Monthly Archives: December 2017

How (Un)Lucky I am That Saying Goodbye was So Hard

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Saturday, I came back home. It’s been a strange experience being back home after being in Japan for so long. The jet lag meant I was up until six in the morning the first night I got back (my mom was not happy). I cried for a good hour in my room the next night because home felt strange rather than familiar because so much had changed in four months. Hearing all the English around me when I went into a store, I thought it was weird. Nothing felt familiar anymore and that confused me. I was expecting these feelings to a certain extent. Home becoming unfamiliar is a feeling I deal with every time I come back home from college, since I go to a school out of state. When I leave, I keep expecting everyone at home to stay the same but of course people change. However, the feelings are a bit different from what I am used to. I had gotten used to a whole new culture. To be pushed back into my old culture all of a sudden, of course I miss certain aspects of Japan and find myself doing things that are normal in Japan but not so much in America (e.g. bowing).

I have no answer on how to adjust. I do have some suggestions that helped me begin the process of recovery. Embrace the fact that you will take time to recover. It took me awhile to adjust to Japan. I guess people expect that since I know American culture, I don’t have to adjust to America. People are wrong. I’ve become used to Japanese culture. Meaning, I’ve become used to people not being overly loud, neat queues that people respect, and bowing. Now that I’m in America, I pretty much have to unlearn all that I’ve learned. Another hard part to accept is that everything I’ve learned has no more outlet. All these Japanese customs and habits I picked up, but I have to use for them anymore. Hopefully, I can find a new place to use these customs or work to return to Japan.

The one thing that really helped me get over my dissatisfaction of being home was sharing stories of being abroad. It’s not enough. I feel that no one at home understands. But it helps. They may not completely understand but they get to grasp a glimpse of my experience. I get the added benefit of reliving my study abroad moments. Refreshing my memory makes the experience seem more real than an elaborate dream that I made up. Talking about it reminds me and my family that I changed. By sharing stories, I hope that my family and me can catch each other up to the people we are now, rather than stuck knowing the people we were. I think it would be helpful to talk with your study abroad friends. They are all going through the same thing you are. If anyone gets it, it would be them.

Coming home has been tough but I know I’ll feel better eventually. My time in Japan forced me to grow up in leaps and bounds. I’ve changed but not into an unfamiliar person. Rather, I’ve turned into a person that I’ve always wanted to be. I just never knew I did. Coming to terms with this change will take time but once the people around me and I have, my time in Japan will always leave a tangible mark on me.

 

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My Experience Abroad Gave me Courage (to Visit Another Country, Solo)

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My second to last post and I’ve decided it should be about traveling outside Japan. Now as a very much broke college student I decided that I would splurge on only one big trip. I was originally going to go to Kyoto but then I decided let me just be really out there and do a solo trip outside of Japan! I ended up booking a ticket to South Korea. The timing worked out so that my trip would occur during finals week which is why I’m doing the post on trips now.  Some tips to help you out:

Booking a flight.

Comparing prices takes a while. Prepare to give yourself a week to shop around. Also, try to purchase a ticket at least a month in advance. I recommend using Kayak or Expedia. These websites filters are a blessing. Otherwise I would have ended up booking a flight during one of my finals.

Booking a place to stay.

Since it was only a few days I ended up booking a bed at a hostel, which is a cheap way to go. The most important thing is that you feel comfortable. If a hotel would make you comfortable, go for it. If you shop around I’m sure you would be able to find an affordable room to stay in for a couple of nights. Airbnb is another option you can use. Just as a side note for the women out there. If you feel uncomfortable sharing a room with a guy, just be sure to pay attention to what kind of room you’re booking at a hostel. Some rooms are co-ed and some are female only.

Foreign currency exchange.

Look up beforehand what the best method for currency exchange is at the country you are visiting. Every country is a bit different. For the first day, you might as well exchange some money at the airport since everything is unfamiliar and all you want to do is get to your room. The easiest way, especially if you’re only staying for a few days, might be just to withdraw straight from an ATM as soon as you’ve gotten settled. Just remember to find a global ATM.

Call your bank!

This is so important if you plan on withdrawing money while abroad. I almost forgot but thankfully I read a post online that reminded me. I would also look into your phone plan. I was lucky enough to have an international plan that included South Korea.

Planning on what to do.

I did some research before I went to Korea. I did not want to waste too much time looking up place to go. Using Trip Advisor and my friend’s recommendations, I compiled a list of places I wanted to visit. I ordered the list from “must-goes” to “would like to go if I can.” Then, I planned about two to three activities everyday that I absolutely had to do and added one of the “would like to go if I can” at the end. Remember not to make your list too long. There’s no way you can go everywhere and that’s fine. Go to a few places and really absorb the country. An additional note: look up if your preferred navigation app works in the country you’re visiting. I used Google Maps in Japan and it works just fine. However, not so much in South Korea. The transit directions work just fine, but the walking directions were non-existent. Apple Maps worked about 50-50. I would recommend getting used to reading actual street maps. Nothing like going analog.

The language barrier.

Since you’re visiting the country for only a short time and probably only visiting the more tourist-y places, there’s no reason to go in with a semester’s worth of language knowledge. You should at least know how to say, “hello,” “thank you,” “sorry,” “excuse me,” and at least numbers 1-10 (chances are, you won’t need to use the last one but you never know).

Be flexible.

Prepare for plans to fall through, for your timing to get messed up, to get lost. Nothing will go exactly as you expect and that is what makes traveling so fun. Don’t pressure yourself into completing everything on your list because you probably will not.

After reading through the whole, maybe traveling on your own seems scary. And it was. I went to a foreign country all by myself, with no help and barely knowing any Korean. Is it for everyone? I don’t think so. I think everyone, while in Japan, should leave the Tokyo area at least once. Don’t feel pressured by friends and family to travel to another country if you don’t feel up to it. Recognize that just going abroad is a huge accomplishment and will change you in ways that you will carry with you forever.

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Selfie with the mascot of N Seoul Tower (nothing wrong with awkward selfies when you’re on your own)

Week 15- All Good Things Must Come To an End

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Visiting Nakamise Dori, my favorite street in Tokyo, one last time!

Fall ginkgo trees with the Sensoji Pagoda in the back.

Nakamise Street again- the best place to buy souvenirs!

A decorated garage storefront.

Tsukiji Hongan-ji in Chuo, an Indian architect styled Buddhist Temple.

The entrance to the Tsukiji Fish Market.

Skewered grilled eel!

And some skewered grilled salmon belly!

The dorm room in Musashi-Kosugi. All moved out!

The bathroom at the dorm.

Thank you so much for following my journey in Tokyo! ありがとう ございます (arigatō gozaimasu/thank you) and さようなら (sayounara/goodbye) Japan!

Week Fourteen- An Escape into Tokyo’s Nature

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The pathway of yellow trees at Meiji Jingu Gaien.

The main street, where the annual Jingu Gaien Ginkgo Festival is held to celebrate the “leaf peeping season!”

Some of the intricate ceramics sold at the festival. Many of these cups were over ¥6,000 a piece, around $60.

The pop-up German Christmas market in Roppongi Hills. There are around 5-6 Christmas markets around Tokyo!

A Torii in Yoyogi Park.

The sake wall at the Meiji Gardens!

Another Torii in Yoyogi Park- showcasing Tokyo’s beautiful fall foliage.

Tokyo Tower- I love randomly turning street corners and then suddenly having Tokyo Tower in sight!

A daytime view of Tokyo from the south Metropolitan Government Building. The 45th floor observatories in both the North and South buildings are completely free! Also, the view of Yoyogi Park is reminiscent of Central Park in NYC.

Christmas lights at Tokyo Midtown- a large shopping center. While there is still so much fall foliage here in Tokyo, at night the trees transform into a Christmas wonderland!

Week 13!

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The Torii at the Meiji-Shrine in Shibuya.

The Meiji Shrine. This Shrine is dedicated to the idolized spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken.

A sacred Camphor tree with a wishing wall around it. People write their prayers and wishes on small wooden blocks, and then hang them on the wall.

A close up of the prayers and wishes.

Another view of the Meiji Shrine, with the Yoyogi Building in the far background.

Found some gelato at one of the large department stores here in Tokyo! Tiramisu, milk, and rum raisin flavors.

Ginza shopping district- one of the more upscale and modern neighborhoods of Tokyo.

The Christmas Village at Tokyo Sky Tree!

(Japanese) German currywurst

The row of wooden stalls selling German foods and drinks at the Sky Tree market.