School in Japan

All I can say that it’s so different from the states.

Firstly, getting to school from the dorm is much more of a hassle than it is at New Paltz, but it’ll be good for me. To get to class that starts at 9, I have to wake up at 7:30 at the latest and be on a train before 8:20. Back home, all I have to do is walk 10 minutes.

The trains in the morning here are NUTS. Since everyone goes to school at the same time and people commute to and from work at the same time, it’s impossible to not be squished in there. I did try and take pictures, but I thought it would be rude, and it was also impossible for me to move to get my phone out. I’m sure if anyone looks up “Trains in Tokyo” on google, they’d get the idea.

But after the disaster that is Japanese trains, the campuses I’m commuting to are really nice.



One is the main campus where my Japanese Language classes are, and the other one is closer to my station where all my other classes are. I signed up for 20 credits (Japanese included) and was told by friends back in the states that I’m nuts, but classes here are only 2 credits each for the most part, and actually really easy so far. There are more things that are different though…

First, they only happen once a week, which is really weird (for me, at least). Second, they’re about an hour and a half long, which isn’t too bad unless they’re night classes, which I do have a couple of. Third, attendance is SO essential here. Most of my classes only allow 3 unexcused absences before they FAIl you, which is pretty shocking considering most kids here just sleep in the class and the teacher doesn’t do anything about it (this will be discussed further whenever I get around to writing about the culture shock I’ve experienced so far here).

(This kid isn’t in class but it’s still relevant)

On the bright side though, none of my classes really give out too much homework and for the most part only have a couple of papers, a presentation or two, and one final exam.

So far, the only thing I think I need to ‘worry’ about are the two classes I’m taking that are taught in Japanese, but I’m also really excited to take them and don’t think I’ll have a problem paying attention. Understanding what the professor is talking about, however, is another issue, but I have a few Japanese friends in both of those classes so hopefully they’ll help me.


My Japanese class was determined by what level I placed on a test that was pretty much impossible. I somehow managed to get into the Intermediate level, which I was a little upset about at first since I had finished Intermediate back in the states, but it’s much more difficult here. I can safely say that my worries about not learning anything new have gone out the window now.


I’m gonna try to join a few clubs here since that’s what most kids do after classes other than getting a part-time job. I was thinking of a music/band club, but I’d have to see if they’d make me buy an instrument with my own money, because that’s not happening. Maybe a singing/drawing club… I’m not sure yet it’s only been a few weeks.

But honestly I’m loving it here so far. All the students and professors are really friendly and helpful. The only thing I think I’m gonna have a hard time with is the commute, but I do have months to get used to it.


Life In Tokyo

We have a few more days before orientation starts and we have to get in the swing of things for school, but there’s still so much to do so I’m obviously not gonna just sit here.

I met up with some friends from school and they showed me around cities most foreigners like, places like Harajuku, Shinjuku, Shibuya, and all that good stuff. Maybe it IS because I’m a foreigner, but I loved every one of them.









I had been to some of these cities when I was in Japan a few years ago, but I was only in each place for a few hours so I didn’t get to do much. This time I did have the opportunity to peruse and buy things, but I chose to save my money. I mean, I am here for a while so I can always come back if I really do want something.


Speaking of money, food here is really cheap compared to New York, but the clothes are WAY too expensive for me. They’re also too small, but that’s another story.

Last Saturday, there was some festival going on in our street (I’m honestly still not sure what it was for). How often they do this, I don’t know, but basically, people take a little shrine thingy and walk with it all over town, bringing it to various shrines and ringing it’s bells, I assume to welcome in a good thing or scare something bad off.


Our landlord told us about the event and said that we could come watch, or if we wanted to, to haul the shrine across the town with the locals. I’m not that strong and I was still too tired from my constant moving around/jetlag, so I told him that I would watch. But when we got there, the guys in charge assumed that everyone was there to help. Not that I minded, but I was surprised when he told me to put on a uniform and showed me to the back of the shrine…


In the end, I was too short to hold it up most of the time, but I tried a few times. Eventually we wound up at a fairly large temple (I assume for the area) where a bunch of stands for food, games, and other things were surrounding it, so once we rang the bells of the shrine there, we walked around for about an hour to get food and stuff.





I guess it was like a little Natsu Matsuri (Summer Festival) at the end of the season, but I really still don’t know. Even after asking some Japanese friends, they don’t know what I’m talking about, but it was really interesting and in the end I’m glad I went.


Yesterday, I also went to a few game centers with a friend and then we met up at an Izakaya (basically a place for a ton of food and drinks for really cheap) with some other people.




I guess these past few days have been pretty hectic looking back on all this. Right now, I’m exhausted, orientation starts tomorrow, and then that’s not far off from classes, so I guess now I really DO need to sit here and relax before things get busy…

Moved in!!!

I’m finally settled in at Meiji’s International dorm here in Izumi!!! I looked at some pictures and videos of what it was like before coming, but I’m still amazed at how nice it is here.





It’s gonna be really weird having a room to myself, but my ‘flat-mates’ (I don’t really know what to call them we share a kitchen and a laundry room and our rooms are all next to each other) are all right here, so I guess it’s pretty similar to a suite.




(I hope they let you hang pictures up here…)

I’m also really happy I have my own little bathroom to myself


I still have to unpack and get adjusted to how things work around here, but it shouldn’t be too hard… I hope…!


I met with some highschoolers from another prefecture! They came all the way from Nagano!!! So far…

I was approached a few days earlier about it, and it seemed like they picked totally random students. I thought they picked quite a few of us but it turned out that wasn’t the case…

There were roughly 8 of us international students, and god knows how many of these high schoolers! We each sat at a table with roughly 10 students each… I was super nervous about being alone!

Some students went up and talked to us about their school and prefecture. Their english was really good!!

Next our activity was to do origami. They gave the students a sheet with the directions for 10 different origami pieces, and we weren’t allowed to look at them. Instead, they had to somehow teach us (with our limited Japanese, and their limited English). It was a really tough, but fun experience! Only about 2 groups made all 10 origami pieces. My group got to about 8 because I suck at understanding what they were telling me haha. They didn’t know the word for quarter so they would demonstrate by fold a paper in half, and half again. They sure came up with really unconventional ways to help me figure out how I was supposed to fold it…!

At the end of it all, they made these to give to me.

So cute…!!!! I drew a little chibi on the corner of a piece of origami paper and they ended up taking it and keeping it…!!

I also saw this and took it off a table…

It’s like origami witchcraft or something…!!

The students were very sweet, but really shy as well! Out of all the students I sat with, only two consistently tried their hardest to talk to me and were very open from the get-go. When I first introduced myself and told them that I was from New York City, they were super amazed! At the end of the day, we said our respective goodbyes. It was a bit sad even though I had only known them for an hour or two. I wish I could’ve spoken with them more, or even maybe gotten their contact information.

I really wish them the best of luck in the future!

Two Weeks!

Today marks two weeks of being in Japan!

So far, it’s felt like a dream. Our classes just started last week, and I only have one class a day on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays! Unfortunately, to balance that out I have a full 9am-6pm schedule on Wednesday… there’s just so many good classes that happened to be put on Wednesday though!

I talked before about how I was adjusting to my homestay, and now I love it! The food is great, but sometimes when my host mum is tired, I go out and buy a bento for dinner- but even that is great! It’s a cheaply prepared meal but so convenient and delicious. My friends live in the dorms, and I hear that the food is either a hit or miss most days. I’m glad to be in a place where every single meal is just a bite full of sheer bliss. Even though there’s still the language barrier, my host mum and I both try hard and it’s fun being with her! We rarely go out together, but it’s nice to live with her.

I call home frequently to my worrying mother, but there isn’t really much that I miss about home, though I do miss cuddling with my dog a lot… I also leave tons of messages on facebook for my friends! There’s a lot of things here that constantly remind me of them, so sometimes I get a little sad and miss them. More than anything, I wish they were here with me to experience Japan too! I think right now, I’m adjusting perfectly well. I haven’t really had another moment of homesickness, and hopefully it’ll stay that way!


Just a little side trip between the time when we arrived in Japan and before we left for Nagasaki!
Since quite a bit of us came to Fukuoka early, we got to explore the surrounding area! I woke up and left at 7:30am with some friends and other students from the JASIN program to go sight seeing and shopping!! Our friend Matt had been there for a bit longer than we had, so he acted as our tour guide for the entire day!

Down the street from the hotel is a street full of temples!! They’re so beautiful~ It was early morning so unfortunately we didn’t go inside any of them. We continued to walk down a loooong way and went up Fukuoka Castle!! It was steep and a little bit tiring and scary, but the views from the top were gorgeous!

Here’s some with Gunter!

Our first meal of the day was just food from a 7-11, but we decided to walk around to the back and just eat there rather than going to the park lol.

After that we walked over to the park, centered around a HUGE pond. It’s pretty hot, so the nice breeze by the water felt so nice~ we walked around and through it. There were so many gorgeous views, it reminded me a little bit of Central Park back home.

We continued down and walked up a hill to a little area for sitting, and then wandered off from there to find a bunch of little shrines.

Some friends bought some gifts, and from there we turned around to go home.

On the way back, we stopped by this huge shrine!

I learned that people are supposed to walk on the sides, because gods and deities walk through the center. Shrine maidens (Miko) and priests walk through the middle as well. We saw a Miko talking to our friends and walked over, and into one of the shrines to buy souvenirs. I bought this!

It’s for making my wish come true (I wished for eternal happiness for me and my friends!).

After that we decided to go to a book off… which we ended up not being able to find… But we did find another mall area with a book/hobby shop at the top! I was so excited at seeing all of these anime series that I love.

Seeing the Haikyuu!!, Love Live, and Free! merchandise stands made me a little sad since it reminded me so much of my friends back at home. It was still only my first day there, so I held off on buying anything.

We had a lot of fun here!

Unzen Trip

Back when we first came, there was a trip planned for the end of orientation to go to Unzen! There was a whole schedule of things to do, but due to rain, we had to switch up the schedule a little bit (which actually ended up being a lot better)!

First stop was to the Aino lookout!

There was a little shop to buy souvenirs and also a place to look out into the ocean! It was gorgeoussssss. Things were a little expensive here so I didn’t really buy anything, but there were mimikaki (ear picks) with cute things on top of them! Like ramen bowls! I really wanted once but I already have one…

Next stop was to lunch! It was suuuuuuuuper yummy! The white blobs were mochi, which I surprisingly ended up not liking so much.

Our next stop was to see some houses buried by the debris flow caused by one of the mountains collapsing. It was interesting!! I really wanted to look inside urgh… you could kind of peer through the entire first floor of one of the bigger houses…!! I’m so in love with traditional Japanese houses and really want to see one…!!!

After that we went to the mountain! It was going to rain the next day, so we switched mountain climbing to today instead of the next day. There was the choice of riding the cable car up (for about 1,100 yen roundtrip), or walking up.

Walk up the mountain they said. It’ll be easy they said. It’ll be fun they said. (It wasn’t, it was hell).

Of course, I somehow made it up with my friend, and we sure did take long breaks… The great thing about walking up was being able to look down past the trees on occasion. It was gorgeous views all around, not to mention a super chilly wind that was the GREATEST relief for our gross, sweaty selves. Hilariously enough, a few of my friends and I stopped at one point to stand and take a break for quite a bit. When we started out trek up again…. we reached our destination right around the corner…!! And to think we stood there for about 6 or 7 minutes thinking we still had a while to go…

There was a little stairway to go up to the veeeeery top of the mountain! Even though I was ridiculously tired, it was a great feeling of satisfaction to say that I hiked all the way up that mountain! Also, I’m a poor and broke college student.

It was suuuuuper foggy so it’s not like we could really see much of anything…

There was also this thing.

I cheated and took the cable car down, more out of fear of hiking down rather than laziness. Some parts of the hike up were steep and a little tricky even going up, so I was constantly thinking of how scary it would be to come back down…!! One of my friends who trekked down actually slipped and fell…!!!!! It was nice to record the way down just to see the great views though! There were only a few moments were we could see the view while going through the foresty hell that was that mountain trail.

After that we went to the hotel!! My room was a huge western style room, where each of my roommates and I had our own beds. Visiting my friends room, some of them had only a tatami room (with futons in the closets), or half western and half tatami… I’m so jealous!!!!!!!! I’m actually still very upset that my room wasn’t even half tatami…..

Our rooms were so nice and spacious though~ and had great views!! This was from the morning we left www Only one girl who went out to party with some other students slept in her friend’s room, so only her bed is neat and made…

They gave us yukatas to wear, and a huge number of us went to the public bath downstairs!! This is really why switching mountain climbing to today instead of tomorrow really worked out so well. Had it been tomorrow, we would’ve all been sweaty and disgusting on the bus the entire way home!! Thankfully, we were able to all bathe together and sit outside just chatting.

Initially, many girls were hesitant to go outside without even at least a small towel covering themselves, but some of my friends and I were already used to it from going to the public bath in the hotel in Fukuoka! We had chats about various things (a lot of which I don’t particularly remember…) and boobs. When we asked some of the guys the next day what they talked about (since we talked a lot about being comfortable in our own bodies and how beautiful we all were- we wondered whether the boys did the same thing), they said they just talked about boobs. Nice to know how everyone appreciates a nice chest LOL.

After getting out, we went to dinner!!

!!!!!! I was so excited about it haha.

Afterwards, they made us play games! A lot of the NICS students don’t really speak english, so I think it’s kind of cute how we’re forced to speak Japanese to each other in order to communicate! Of course, their Japanese is waaaaay better than ours. One of the activities was introducing ourselves to each other, and a NICS student asked me if I was American and said my face looked Asian. I told him I was chinese! Being in a homestay and being forced to communicate in Japanese, I’m a lot more comfortable speaking in Japanese with other students, even if it means abandoning all grammar rules in order to get my point across!! (Later on, we’d always see each other on campus and politely greet one another… I wish we could have spoken more!)

There was some karaoke, and a lot of students went out to go get drinks. Sydney came up to where karaoke was taking place and said she went down to the public bath, but no one else was there, so I offered to go with her! The karaoke book was published in 2011, so none of my favorite songs were even in there… surprisingly, Alice Nine wasn’t either…!!!

Another friend joined us and we spent the rest of the night together chilling out in first the public bath, and then in our friend’s room! I then went back to my own room and slept there for the nice (even though the futon was sooo much more squishy and comfortable!)

The next morning, I woke up at 5:30am in order to go to the ~*~*special onsen*~*~. This one changed everyday, so yesterday it was for male use only, and today it was for females! It wasn’t anything special or that much different really lol. I showered and went to the outdoor pool (??? hot spring??) and immediately the cold morning chill hit my body and I was freeeezing!! The water was so warm and it really made everything feel suuuuuuper nice!! Eventually my body was so warmed up that the chill didn’t even faze me anymore haha. I eventually got out, and when I got back to my room it was already 6:30am!! I can’t believe I was there for an hour… it barely felt like it!

Anyway, I got ready with my roommates and we headed to breakfast… or attempted to lol. We had forgotten where it was, and asked one of the coordinators who pointed us to it. They let us in early, and we ate breakfast! It was a mix of Japanese and Western dishes. I have a hard time eating breakfast as is, so I ate a little bit and also some castella cake!! Cake is a totally appropriate breakfast food when your an adult. Yep. Totally.

We left to go see Shimabara castle!

They had renovated it, so it was more like a museum with display cases showing armor and weapons and artifacts. It was actually a little bit boring… Museums are really fun things but I guess I had my hopes a little too high since the outside was so cool! Seeing all of the stuff on display was still cool… just a little underwhelming though. At the very top of the castle was a lookout though! It was cool to see the surrounding area.

Afterwards we had lunch!

Tatami room again! Lunch was totally delicious~

We were allowed to explore afterwards and I went out and followed some other students.

There was this huge open path into the ocean. It was soooooo cool! There were amazing views. It was a little frightening how there were no rails whatsoever…!!! Aren’t they afraid of people jumping?

Such gorgeous views~

I walked to the very end and tried to peer down to see the wall, but got too scared… Eventually I just bent down and held my hands out on the floor in front of me in order to look over… it was super scary!! I couldn’t bring myself to take a picture out of fear of dropping my phone!! Walking back, I attempted to from the side… but I still couldn’t…!! It’s really scary!

The bus came to pick us up at 2pm and we drove on to our last stop, Chijiwa. On our way there, there were these gorgeous views of the ocean! It was a little hard to get my camera out in time…

At Chijiwa, they had these potato snacks!! Super yummy~

I bought a castella cake as a gift for my host mum! I also wanted to buy this set of keychains for my friends and I, but there were only four…

I’m in Japan!

Man, where do I even begin?

First off, going through JFK security alone for the first time made me pretty nervous. Honestly, I cried saying goodbye to my parents. When I first said goodbye to them after moving into my dorm at New Paltz, everything was fine! I was hit by a little bit of sadness, but everything was okay! This time, I guess it really does make a difference being halfway across the world rather than an hour and a half drive away.

I rode the flight with my friends Jay, Alyssa, Edi, who were all going to Nagasaki University of Foreign Studies (which I’ll now start referring to as NUFS) through New Paltz. Alyssa was the only one without trouble sleeping through that darn 13 hour flight, but I think we all managed as well as we could. Being with them really made everything a lot better. Going through new (and quite frankly, downright terrifying) adventures with friends always makes everything better. Always.

We went from JFK to Narita airport, had a two hour layover (but it was about 7 for Edi) and then got on our flight to Fukuoka. We were greeted by several students who had also arrived for the program, as well as Jonathan Mays. We left for a short train ride to Hakata, and then checked into our hotel.

The next day, we left for Nagasaki. We did a little bit for orientation, and met our host family. I only have a host mum, who happens to run a house church. Her house is really small, but really cute! It’s just the two of us, and her english isn’t the best, but that’s okay! She tries her best to speak to me in english, and I try my best to use as little english as possible when replying in Japanese. I’m really surprised that I’ve been able to convey what I’m trying to say in my broken Japanese…!! She thinks my Japanese is really good but… honestly it’s terrible and everything so far has been a miracle…!! I speak better than I can listen haha!!

As a small note, when I first arrived, I was overwhelmed with this feeling of dread and sadness. I kept thinking, “What have I gotten myself into? Why am I even doing this? Can I PLEASE move into the dorms, I don’t want to do this!” I was so terribly homesick and on the constant verge of crying while up in my room. Returning home, my host mom spoke a lot more Japanese, and I could barely grasp it, adding even more onto my frustration with myself. But, I finally got connected to wi-fi and spoke to my mum. Of course, I would never let her know that I was even remotely upset while being here, but that really helped me.

But everything has been getting better.

Right now, there aren’t many Japanese students for me to interact with so I’ve been staying close and meeting more and more English international students. Everyone has been extremely positive and excited about their host families and being here, so I think that it’s okay!

Also, NUFS is on top of this huge hill. I managed to escape the walk this morning, but MAN does it look like a killer! Imagine the walk up from Vanderbilt, except about 10 times longer and worse. Also spiders.

But at least there’s GORGEOUS mountain views all around!

Almost There…!

I just came back from a weekend up at New Paltz and… there’s only five days left for me in the states!!

It feels extremely surreal, as though I’m not actually about to get on a plane to live and study in a foreign country halfway across the world for four months. It’s a childhood dream for me to visit Japan, and for that dream to finally be coming true feels so… well, surreal!

While having to adjust to a completely new environment is frightening, I’m extremely excited for the classes in Nagasaki! Off the top of my head, I’ve got anywhere from only 1-3 classes a day, save for Wednesday where I’ve got a full 9am-6pm schedule of five 90 minute classes… Regardless, the classes sound so good that I don’t want to drop any of them! I’m taking classes in Japanese history, culture, pop culture, society… the list goes on!

Saying goodbye to my friends this weekend was what really help the fact that I’m actually leaving soon settle in. Walking them to class, saying goodbye… Even though it’s only four months, I couldn’t help but cry. These are friends who’ve really made New Paltz a second home for me. I know that in a few months, I’ll probably be saying the same things about the friends I’ll make in Japan!! I just can’t win with these things… I’m always going to be left crying and missing everyone!!

In order to help me adjust, and have a constant reminder of them, one of my best friends let me take a little Gunter figure with me! I’ll be sure to take him around in place of everyone!! He’ll be my little reminder of home O(≧▽≦)O


One Week?!?

(I meant to post this before my first entry, but messed up… sorry!!!)

Well, I just got back from visiting friends on campus before my flight. It still doesn’t feel like I’m going, but I’m leaving for Japan on the 31st! I’m not really looking forward to the 13 hour non-stop flight, but I’m really happy I’ll have a friend at the airport to help me when I land… I’m gonna be exhausted, but probably excited enough to stay awake!

I’ll be jumping around different friends’ houses for about a week until the dorm opens and I can move in. The trains in Tokyo are apparently really easy to navigate and I’m confident enough with my Japanese speaking level that I’ll be able to get around. Lugging around my suitcases may be a little annoying, but not a big deal.

I’m excited to go to Shibuya and Shinjuku to meet up with some friends that I haven’t seen in years and walk around the cities with them. They said they have a lot of places they want to show me, so I can’t wait! I think I may have to wait to shop until I’m settled in, but I think it may be hard not to…

Orientation starts about a week after I get to Japan, and two days after I move in, so it looks like I’ll be pretty busy figuring out how the commute works, getting everything I need before classes start, and all that. It’s going to be such a different experience from New Paltz in that sense for me too, and I think it’s a good one to have and compare so I’m looking forward to it a lot.

And now that I think about it I’m gonna miss things I take for granted, like my mom’s cooking…

… I should learn how to cook while I’m abroad…

Alright, I should probably pack some more, so I’ll write more when I’m half way across the world!