that’s nearing its expiration to check that country’s regulations so you don’t find yourself packed with nowhere to go. I don’t know much about this, but I’ve also heard that it is VERY bad to let your passport expire while you are abroad. So if you are getting close to expiration make sure to get your paperwork in good and early to avoid any fees or worse.

Okay, so that was a bit more info than I gave those students in some ways and less in others, but that’s my advice for the day if you’re thinking about studying abroad. I hope it’s useful to someone and not just a bunch of random gibberish floating around the web.

Until next time!

Friday, August 3, 2012

What to Pack - Guest Post from Onaji Sora

Hey everybody, remember I told you about that guest post that was coming? Well it's here! Camille from the blog Onaji Sora who has studeid at Tsuru University in Japan and is currently about to embark on the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program, has written to give those of you heading abroad before me some advice!  On what, you might ask? Well, what to pack! Read on for some wonderful advice! And thanks again and a big round of applause for Camille! Don't forget to check out her blog sometime! She also has a new blog for her JET experience at >>Kousaten<<.

Also, quick update, information on the Forever Photography sponsorship is now available on the Sponsor Me page! Last note before I let her get to it, at the end she mentions omiyage. For those of you who aren't well versed in Japanese omiyage means souvenir. Enjoy!

This is a guest post that I'm doing for Illaura, who will be studying abroad at Japan Women's University. Make sure to check out her blog!

I leave for the JET program this weekend, so I just finished packing myself. This will be my second time in Japan, and although I went during the winter months last year (January through March), I've had to change my mindset a bit since I'll be going into the hot, humid months and will be there for a whole year instead. So here's what I thought about while packing.

Seasonal -- Layering from Winter to Summer

If there's one thing I learned while in Asia, it's that layering works the best. If you have good basics, from tank tops to long sleeves, you can use them year round.

Bring versatile clothing you can wear in any season, since Japan gets all kinds of weather, including all 4 seasons. Japan also experiences monsoons and rainy (tsuyu) seasons.

Really, my best advice would be: Don't overpack. If you're like me, you're going to want to do some shopping over there anyway.

Winter -- Stay warm under layers

One good jacket or coat. You really only need one, reliable jacket. I brought two with me, but ended up using one 95% of the time. It was semi-long, hooded, and reached mid-thigh. If I needed to, I would layer a hoodie under it. Depending on the extent of the cold, I would also wear a thin long sleeve shirt with a tank top underneath.

Leggings and tights. Even if you don't have them or only bring a few with you, you will finds tons of Japanese shops selling socks (from knee-high to thigh-high, simple to lacy), tights and leggings. I bought so many leggings and tights in Japan, even a few simple leg warmers. When it's freezing out, I also layered tights or leggings under jeans.

It's also just a good idea in general to have good, clean socks without holes. Especially because you will be taking off your shoes when you enter people's homes and they will be seen.

That's another thing -- Shoes! If you have larger feet like I do (a US size 9), you won't be able to find shoes that fit anywhere, so bring all the necessary shoes you need. I got lucky and was able to squeeze into an XXL ankle boot when I was in Tokyo, but that was a rare occurrence... and not worth the ¥10,000 in the end. Japanese shoe sizes are in centimeters, and if I remember correctly, the highest size is usually 23-24 cm/US 7-8. Ones that are easy to slip on and off are nice for when you are visiting people's homes. Not necessary, I would say, but I've caught myself feeling like I was holding people up because I had boots that required lots of lacing up. Depending on where and when you're going, you might want to think about boots that are waterproof and can handle the snow.

Keep those shoulders covered! One thing I was warned before going to Japan was don't wear shoulder-revealing tops like tank tops or spaghetti straps. Or at least put something over like a cardigan. I studied abroad in a rural, small town university, so I think it applied more there. People won't necessarily say anything to you about it, but you might get a few stares since it's not very commonly seen. However, It seems to be fine if you're out in the bigger cities and you're young. For more business-like or other formal situations, it's better to put something over it.

Summer -- Layering is still your best friend

Since I'm headed to Japan in August, I've been thinking more about warm weather clothes.
Thin, breathable material, like linens. Tank tops that can be layered under knit tops or cardigans. Cardigans also transition well to cooler, fall weather or as an extra layer in the winter months. If you see a UNIQLO when you get to Japan, they've got good undershirts and other great basics, and even a UV Cut collection.

Thinner leggings or more sheer tights to wear under skirts or shorts. I've bought more flowy skirts recently. Since I'm going to be in a more conservative, rurul area, I got skirts around knee length or maxi skirts.

Another thing I was advised was to have undershirts to wear under your normal shirts. Although it may be hotter, I'm told it's better to have that undershirt sticking to you in that humidity rather than your actual shirt.

In general, I tend to wear long tops/shirt-dresses over tights or leggings, which transition well from summer to winter, as I have leggings of various thickness and I can easily put on a jacket over. They also are just easy to pack because they take up less space. Currently, my two suitcases are mostly filled with those, plus jeans, short sleeve tops, tank tops, 3-4 knit tops, a thin jacket, a cardigan, a blazer and some button up shirts (business attire for JET, but if you're a student, highly unlikely you'll need it), skirts, and my shoes (1 pair each of rainboots, ankle boots, heels for work, and 2 pairs each of flats).

I'm basically all packed... except those omiyage...

Other things to think about when packing

Toothpaste or deodorant, since you may find the ones in Japan may be weaker or just not to your liking. I don't like the toothbrushes or floss in Japan. All other toiletries, shampoo, conditioner, soap, facewash, I just buy in Japan (their hair products are amazing!). Brands you prefer may be available, but they'll be more expensive, like I saw Clearasil, but they were often double the price. Also just be aware that a lot of the facewashes have products to lighten your skin. I had no problems with pads over there, but for those of you who prefer tampons, there are few choices available, and they may be smaller than what you are used to. If you have a favorite cold or flu remedy, perhaps consider that, since it's very different in Japan. I survived by taking anything that looked like it had lots of vitamin C or citrus.

Well, this post ended up being longer than I intended, but I hope it can be a little helpful!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

I need a denshi jisho for my denshi jisho...

So much to cover, so little time! Make sure you read all the way to the last two paragraphs! They're the most important! My denshi jisho (an electronic dictionary) finally arrived a smidge over a week ago. There was a flurry of flying wrapping, much like on Christmas and I finally got to the amazing little device (which was in a box, inside a box, inside a bag, much like my sister wraps things) I was very excited to use it! I opened it up and realized instantly I was in for trouble.

There was menu that popped up with two or three options. Uh-oh.I didn't know enough kanji to read it and not wanting to take an hour to translate it I thumbed through the material for it. I should tell you at this point, the supplemental material is entirely in Japanese, as I should have expected buying it from Japan. Someone out there loves me though, because tucked away inside the manual was a short start up manual in English! I got through the setup and then realized, there were more kanji all over the keyboard that I had no clue what they did.

Casio Ex-Word XD-D9800GM Electronic Dictionary.

That didn't stop me from playing with it of course. I couldn't figure out the writing pad, though I did manage to find quick translate. My first day with the denshi jisho was exciting, but a little disappointing since I pretty much needed a denshi jisho to be able to figure out how to use my denshi jisho. No worries though, my awesome tomodachi Marie once again came to my aid and taught me how to use it!

It's very convenient in the fact that if I find a kanji I don't know, I can draw it and this little electronic dictionary will find it for me in seconds! This is a vast improvement over the paper dictionaries because it can take 5-20 minutes to find a kanji in a dictionary since they are nowhere near as easy to navigate as an English dictionary. I can also use this denshi jisho to search using the Japanese alphabet or I can flip over to the oxford dictionary and search from English to Japanese. There's also a English dictionary packed away in this device. Over all, it's EXACTLY what I needed for Japan!

It's so small too!
Overall, I could have really used this denshi jisho a few days sooner as I was finishing my Japan Women's University study abroad application this week. I wanted to make sure i understood the short "essay" questions so I translated the questions into English which took around an hour. If I'd have had my denshi jisho, or rather if I'd known how it worked sooner it would have cut that time down significantly. All things said and done everything turned out okay thanks once again to the aid of awesome tomodachi Marie. She helped me edit two of my essays and really really helped me write one of the essays. I don't know what I'd do without my friends!

Essays being done and after much checking and double checking that I had all the materials, I finally turned in my application Wednesday afternoon! It was very nerve racking, not because it was difficult to turn in, but because essentially I've reached the point of no return. With the application submitted, the University of Oregon will be sending it to JWU and I will have my final acceptance letter sometime in November.

A card my awesome tomodachi Ayumi sent along with my denshi jisho!

The next very exciting news I have for all of you is that I have partnered with Forever Photography as a sponsor! She is a fantastic local photographer and she will be donating 50% of all proceeds from photography shoots until I leave for Japan in January of 2013. That said, more information to come soon on how to take advantage of this and get some amazing photography while sponsoring my trip! My next post will be dedicated to showing you this fantastic woman's work as well as how you can get ahold of her and schedule an appointment.

On the subject of sponsorships, if you or anyone you know is interested in contributing to my study abroad experience please send me an e-mail and I can get information to you, or them. You can also use the forms and links provided under the donate section in the menu to donate! As always, thanks for reading and you'll hear from me soon!