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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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