Shimane, Japan
My name is Melissa and I am a 22 year old American living in rural Japan. I graduated with a degree in International Studies and Japanese Language and now work as an ALT (assistant language teacher) through the JET Program.
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Finals Week...it sucks just as much in Japan

So it is already that time...期末試験 (きまつしけん / kimatsushiken / key-MA-sue-she-ken) final exams!

Where did time go...really I have no idea?? Some one please give it back!

I arrived in Japan on August 31st and now here I am at December 13th, and I basically feel as if I haven't even moved yet. I have done so much that I feel like I haven't done anything, if that makes any sense. I spent so much time adjusting to the move, finding my way around, and doing school work that everything just kind of sped right along. I still have so much time left, but I am scared that after winter break it will just go *poof* and I will be back in America. It is strange because in 5 days almost 3/4s of the international students here will be hopping on planes home and not coming back. I understand that most people can't stay for a whole year, but I am really sad to see them go. It sucks worse that it is final exam time. Papers and tests are killing everyone and now no one has time for last outings or even goodbyes ;_;! I also have no time! I have so much to get done before winter break starts that I can't even think straight or enjoy my last few days with my host family *cries* I love my host family!! My host mom has been wonderful and brings me treats while I am studying and says "Merisa-san benkyou ganbatte ne!" ^_^ trans. "Melissa good luck studying"! --->

But, speaking of winter break I wanted to let everyone know my plans for break! ^_^

Break is really long. 6 weeks, Dec. 18th to Feb.6th crazy right?! A number of one-year students are heading back home for this month and a half, which being a little homesick makes me slightly envious, but I have quite the epic adventure going for me!

  1. December 23rd - Say goodbye to host family! :(
  2. December 24th-27th - Christmas in Tokyo with Steph!! GazettE Tokyo Dome Tour Final on the 26th!
  3. December 28th-January 5th - New Years in Okayama with Arisa and her Family
  4. January 6th-January 11th - Visit my friend Kelly who teaches for JET in Aomori (lots of snow!)
  5. January 12th - 15th - Short break from traveling back in Hirakata crashing at Arisa's
  6. January 16th - 31st - CHINA!!! Chengdu in Sichuan Province to be exact! Visiting a good friend from high school!
  7. February 1st - Back for Orientation at good ol' KGU!
I am so excited for this! I am gonna be traveling on my own for the first time and I think this is the part where I really experience Japan, with a little China thrown in!

I think I will have a lot of down time so I plan to catch up on my blog and vlog! Let's hope!

Anyways time to study for my Speaking Final! がんばります! 

Melissa

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Starbucks and Motorcycles

Okay…so I know I said I would be going back in time with posts for awhile and I still plan to do that, but I simply had to make a blog post about my amazing day yesterday. Also, I really want to write about it so I don’t forget the feelings I had about it!

November 26, 2010

I did something spontaneous for the first time in basically ever! It has been a busy week so by yesterday (Friday) I was feeling a little bit under the weather. All day I had been waffling about whether or not I wanted to go to my afternoon class. After having lunch with some friends I was feeling a little better, but still figured I would get some books for homework at the library and then head home to sleep. On my way back from the Library I ran into my friend Tatsu, who I had just had lunch with but is a new friend to me so we didn't know each that well. He and my other friend Elyse had decided to skip class and go to a motorcycle store in Kyoto and they asked me if I wanted to come along. At first I was hesitant because usually going to Kyoto means a 35 minutes crowded train ride and pushing your way through the mass of people once you get there. But this was not the case because Tatsu has a CAR!!! Oh my, the novelty of someone with a car in Japan let alone a college student. Elyse and I were like dogs that jump at the word car ride! Tatsu was like “wanna go for a car ride?!” and we were like “Car ride!? Car ride? Where? Where’s the car??! Let’s go! CAR!” lol well not exactly like that but you get the idea. Thus, I spontaneously skipped class to go a motorcycle shop in the suburbs of Kyoto! But, before that we made a brief detour at Starbucks! Which is not that big of a novelty in Japan, but this one was pretty epic because it was…FREE STANDING, drive thru, parking lot the works. If you didn’t look at the Japanese menu you would think you had been transported back to America! After getting coffee we had a pleasant car ride through suburban Kyoto. It was beautiful and so relaxing. I never realized how smoothly cars move, but after being on crowded buses and trains and standing on the moving vehicle a car is just so pleasant to me. It felt like home, driving in the car with good friends not having any particular destinations in mind. We headed to the bike shop that was really pretty big for Japan. Tatsu races motorcycles and it is kind of his thing so he showed us around and for me knowing nothing of motorcycles it was a cool new experience. Elyse on the other hand loves bikes and had basically died and gone to heaven! After that we had fancy coffee and ice cream at the café next door and it was just a really wonderful afternoon. I got to know two people who were really just acquaintances before, but I think will prove to be good friends! We didn’t do much else besides driving and talking and joking around so I guess it is hard to put into words here the feeling, but I just finally felt at home here in Japan. The end!


P.S. I didn't have my camera so the pics are from my cellphone.

Coming soon:

Day in Kasagi, Miyajima Trip, Thanksgiving at KGU and more!

I plan to blog like crazy over winter break since I will have the time to get caught up! For now I am going to post some pictures today so check out the evidence section to see pictures of what I have been doing so far!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Orientation at Kansai Gaidai Fall 2010


I apologize for the lack of posting. Once I got behind on blogs I never started because there was a certain chronological order I wanted to stick to. Therefore, in order for me to get going I am going to take everyone on a little time warp for a while until I get caught up to now.

Flash back to August 30, 2010 through September 6, 2010: [insert twilight zone music]

Orientation at Kansai Gaidai Fall 2010

For all new foreign exchange students at Kansai Gaidai there is mandatory orientation period. This is the week before classes start. It is a whirl-wind kind of week so I wanted to give some info and tips on orientation for those who will be coming in the future.

There are 3 days for new students to arrive a.k.a move into the dorms for orientation. Kansai Gaidai will tell you that orientation is from Wednesday to Saturday of that week before classes start, but this isn’t entirely true. What they don’t tell you until you have probably already booked a plane ticket are that there is a pre-orientation (not mandatory) on Monday and Tuesday. This part is not mandatory, but extremely useful because they do not really give you enough time Wednesday-Saturday to get everything done…especially since you have to register for classes by 5pm Wednesday night. Therefore, my advice is of the 3 days to move in: Saturday, Monday and Tuesday, you should arrive on Saturday. This way you have two whole days before needing to think about anything orientation, to get over jet lag, and basically get yourself back together. I arrived on Monday night thinking that leaving America on Sunday morning sounded good (no traffic, no work for my parents etc.), but when I got to Japan late Monday night I felt completely behind from the people who had already arrived and found their way to campus, food, the train station etc. Plus, I was completely exhausted when orientation started.

When you arrive you will be given a packet with all your information in it as well as the information on classes and orientation activities. On the front you will find your student I.D. number, your status as a student, what fees you must pay, who your adviser is etc. Also, the front will tell you the date and time of your placement test and Language Lab orientation so make sure you make note of that! I almost missed my placement test u_u! Also, you will have your computer login information and will be able to use the computer lab in the dorms as soon as you get there. Using Wi-Fi is a whole other story because the school uses proxies and you have to get your laptops registered before it will work. Another thing to keep in mind is that the internet in the dorms and on campus in general is really slow, like Flintstones slow, so say goodbye to YouTube :/ (it works you just got to let stuff load for hours). Once you have this login you can register for classes. Registering isn’t that big of a deal. You have a month to change your classes and most people get the classes they want even if they are waitlisted. Also (I am using that word a lot) don’t stress over the placement test for Japanese classes. My advice is to review or become acquainted with the Genki Textbooks and review basic Kanji if you are at the level to know Kanji. No matter what everyone retests once school has started and you can voluntarily move down if you think you are too high or petition to move up if you think you are too low.

Bicycles and cell phones!!! You can get a bike really easily. People who had arrived on Saturday already had bikes when I arrived on Monday. I didn’t get one personally because I live in home stay this semester, but I heard the average price used is 5,000 yen or about 50 dollars. Be careful if you are going to use a bike! Roads are really narrow in Japan and are shared by cars, motor bikes, bikes and pedestrians all at the same time. Also, you can’t just park anywhere in Japan so be mindful of where you leave your bike. There are parking lots on campus, but just like in the U.S. for cars, you have to register your bike and get a parking decal, otherwise your bike will be TOWED! The form for bike registration is in the orientation packet…I think. As for cell phones don’t worry you can get a pre-paid phone at the campus convenient store for around 6,000 yen. They are nothing special and you have a choice between black and black, but for those only staying a semester it is a phone and works fine. You will be able to get one the first day. For those staying longer you can buy used phones and get a prepaid SIM card or go to a Softbank (not the one by campus cause they will only have the same one prepaid phone) in another city or area and you can get a nicer prepaid phone. The only catch with these options is that you can’t get one of these phones until you have your Alien Registration Card which takes about 3 weeks to process at city Hall. For me it was worth the wait because I was able to get a shiny pink cell phone!! If you want to go crazy and buy a fancy Japanese phone you can get a one year plan at Docomo, but you will have to pay a cancelation fee of about 17,000 yen since you won’t be here for exactly 12 months.

Hm…I guess that is about it. Some random info…there is a bus from the Seminar Houses to Hirakata station and the grocery store etc. it cost 220 yen. This is the 12 or 11 bus otherwise it is about a 45 minute walk to the station. Oh and if you come in the fall keep in mind it will be really hot here! It will be hot until November! This isn’t just any heat it is island humidity heat! It also will rain randomly so buy and umbrella when you get here! If you come in the spring it will be rainy and cold, not snow cold but maybe like 35 degrees Fahrenheit which is like 5 Celsius…I think?? They use Celsius here and I haven’t gotten used to it yet!

Okay that is all for now! I am in the process of trying to edit my video on this topic, but it isn’t working for me…stupid windows movie maker >_

I will try to post more regularly now that I have settled into life here!

Good Luck to those coming in the future and those of you just passing by hope it was interesting: P

Monday, October 11, 2010

Update~

Things are going great! I have so much to tell and no time to tell it! I have been so insanely busy since I finally got the internet that I really don't have time! But sooo much has happened and I want to tell it soooo I think I am going to back post a little bit this weekend. So soon I promise will be a blast from my recent past up till now! I wanna make this blog work! It will just take me a little time. Now my youtube channel that is another story! I have so much footage! I think I will definitely do a how to on Hiroshima and Miyajima! Wish me luck!

Melissa

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Internet...a novelty in one of the most industrialized countries u_u

So…(I am going to start every post with “so” I think :P)I have been Japan for exactly 4 weeks now and have yet to update my blog or post anything about what has been going on. Not too many people even read my blog, but I guess I will go ahead and share it on facebook or something once I start posting more regularly. As of now my keeping a blog doesn’t seem very promising, but I have not given up yet…in fact I haven’t even really had a chance to start. You see in a country that is extremely technologically advanced the internet is a sketchy thing. This is not only because I live with a host family. The wi-fi on the Kansai Gaidai campus and the dormitories basically sucks to put it mildly, a warning for future KG students. It isn’t horrible, but don’t expect youtube or any other video to load. It is fast enough to update my blog, so slow wi-fi isn’t the best excuse, but when the only place to use internet is in the bustling CIE you don’t really want to fiddle around with something like a blog. I mainly check my email or facebook chat in between classes since… oh yeah I have no internet at my homestay. Okay well this isn’t entirely true either. My hostfamily doesn’t have wi-fi, they only have lan cable internet and the lan line is in the living room where everyone is all the time. Using this cable requires me to pull it out from behind the tv, stretch it across the room and plug it into my laptop and basically be in everyone’s way. Therefore, I get to use it only about every other night because they know I need it to talk to my parents on skype. This has proved to be a big pain in the butt. It isn’t even like I want to use the internet all the time. I really want to be able to use it in my room at night when I am not bothering anyone and don’t have to cut into family time at night to step away and use the internet. I simply want the internet to get stuff done that requires the internet! Mainly homework, but I really want to do this blogging thing and keep a youtube account with at least a few videos. Oh man and I can’t forget about denshi jisho.org to look up all the words I didn’t understand that day. Luckily, all hope is not lost! I trust KGU has had this issue in the past because they brought in a company to sell us wi-fi. Granted it cost way too much money, about $40 a month, but I have garunteed wi-fi wherever I go with a nifty 4g portable wi-fi router thingy. It is through the Japanese version of sprint. Unfortunately, we had to order this soooo it took 2 weeks for me to get it, but now I have it! YAY! Sooo that means real posts now about orientation, the first week, classes etc. ^^

Oh, but otherwise homestay is freaking fantastic! I highly recommend it! The internet thing was a rare problem among us in homestay and being with a real Japanese family everyday is worth some of the initial hassle and settling in period!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I made it!

Just wanted to post that I made it and I am now at Seminar House 1. I meant to post before leaving but everything was just so hectic I didn't have the time. Proper posting wont start until next week because I have to get my internet and laptop registration done and get the two working at the same time lol

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Packing, home and 1 week to go...

Okay...so I noticed a lot of people updating their blogs with pre-departure information, feelings, events etc. and I have been meaning to start some of them myself so better late than never...

So yesterday my mom and I attempted to take a crack at packing and as you can see this obviously didn't go so well. I think I am only capable of doing things under the stress of last minute. I can't seem to wrap my head around the fact that I am leaving in 1 week. It is so strange. Basically, I have been planning for this day for the past 4 years and it has always been "2 years away","1 year away", "6 months away" etc. and now it is hard to imagine in my head how short 1 week is. I wonder if anyone else is having this problem. Of course I am excited, nervous, and anxious, but I haven't been overly anal about planning every last detail out...which is pretty much the opposite of my personality. But, I have been planning for so long that I think I am just finally sick of planning...I am ready to go with the flow and just let the journey take me where ever it might go. So what if I forget my toothpaste, the world is not going to end. Everything is going to be okay!


Plus, I have been a little distracted this week because tomorrow I get to go home! Well sort of...you see my family just recently moved to a new state to live with my grandmother. 4 months ago we sold our home and 2 months ago we packed everything up and came to our new home or well my grandmother's home. I have been living in this new place all summer away from my University and friends. It was hard to let go of my childhood home, but this has been a blessing in disguise. This separation has gotten me over the homesickness hump and I am now used to not seeing my friends or home. However, it is difficult not being able to see them when I haven't even left the continental United States yet. But, tomorrow I get to see them!!! I get to go to Virginia Beach for 2 days! It is only 2 days, but it will be great! We are going to Busch Gardens tomorrow and then to the Beach in good ol' Va Beach Monday! It is essentially my goodbye party, but I am ready to celebrate!~ And get some closure with my friends and my home town.

Then come Tuesday morning it is all eyes on Japan! No more procrastinating...I hope! And that bag will become more organized and packed up tight! I might even study some Japanese this week, which I have been meaning to do all summer u_u but who am I kidding? I knew that wasn't going to happen! :P





Oh and P.S. we all got our speaking partners a few weeks ago! Mine is a girl named Sayumi! She is basically my Japanese twin! We have almost identical interests and we are both tall! Imagine that, a Japanese girl the same height as me! It was meant to be!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

I guess I am making progress!

Okay so with 22 days to go I think I am finally making progress! Most of the shopping is done. I have plenty of cloths, underwear, socks and toothpaste! I finally got my tech situation in order by updating my laptop with some new gadgets like the sleek and practically weightless Seagate FreeAgent go external hard drive! This is so much better than the piece of crap Toshiba one that broke on me :( And finally a web camera *jumps for joy* since my lenovo ThinkPad is like the only model sold by ODU that didn't come equipped with one already. Yay for talking on Skype! Oh and today my new baby came in the mail! The Kodak Zi8 HD camera so I can record my year in HD wow! :) Now I am able to get my YouTube channel started which I successfully uploaded a video on! Yes! Enjoy Lisa and me being complete idiots with the morphing feature on the new web camera!!



Until next time or when I actually give people the link to view this blog and be aware of its existence...haha

Oh and I am currently listening to Rie Fu's Prayers & Melodies ~ I am really loving her music lately..if anyone cares.

Kay bye