Thursday, September 25, 2008

You probably know this, but...

The majority of Japanese commercials are weird. VERY weird. You can probably watch most of them on YouTube; some of them are really funny and most of them are just weird and random.

Japanese "game shows" are very different from American ones. It's not really about the grand prize or any money that could be won, and the contestants are often celebrities/TV personalities, especially comedians.

These game shows are often general knowledge quizzes of some sort, including Kanji! Yes, even Japanese people don't know everything there is to know about Kanji. But then again, Americans don't know a lot of complicated words in the English language either. I'm particularly amused every time there's a question involving English, and someone is completely clueless. Such as knowing how the word 'number' is spelled. One person thought it was NAMBAR.

I've also discovered a few people on TV, one in particular while watching a special of a game show called 'Nounai Este IQ Supli."

His name is Eiji Wentz (ウェンツ瑛士). His father is German-American and his mother is Japanese. He's a musician, and TV personality on a number of shows, and does acting as well.

He's the one on the left, in case you couldn't tell which one was "less Asian-looking."

Now, I get the impression that most mixed-race people in Japan are fluent in two or more languages, usually Japanese and English. Such examples are Jero and Crystal Kay. Anna Tsuchiya isn't fluent, but she speaks some English and has some control over her accent.

Eiji speaks just as much English as the average Japanese citizen. This is apparently because both of his English-speaking parents worked a lot to support the family, and thus he spent most of his time with his Japanese grandparents. His older brother is bilingual, however. So he's the only person in his family who doesn't speak English.

I'm sure a lot of people in Japan expect him to know English, or at least have a better understanding of it because of his background. However, it's said that he did very badly in English while he was in school (he also happened to do very well in Kanji). This goes to show that language ability has nothing to do with nationality, race or anything of the sort. I wonder if he ever gets depressed about that kind of expectation or assumption from other people. I used to feel the same way, after all. If I went to South Korea and people knew that my mother was Korean, they'd probably have the same assumption, or at least they would ask. If I didn't tell them anything they probably wouldn't think that way.

But let's get to happier thoughts. Eiji's really cool. Kenisha's already referring to him as my "man" (not "mine," but rather "that guy that gets my attention when he's on TV"). I can't seem to find any of his music--he's part of a duo called WaT with Teppei Koike--so I guess I'll have to stream it and see if I like it, and then buy some CDs. Ugh...expensive Japanese CDs...or get the songs from iTunes, maybe. If they're there. (Just checked: they're not.)

In other news, my first celebrity sighting: Comedienne Edo Harumi gave an interview on the Rikkyo campus on Friday. No one seemed to know or care, and neither did I, really. But I saw her. I didn't even know her name; one of the CIS advisors told me who she was.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ohh snap! It's Akihabarajuku!

It's a combination of Akihabara (秋葉原) and Harajuku (原宿). The kanji can even be combined easily:

秋  葉  原  宿
aki - ha - bara - juku

This word pretty much describes the dominant sides of my personality.

Akihabara, or Akiba for short, is a city known for their electronics. In fact, even the signs in the train station recognizes it as "Akihabara Electric Town."

Sadly, I must first say that I did not take pictures. That's because the weather was terrible, and I want to wait until a clear night to photograph the city.

Akiba is a fun place. near the station is a little underpass leading to rows and rows and rows of shops selling electrical parts and equipment. Clearly this is for the engineers and the geeks of the geeks.

And then there are the video game arcades, including Taito (whose logo is the Space Invader alien) and Sega (even bigger than the arcade in Ikebukuro). Unfortunately, Animate was very small, but that's because the one in Ikebukuro (gotta find a nickname for that place) is one of the main stores.

As Verbal from m-flo says in one of his songs, "Take me down to Akihabara City/Where the laptops are cheap and the lights are pretty." Yes, the lights were pretty (there was this one shop with all kinds of strobe lights and other party lights) and the laptops...well, the old ones were cheap, at least.

What's also cheap are MicroSD cards! Some shops have them for really low prices, mostly 1GB and 2GB. I bought a SanDisk 2GB card for 650 yen (about $6)! I was happy because otherwise I would've ordered from Amazon and paid shipping as well.

I also went to this used game store. For some weird reason I was looking for the Nintendo DS Browser. I found it, for only 2280 yen. I just wanted it for the RAM expansion. I'm aware that I could've ordered that 3-in-1 card online for about $30, but I really wanted the browser and RAM say that I have them, I guess. For all the ROMs I've downloaded for my CycloDS, I've gotta buy SOMETHING, right? Although buying it used doesn't give any money to Nintendo...oh well.

I also bought a "junk" item from there--a power cable. This is the same type of cable that is used for the PS2 and other game systems, sold on eBay for about 3 to 6 dollars, maybe more. I got my cable for 50 yen! I can use it in place of my 3-prong MacBook adapter extension cable.

After Akiba, I made another visit to Harajuku, but it was raining badly so Kenisha and I decided to go home. Hopefully I'll have time during the school semester to visit again.

9/29/2008: I actually wrote this post a few days ago, but I hadn't finished until today due guessed Just because the blog says 9/22 doesn't mean you missed anything; I just left the original timestamp.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Sunshine City, AMLUX, Animate

Cities have so many places to explore.

Following yesterday's (Thursday's) orientation, I went back to Sunshine in Ikebukuro. I had yet to look around Animate, the anime-megastore. I also wanted to go to the Daiso in Sunshine City Mall (another 100 yen shop...I know...). Unfortunately this Daiso was nothing compared to the one in Harajuku. But the mall does have a very nice and slightly overdone fountain:

Yeah, check out that geyser. Totally unnecessary.

Oh, and one of the vending machines has Qoo! I was so happy, just about every other machine I've seen so far was Qoo-less.

Before going to Daiso I had stopped in Animate. Each floor was divided into different sections, separating girl's manga from boy's manga, character goods, CDs, DVDs, and toys. I bought a Tarepanda cell phone strap and a Rilakkuma file (can't really call it a folder, but it holds paper).

After Daiso (because what I got there isn't important at all, other than Hello Kitty Vitamin C candy--it's star shaped!), I decided to make an unplanned visit to AMLUX, the Toyota Auto Salon. The day before I saw some really nice cars and wanted to take pictures. But since I hadn't planned on going yesterday I didn't bring my camera. Fortunately, I did have my cell phone. If I go there again I'll be sure to have my digital camera.

AMLUX also has a Safety Driving Simulator, which of course I had to try. It's not like racing; it's just to show you the safety systems that engage when you crash or hit something (which I did many, many times).

The coolest thing is that it costs nothing for five minutes of using this simulator. Provided that there isn't a long line, you can use it anytime during operating hours and pay nothing.

And now, the beauties (better pictures next time, I promise!):

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Grocery Shopping

It's strange how the first time I have to buy groceries on my own, it's in a foreign country where I can barely read anything. It's not like any of my classes taught me how to identify food, so I had to use what experience I gained from watching my mom, as well as good ol' guessing.

One thing's for sure, I need to practice.

I've gone shopping for necessities three times so far. I guess that's not too bad, seeing as how I've had to start from nothing in the fridge and pantry. I had intentions of eating more than just ramen, but somehow by the end of my second day of shopping, I had nothing but rice, noodles and soup-related ingredients. Some people can live on that or just eat out, but I'm trying to eat healthy and save money by cooking my own food.

Strange enough, the first two times I went grocery shopping were at the 100 yen shop, once in Ikebukuro and again at the Harajuku Daiso on Sunday. I used to chuckle at people who went shopping for such things at the dollar store in the U.S., but seeing the wide range of food and ingredients available at Daiso, I figured, why not?

Unfortunately, meat, eggs and vegetables are not available there. So after orientation and shopping for cleaning supplies at the 100yen shop in Ikebukuro, I stopped at this grocery store that's conveniently located in front of the Fujimidai station ticket gate. I mixed it up a little, buying some eggs, pieces of pure white chicken breast, frozen pizza (it was on sale), some prepared salad, hash browns (a pack of 3 for 99 yen!) and mochi ^_^

For the most part, I was almost clueless there, so I stuck to familiar things. I didn't want to sit there in the grocery store fiddling with the dictionary on my Nintendo DS and looking up words I don't know. I'll have to look up a few food-related words and some recipes next time.

And for the third time, I forgot to buy hand soap. I can't believe I keep forgetting...I've been using hand sanitizer and dish soap interchangeably.

P.S. While on the topic of food and such, on TV the other day I saw a segment called "Hard Gay Cooking." Yes, Hard Gay was there. They made potato pizza...mmmmm.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Life and My Day in Ikebukuro

Here are some pictures of my dorm. I know my mom would be interested to see what kind of space I have:

It appears that, although I requested a single room without a roommate, they gave me a double room. Oh well, I'm not complaining.

My desk. Japan doesn't really use Wi-fi as much as we do, so the dorm doesn't have Wi-fi. A PC is set up here, but since I have my MacBook (which also uses less power and thus lower bills) I don't really need it. I unplugged the ethernet cable and plugged it into my MacBook. Internet in a snap.

What about my iPod touch, you say? Well, it's not all that important, since the only place I can use its Wi-fi is...what? Not my dorm? Oh that's right, my dorm doesn't have Wi-fi. But guess what? My MacBook can be used as a wireless router/access point when connected to the Internet. Just enable Internet Sharing and bam--Wi-fi. Of course, I have security options set so no one else around here can steal my connection. So now I can use Wi-fi on my iPod Touch, which is useful for downloading mail in advance before going out the door, Internet capabilities at my bed (though I'd rather use my computer), and the iTunes Remote.

I have a fridge! And it's bigger than the ones they allow in the dorms at Maryland. The TV has basic channels--cable and satellite isn't really a regular thing in Japan, though it's available.

I'm really glad that I have this tiny little kitchenette. Don't worry Mom, the cookware and dishes came with the room, so I didn't have to go out to buy any of it. I'm sure they all came from the 100 yen shop anyway. I cook my own breakfast and dinner for the most part, and go out for lunch when I'm not at the dorm. Rikkyo's cafeteria has GREAT food, and it's cheap. I'm looking forward to that when school starts.

Tiny little bathroom. American bathrooms are like luxury suites compared to this. I don't particularly care, it's made to carry out its purpose and that's what matters to me.

I really like being on my own. Maybe not so much in the U.S., but out in an unfamiliar place, where I'm free to explore. I don't always like to go places with other people because there's always the, "I wanna go there!" "No, let's go here!" of it all. I can decide where I want to go and not have to think about how my time is spent going where someone else wants to go. Of course, there are times where I do enjoy going places with other people, it's not like it's a bad thing.

I took a short walk around Ikebukuro Station and then the area nearby to see what I could find. I had a list of things I wanted to look for, but most of the things I actually bought weren't on my list ^_^;

Japanese department stores are huge. There are usually at least 7 or 8 floors, give or take a few. They're also expensive, so generally I don't shop there and look for cheaper places. I decided to take a look at Tobu and Metropolitan Plaza. I didn't take any pictures really; nothing all that important to see, except for these statues in the girls' toys section at Tobu:

If I were rich, I would want this in my mansion.

After Tobu, I went to Metropolitan Plaza because there's an HMV there, and I wanted to check out their music. I didn't find much, but I did find a Claire's right next to HMV. I don't ever remember there being ear cuffs at the Claire's stores in the U.S., so I bought three of them. Their earring selection isn't as big either, which is unfortunate because I need a replacement pair for the third set of holes I have.

The next few photos are of Sunshine 60 Street. I ended up here when I spotted a Sanrio store across the street. There I bought a pink Hello Kitty DS case, some hand towels (they don't have paper towels in Japanese restrooms, it's a custom for people to carry a towel with them), and Hello Kitty Mineral Water, which is essentially water in a Hello Kitty bottle. There's also a small store in the area called jam pixy, which has clothes for low prices. I bought two tops, a hat, and a plaid pleated skirt. I was actually looking for pants, but wasn't sure what size would fit.

Sunshine City has couple of arcades and pachinko parlors, and of course some other shops. At the end there is the Sunshine 60 Building, which has 60 floors.

Can you spot the Sanrio store? The Sunshine 60 Building is peeking out from behind at the top right corner. I didn't realize what that was before so I'll have to go back there later.

Like I mentioned in my last post about Japan having multiples of a particular store near each other, HMV is also located in Metropolitan Plaza at the station.

Yes, the Sega Arcade is here. Oh what a day my brother would have just being here.

On the way back to the station, I spotted...a 100 yen shop. I was so excited. I went down and bought some necessities as well as food and drinks. I love good deals, and I love saving money =)

It is currently 9:01 AM Sunday morning here in Japan, and I'm thinking about going to Harajuku. That's all for now.

Cell phone (Yay!) and Bic Camera: Seven Floors of Electronic Goodness.

Since Pokemon Platinum came out in Japan on Saturday, I thought I'd go buy it. I decided to go to Bic Camera (ビックカメラ) in Ikebukuro. That's where I got my cell phone on Friday, and while looking at info on the store I found that they do more than just cell phones and cameras--they have seven floors of electronics and the like. And the store I went to isn't even the main store in Ikebukuro. Nearby is another store with eight floors and a basement. Japan has this thing where they open a store, and then--as if they had forgotten where they put it--build another one nearby.

Bic Camera is like Micro Center and Sears thrown together, basically. I started with the top floor since the video games were there, and I wanted to get Pokemon Platinum. It turns out I got my copy for a very good price--4320 yen (about US $40). Retail price is 4800 yen and online stores have it for much more.

Their PSP-2000s come in colors!!! Very pretty colors, too--they're pastel with a light glitter finish, very beautiful. I want a "Felicia Blue" PSP, but I think I'm going to wait. The PSP-3000 is coming out in October, but they only come in black, silver and white. Since I'm not really pressed about the PSP in general, I going to wait and see if their 2000 models get a price cut in anticipation for the 3000.

What I found besides Pokemon Platinum was a whole bunch of games and accessories. Here are a few pics of the top floor:

Strategy guides/video game-related books and magazines

DS Accessories

NDS and PSP consoles (and a Duty-Free sign...I wish I was exempt from taxes T_T though I wasn't charged tax for Pokemon...not sure how that works)

Anime DVDs (By the way, bro, I checked for Gundam 00, I'm not sure there's English available. They were super expensive too, Volume 2 was around 60 bucks. I came across a Gundam 0080 DVD that did have English, but I think it's dubbed...)

Here's the floor with toys:

Models and figurines, and...


The selection is amazing. They have tons of DS and PSP accessories, appliances like washing machines, refrigerators and toilet seats (you all know about the fancy electronic toilet seats, right?), MP3 players (iPod too! They're getting the new models as well), electronic dictionaries, flat irons and hair dryers (thinking of buying one ^_^) and other things as well. There's even a floor with a section devoted to clocks.

The salespeople are pumped up and excited as well, as they are in Japan ("Irrashaimaseeeee!!!" they say, which means "Come in!" or "Welcome!"). I'm wondering if I happened to walk in during a big sale or if they're that pumped up everyday. Since Ikebukuro is a busy city I guess it's normal.

On Friday I got my own Japanese cell phone, also from Bic Camera. In Japan there are three main services: NTT Docomo, AU, and SoftBank. Docomo is the most popular but the most expensive, AU is second in popularity but has a smaller selection of phones than SoftBank, which is third.

Like in the U.S., each service has their own selection of phones. Unlike the U.S., their selection, depending on the service, is HUGE. They have non-working samples of each phone that you can look at, and some phones have a ridiculous amount of features. Generally, Japanese cellphones are rectangular shaped and have larger screens than the cheaper models in the U.S. And of course, the quality is so much better.

Thanks to the Rikkyo volunteers, my choice was rather quick. A group of girls helped three of us (the exchange students) choose phones. We all got the same model, in different colors. The girl that helped me is actually Korean, and she speaks Japanese fluently, as if she were a native. No, I have not reached that level yet.

She told me about AU's promotion where, after returning the phone, I get a 10000 yen cash back. Also, she recommended AU to me because their reception is better than SoftBank. You should have seen her making fun of SoftBank's reception, it was hilarious.

Anyway, I ended up getting the cheapest model, the Toshiba W61T:

Sitting on the dock


The back, with a slot next to the battery for a MicroSD card, a 3.2 megapixel camera (it reads the Japanese QR codes!), an infrared port, and a flashlight. Yes, a flashlight.

It might look somewhat plain, but upon closing the phone a random light-up graphic followed by the time is displayed in the corner:

Cell phone strap in the photos not included by the way, I bought that at the 100 yen shop. It also doesn't come with an English menu. After deciding on the phone, Heson (the Korean girl, that's how her name is romanized from Japanese) told me there was no English and asked if it was okay. I thought about it for a moment, and then she said, "Oh you're good at Japanese, it'll be no problem for you!" Haha, and that's why it took me an hour to figure out how to change the wallpaper...

Speaking of wallpaper, this is my current cell phone wallpaper, the cuteness that is Nao from the band alice nine.:

I'm pleased.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Arrival and Check-in

So I made it! I'm wondering how often I should update, because although I've been busy, I don't like writing super long entries. Oh well, I'll cover the important stuff.

My arrival went well. I couldn't wait to get off the plane because my body felt so cramped, and the people sitting next to me were like some kind of BFF-lovey-dovey friends or something. Fortunately I was sitting in the aisle so I had some space. The food was pretty good too, I'm a bit hungry just thinking about it. Or maybe it was because I was hungry on the plane so I thought it was good. Meh.

After getting off the plane, I took the shuttle to the main area and went to Immigration. As some of you know already, when entering Japan they take your fingerprints for identification as well as a photo. Some of you might know about my skin condition on my fingers; it's not really bad but the fingerprints are hard to see. They normally take the prints from your index fingers, but since those couldn't be read by the machine I had to use my middle fingers.

After immigration I went down to get my luggage. It wasn't a concern at all about whether I'd get my luggage on time, since it seemed at LAX that they sent luggage along with the flight. I went through customs and proceeded to the main area to meet Hikaru.

Hikaru is my friend who hosted me during my week-long homestay in 2005. When she went to the U.S. the following year I hosted her. Since then we've been keeping contact with each other. I told her I was coming and asked her to help me get to Fujimidai. My suitcases were really huge and heavy, so I decided to send them by 宅急便 ('takkyuubin' is a delivery service used to send luggage and the like to a specified address), and my stuff arrived the next day.

From the airport, we went to Ikebukuro (where Rikkyo is) and had dinner. We were in a bit of a hurry so I couldn't finish my shrimp tempura udon. I was sure to finish the tempura but the noodles were a bit much.

Getting to Fujimidai from Ikebukuro is pretty easy. Fujimidai is on the Seibu-Ikebukuro line, which is a separate rail from Japan Railways ('JR' for short). Only the local train stops here, but taking one of the express trains to Nerima and then transferring to local train will get you here in just three stops. From the station, J-DREAM Fujimidai (my dormitory) is just a five-minute walk.

My dorm is pretty nice, I like it. Even though I asked for a single room, it seems that they gave me a double room without a roommate. It has a bunkbed and two desk chairs, which is how I figured it out. There's a tiny little kitchenette with a sink and single burner, and a tiny bathroom which probably wouldn't suit someone that is very large. I also have a PC, TV, VCR, and fridge. Overall I like where I'm staying. It's pretty quiet and away from the busy city, but even if I lived in the city I wouldn't mind.

That's all I'll write for now. It's early Saturday morning here and there are no orientation plans today, so I'll probably look up a few places to go for the weekend. I know my brother wants me to keep him updated on tech stuff, so I'll get to that pretty soon.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Whew! That was a relief.

As I'm typing this, I'm on the plane headed for Narita.

Of course I can't upload this entry right away, but I'll timestamp it with the current time, which is 6:22pm Eastern Time.

I almost missed this flight. Everything during the morning was going smoothly until my first flight on American Airlines from Dulles to Los Angeles. They announced at 9:00 that there was maintenance that needed to be completed before takeoff.

That put the flight back an entire hour. I was scheduled to arrive at 11:35 Pacific Standard Time, but because of the delay I didn't arrive until an hour later.

My flight from LAX to Narita was at 1:20 pm PST. The whole time I was praying to God and hoping and praying again that things would work out. It was all I could do; there was no point in stressing out.

I had forgotten to tell the people at the check-in desk in Dulles that my luggage needed to go all the way to Japan, so I had to go claim it at LAX and then hurry to the departure gate. Dragging around two very heavy suitcases AND a carry-on is not easy.

After asking various people where various places were, I finally reached the check-in for Japan Airlines. It was 12:45 pm. I explained my situation to them and they said the gate and check-in was closed. I felt so devastated, but I didn't give up. They said I'd have to go to American Airlines (my first flight) and tell them what happened, and that they would let me stay at a hotel and leave the next day. I told them that I HAD to leave today, and then they said it was possible that I could take the Singapore airline.

Fortunately a Japanese woman who came from the same flight arrived at the desk as well, with one of the airport employees. There was a lot going on, but finally they said that they would let us on. One of the JAL employees said to me, "You are very lucky." Call it luck or call it a blessing, but things just always seem to work out for me. The other woman and I were both escorted by the employee (to whom I am very grateful) all the way through security and then to the gate. By then it was 1:06 pm. Talk about a close call!

I was SO relieved. If I hadn't been allowed on the flight, I don't know what I would have done. Hikaru is supposed to be waiting for me and my orientation is the next day, which I would be very upset and embarrassed about missing.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

This is it.

I probably shouldn't be sitting here blogging when I need to pack stuff. But I want to give people time to make a few last remarks before I leave early Tuesday morning.

Not to make this sound like an acceptance speech, but I'd like to say thanks. First and foremost, I thank God because He has gotten me this far in my life. I have never felt so blessed as I do now, and I don't care what anyone says, He is the first and foremost in my life and without Him I don't know where I would be.

Next, I thank my parents and my brother. Never have you said that I *can't* do something, never have you said that I should do *something else*. You've watched me grow and learn and succeed. You've watched me make decisions and make mistakes. My standards and my values are so high because you have taught me to be the very best I can be and to never settle for less.

To Cecily, I love you so much. You are my best friend, and I feel so lucky to have you in my life. Your loyalty and friendship has made me want to be a better person, and I feel so honored that you look up to me, but I also look up to you because of your determination to never give up, no matter what happens.

To my closest friends, thank you so much for making every day a joy for me. Every chance I've gotten to spend with you, I always treasured it in my heart and thought, "This is what makes life worthwhile." I wish I could have seen all of you more often, but I know I'll never forget any of you.

To my Grandma, who taught me the importance of the simple things like writing letters and keeping written journals, all while keeping up with the present that is computers and e-mails. (I'm not sure how many people can say that their grandparents use the computer, but it's very cool that mine do!) You always reminded me of God's grace and how important it is to never take things for granted. Thank you.

To my teachers, the ones who did more for me than simply teach, the ones who told stories and jokes (good and bad), and the ones who cared about me more than they had to--thank you. A single enjoyable teacher makes the school day all the more worthwhile, even if the others are there simply to do their job and leave. It takes a village to raise a child, and in addition to my parents, you have taught me very valuable lessons that make me the person I am.

That's all the thanks I can do for now. I still have a laundry list of things to do. I'm nervous, probably more than I am excited. I'm very eager to get everything done so I can relax and prepare mentally for this journey. This experience is going to change my life, I am certain of that. How my life will change is for me to find out over the next year.

But none of this would be possible without everyone around me, so once again, thank you.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Two of My Concerns.

See? I told you I'd make at least one other post.

I shopped for a few more items and went to the bank today. At the bank I had to deposit a few checks and my mom helped me get some traveler's checks as well. I'm a little nervous about using them, wondering if I'd get any strange looks from anyone that I give them to.

One of my concerns is that, after Hikaru escorts me to Fujimidai (where my dorm is), the next morning I might have to find the school on my own. In addition, my dorm is located near Fujimidai Station, which is on the Seibu-Ikebukuro line and not part of JR East, which is the dominant rail system. So I have to find a separate map to avoid getting lost.

My other concern is my living environment. I was given two choices for accomodations: J-DREAM Fujimidai (the one I chose) and the Rikkyo University International Dormitory (RUID).

Compared to the United States, dorm rules in Japan are much more strict. A lot of the rules are centered around the Japanese values of respect and consideration. Whereas in a U.S. university the dorms are open all night and you can easily sneak off-campus people in to sleep for the night, Japanese dormitories are different in that there is a curfew and a policy on visitors. J-DREAM has a 10:00pm curfew ("omgz so early!!!111" you say) and visitors must leave by 9:00pm. Personally, I do not care about the 10:00pm rule, because I'm not a party girl. I am allowed to stay out later or even not come back for the night, as long as I notify the dorm manager in advance. Really, am I actually going to want to do that every night? Probably not.

But that's not my concern. I'm concerned about my choice for accomodation in terms of socializing. I chose J-DREAM because the commute time is slightly shorter and probably (hopefully?) cheaper (15-minute commute on the regular train vs. 20-minutes on an express train). I love to save money wherever and whenever I can, so I can spend the extra money on other things. I chose a single room instead of a double, and skipped out on a meal plan that's available at RUID.

Both dorms are privately run, but RUID is especially for Rikkyo students. I imagine that most of the international students will be there, and they'll probably have a lot of fun. Meanwhile, I'm at the *other* dorm, without a roommate, and not sure how many other students are from Rikkyo, and how many of them are from completely different areas (that is, neither Rikkyo students nor international students).

I sincerely hope and pray that my experience will not be like my experience with this certain program I participated in during my first two years at UM. This "living-learning" program was very hard because EVERYONE lived on campus, and I didn't. After those two years I ended up not making a single friend, just a bunch of mere acquaintances. But since nothing's happened yet, there's nothing to be worried about. I'll just have to wait and see, and then make the most of my experience. I can't afford for this study abroad experience to be "okay" or "fine" or "whatever."

Thursday, September 4, 2008

An Introduction.


I'm not sure how many people will read this, but hopefully it will one day become a valuable resource for anyone planning to study abroad in the future. This blog is intended as a record for my friends and family to keep up with while I'm away.

My name is Christine. For most of my life on the Internet, I've gone by many identities, but my main two are Kasumi Torisei (named after a fictional character I created in middle school) or Sooyong (just another alias). I am currently 19 years old and entering my third year at the University of Maryland.

Well, I would be at UM, if not for this special case. In just a few days I will be leaving to study abroad in Japan for a year. I am going to attend Rikkyo University in Ikebukuro, Tokyo.

The application and planning process was just as long as the time I will be spending abroad, but it's well worth it. I haven't shown too much excitement, but as my date of departure approaches I'm becoming a bit more nervous. It usually happens--when I was in high school I was nervous about after graduation and being in college. Now I'm in college and nervous about what will follow after I get my undergraduate degree in Japanese. Being nervous helps me to make sure that I focus and do things carefully and properly. So far, so good.

So it's Thursday, and I leave on Tuesday morning. I have a number of things to do before then. I recently picked up my visa from the Embassy of Japan. The process is very simple, so I'm pleased about that. I have to pack my suitcase, which is going somewhat slowly because I still don't have everything I need. Not only that, but I have the feeling that if I pack everything too early, I'll want to take something out. As I have several days left, I'd hate to take out a piece of clothing to wear that's already been packed.

I also have to stop by the university to buy a few UM-themed gifts. Gift-giving is a custom for Japanese people, whether it is to a host family or people that you meet and become friends with soon after your arrival. My friend Hikaru, whom I stayed with during a one-week homestay in 2005, will be meeting me at the airport in Japan. I'd be sure to get a gift for her. I might also buy a few small things to give to Rikkyo students that I may become acquainted with during orientation.

I think I've typed more than I expected, and I'd like to get some things done, so I'll stop here for now. I'll definitely post another entry before Tuesday.