My Adventure in the Land of the Rising Sun | UMD Study Abroad Blog

Academics

So far, studying in Kyoto is a really nice experience. I enjoy walking to school and being greeted at the entrance in the morning. The various events that different organizations put on are also pretty cool. I was able to figure out where my classes were pretty easily too, which was a relief.

My schedule on Monday and Tuesday consists of just the two daily periods of Comprehensive Japanese. Monday’s class is before the lunch break and Tuesday’s class is after the lunch break. During lunch time on Tuesday, I meet with my Japanese Conversation Buddy, though so far I have been eating at home before our meetings. On Wednesday, my classes start later in the morning. I have my Kanji class before lunch and my daily Comprehensive Japanese after lunch. Thursday and Friday are both early starts. I have 4 periods of classes on Thursday; my daily double period of Comprehensive Japanese, followed by International Negotiation and Special Japanese 6. This is my fullest and longest day of classes. On Friday, I have my Comprehensive Japanese class and Current Japanese Society.  Usually get home around 6 pm every day but Monday.

The Comprehensive Japanese classes are taught by a different professor each day, except Wednesday where the professor switches out during the break between periods. Typically we have a vocabulary quiz to start class. After that, some professors have us do book work while others have us pair up or go around the room asking and answering a question that is part of the current lesson. Sometimes we do both. PowerPoints and picture cards are also employed and read aloud by the class. The students in my Comprehensive Japanese class are other international students from different countries. International Negotiation and Special Japanese 6 also have Japanese students in them. Special Japanese 6 is a class for studying Japanese animated films and thinking about how they compare to Disney films. 

Got this cute little guy in Ise

My favorite place so far at the university is the outside sitting area near the cafeteria and the bookstore. I like to sit there to eat my lunch. At the moment, the eat thing I have discovered at my university is NINJA. This is the place that runs the Japanese Conversation Buddy program and they hold interesting events like eating lunch with some animals. The second best would be all the different places to get food on campus, which will give me the opportunity to try some more Japanese foods. Plus, it’s good to know about them in case I am unable to prepare lunch in time for class.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             


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Adjusting

For the most part, everything about being in Japan is completely new to me. For example, living alone and walking to school is new for me. In college, I share a dorm room with my sister, so we usually eat meals together. Also, since the sophomore dorms at Umass

Taken on a bridge in Ise

 Dartmouth do not have kitchens, we didn’t really have to go shopping for much except quick microwavable meals and snacks. Granted, I accompany my mom when she goes shopping and help her choose what to get, but this too is different from shopping alone with my own money to make meals for myself. 

A discovery I made that I have found that I love is having a lunch break built-in to class schedules. Back home, you just eat whenever your schedule allows or you have to eat during class, which isn’t my favorite thing to do since usually it results in me not eating much because I am too focused on my work. This lunch break gives us a great break to refuel and socialize between classes. Another of my favorite new experiences is having classes with other international students. It is a wonderful way to learn more about other cultures, and get to know people from a wide variety of backgrounds. This makes this study abroad experience even more culturally enlightening. 

I have discovered that being so far away from home has made Christmas shopping even more exciting, as I am always thinking of my family and when I find something that is perfect for them, I pick it up. I find that even more than usual, I am excited to see their reactions and delight at what I give them to show how much I love them. I am looking forward to Christmas time this year not only because it is the most important time to me, but additionally because it will be when I am reunited with my family and friends. 

Although the public transportation systems are complicated and may take some time to fully figure out, they make it possible to explore and travel much more easily for those without cars than back home. It does of course help that there is a train station within walking distance from the apartments. With public transportation, making plans for the weekend can consist of a much wider variety of locations. 

Adjusting to my new social setting will probably take the longest amount of time for me. Since all of my friends and family are not with me, I have to adjust to not being able to spend as much time with them. Furthermore, I need to do my best to make new friends here, despite my shy nature. 

Being a newcomer in a different country is a great way to learn new things about yourself and the world around you. It also presents new circumstances which help you grow. My time in Japan has allowed me to grow in my faith, trusting that He knows the path before me, so I  have nothing to fear.


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Arrival

My first impressions of Japan were in Tokyo, since we stayed there for two days before moving into our apartments in Kyoto. Tokyo was crowded and busy with lots of screens, which reminded me of Time Square in New York. Also, of course everyone was speaking Japanese, which was a little disorienting at first. Tokyo’s atmosphere was overwhelming for me, but fortunately Kyoto is much less busy. Kyoto has an interesting mix of old-fashioned and modern architecture. Japan does seem to have a certain smell about it, but I can’t quite pinpoint it. My best guess is that it smells like green tea. The weather is really hot here, which makes walking more exhausting. Thunderstorms seem to be pretty common here, and it has rained a few times. 

Vending machines are everywhere here, but so far I have only seen ones that sell drinks. Reflecting on this while I walked to school, I thought that they may have vending machines on every corner to prevent dehydration. Considering the fact that so many Japanese people seem to walk or ride their bike instead of driving around, having drinks readily available everywhere is a smart and healthy decision.

My apartment is small and simple, but it works perfectly for my needs. I worry that I may not be able to figure out how to work the washing machine. Another concern of mine is that I will not separate my trash correctly, as it is a complicated process here. Paper and cardboard, plastic, bottles and combustible trash/food trash are the categories which all trash must be separated into.

The university I am attending seems okay so far, though I am not quite used to getting there or navigating the campus itself yet. The International Affairs Office staff and NINJA cast are very helpful though, which makes me believe that I will be able to get help with my studies if I need it. Considering how little Japanese I know, I foresee myself needing assistance at some point. 

 


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Departure

Preparing for my trip to Japan was both exciting and stressful. Since this will be my first time out of the country and being away from my family for such a long time, I am quite nervous. Packing was a bit harder than I thought it would be, but I prioritized and took advice from others who have been on longer trips. The studying portion of the preparation was very informative and helpful, however finding the time to study was the difficult part, with all the summer plans. Fortunately, I managed to complete my studies of the hiragana and katakana alphabet with encouragement from my best friends that assured me that it was okay if I had to leave them to study for a while.

My greatest fear is that my family and friends will fall apart without me, since we’re all so close. I also fear that without them, I will be overcome by my depression, finding myself lonely in a new place. In regards to my studies, I fear that I will become frustrated with myself, not being able to understand Japanese well enough and fall behind in my classes. Other fears include missing my flights or my SIM card not working properly.

Navigating the airport was a bit overwhelming and confusing at first, but I was blessed to have a family friend with me who is more used to airports, she helped me figure out where I needed to go. Saying bye to my family was hard, but I tried to make it quick so I would not miss my flight. I was there early enough to navigate to the correct gate, even after making a few mistakes. The second airport was easier, since I did not have to worry about my luggage and had a better understanding of how to find the correct gate. The Narita airport was very disorienting, as all I had to guide me were signs and I had to hope I as doing everything right, since I don’t know enough Japanese to ask or understand what the airport personnel were saying. It seemed like forever before I was through customs, and I was hoping and praying that my group was still there. It took me a while to find my luggage, but I did find it after asking someone at the airport. Thankfully, my group was still waiting despite me not being able to ask them to wait for me.


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Experiencing Japan

Visited a botanical garden in Gion

In this blog, I will be detailing various parts of my adventure here in Japan. While this is an exciting and amazing experience, it is also a very big step for me, since before now I had never left my home state for longer than a week. Since my family is very close, I know it will be difficult being so far apart from them, but I think that the chance to explore another culture through immersion is far too valuable to shy away from.


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