Ella in Buenos Aires: Packing up!

February 14, 2018

Hello everyone! I’m Ella, and I’m from Minneapolis, Minnesota. I’m an International Studies major and I am also on the soccer team at UR! I’m super excited to leave for my semester abroad in Argentina, but I’m going to miss UR and my teammates so much. I chose to study at UCA in Buenos Aires because wanted to experience a new culture and be completely immersed in the Spanish language. A few of my goals are to improve my Spanish-speaking skills as well as play a lot of soccer while I am there!

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I’ve just started to pack up today, here’s a photo of a few of my essentials for my trip!

 

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I thought it would be nice to get my host mom a little gift to thank her for having me for a whole six months. I hope she likes it!

 

I can’t wait to leave this Monday. I’ve just gotten all the information for the pre-semester Spanish course that I am taking during the month of February before the semester starts. I’m so excited to meet all the other international students doing the same program and to start exploring the city.

See you next week!

Ella


Justine in Russia: Week 1!

February 7, 2018

Hi! It’s been able a week since I arrived in Saint Petersburg.  I’m a little surprised at how much and how little time I’ve spent here so far (makes no sense, but let me elaborate).

My first day in Saint Petersburg was not actually in the city, but instead at a hotel in the outskirts of the city, next to Pulkovo International Airport. CIEE holds orientation at the hotel for the first two days and depending on our housing situations, we all leave the hotel separately. The first days were stressful because the people who chose to live with a host family, were not given any information about them up until the day we arrived. I found out that my host family was just one person named Lyudmila, who was most likely going to be a grandma. I was not afraid of the fact that she was an older woman, but I was afraid of our language barrier considering I only know 1 semester of Russian.

 

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My hotel room (during orientation)

 


At the end of our two long days of orientation, it was finally time for us to be picked up by our host families. I finally met Lyudmila (she insists I call her Lyuda). I was terrified as I walked out to meet her, but everything turned out to be fine. I found out that she has hosted students with zero knowledge of Russian, which is a bit interesting to me considering she only knows a few words in English (like mushroom, chicken, day, morning). 

So far, we understand each other alright. I would say I understand 80% of her sentences, but occasionally I do have to pull out Yandex Translate (not Google) in order to respond to her. We have breakfast and dinner together every night (all 3 meals on weekends), and I have enjoyed our conversations so far. About 20% of our meals are just us smiling at each other, but it’s okay. I got a bit sad my second night here because I really wish that I am able to talk to her more about her life, but she said it’s completely normal for me to not know much right now. As days go by, I am able to talk to her more since I have language class almost everyday and I am happy with my progress so far.

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My bedroom in my host mother’s apartment!

An interesting thing I realized the past week is that Saint Petersburg has about 5 million residents, but I found the city to be extremely quiet. There are tons of people walking around and tons of cars/buses/trolleybuses going up and down the streets, but there is something extremely peaceful about the city. The only downside to this city so far is that there is so much snow to the point that the sidewalks are completely iced over and I even see locals slipping and falling (I fell only twice so far). My apartment is close to the city center, but far enough for it to be non-touristy.

As for the city, I have not explored much so far, but I did go to The Church of the Savior on Blood. I am not going to try to describe how this place blew me away, so I’ll just provide pictures of it.

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Outside the The Church of the Savior on Blood.

 

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The ceilings inside the The Church of the Savior on Blood.

 


My commute to school is approximately 40 minutes, but I am used to longer commutes since I am from New York City. We actually did not have class the first day of school, but we did have our language placement exams. I actually placed into Intermediate I (equivalent to 201), which I was happy about since I did not really review at all the past 1.5 months of winter break.

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I’m sorry, no one told me I would be going to school in a PALACE.

So far, I’m really enjoying this city, but there are still many things I have not done nor have I seen and I am really looking forward to sharing my experiences.

До скорой встречи (see you soon).


Justine G.

Жюстин, not Джастин


The Final Post

January 12, 2017

I don’t even know where to start. I get it now…how study abroad can be the best time of your life. You change; you come home a completely different person. I’ve moved around quite a few times throughout my life – New Jersey, Germany, Italy, Okinawa, Virginia – and I have always considered Okinawa to be home. It’s where, for the most part, I grew up, I took care of my family without dad around, made stupid decisions, and maybe even learned from my stupid decisions. Going back every summer and winter break is what keeps me going during the school year, honestly. Knowing I can eat Okinawa Soba, chill with friends at the seawall, and swim in the clear ocean again. Okinawa is home, no doubt. This was the first time that returning home to Okinawa felt unfamiliar. It almost felt wrong. I was leaving home to go to Okinawa.


Immediately after spending two days in Akita, everything became…light. There’s something about Akita. I felt more like myself in Akita. It’s not really the actual place of Akita that made me feel like myself because man, I’m not going to lie, we all hated that we were in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by rice fields. But honestly, if given the chance to study abroad at Tokyo or Osaka, I would choose Akita every single damn time. You could walk 5-minutes off campus and see older people working on the rice fields. These older individuals were all very sweet and had no problem speaking to us despite our broken Japanese. You’d hear a car pass by you every 10-minutes so walking around with the sun beating down on your face was such a nice way to relax. There were shrines nearby that we would walk to, always placing a 5-yen coin and praying at the entrance.

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I’m never going to forget the quick walks to Banafi, the convenience store right off campus. The amount of riceballs and beers bought there was endless. The older guy that runs that store is so dedicated to his job. Working from 7am to 7pm almost everyday and remembering our faces. He even brought his dog into the store sometimes – an old, fat beagle. The dog would slowly wobble over to me and hint for me to pet it. Sitting on the benches in front of Banafi while eating our bentos (boxed lunches) during the summer and drinking our hot cocoa from a can during the winter.


Or the quick walks to aBar right next to Banafi. Since we were in the middle of nowhere, the only bar near us was this one. It was made for the international students, although Japanese students would go as well. There were karaoke competitions, DJ nights, band performances, etc. that students would participate in, hoping to win a free drink by the end of the night. Everyone would go so you’d obviously talk to students you wouldn’t talk to otherwise in class. Oh man, the nights spent there were too fun.


The one and only Shimohamahimehoma beach trip during orientation week is still my best memory from Akita, well, everyone’s best memory. We had only been in Akita for about 5 days and we all decided to go to the beach together. All of the international and first-year students since none of the other students had arrived on campus yet. Waking up super early, riding the train (after missing the first train, of course), swimming for hours, drinking beers and blasting Chance The Rapper, singing karaoke at the shack with the wandering dog, Udon in the city afterwards…we were all so tired and red by the end of the day but full of so much joy. It definitely set the tone for the rest of the semester.

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Train 2.jpgSpeaking of missing trains, you become a true international student at AIU once you miss at least three trains or even buses due to reading the schedule incorrectly. I can’t tell you how many times I have been yelled at for messing the schedule up HAHA it was fine though because honestly, the memories made while waiting for missed trains are some of my favorites. Creating videos of the Mannequin Challenge because of the nonstop laughter or the photoshoots I did with my friends around the entire station.


I’m so thankful the school planned out field trips for us. I know that sounds like a cliche high school thing but these bus trips definitely gave us the chance to explore Akita more. All of the international students signed up so once again, you’d spend time with students you wouldn’t otherwise talk to during class. We went to a samurai town, aquarium, deepest lake in Japan, Oga Peninsula, and watched a Namahage performance. Not only did I explore around Akita, I was also able to travel to Tokyo twice and Osaka, Kyoto, and Nara once. Meeting up with high school friends in Tokyo, walking around Shibuya at 4am, and eating ラーメン in individual stalls are a few of my favorite memories from Tokyo. And Osaka, wow, watching Isabella get rammed in the butt by a deer begging for food was absolutely hilarious. I couldn’t breathe from laughing so hard. Or the time Isabella went running ahead of me, desperately searching for a bathroom for me at around 12am, and us ending up going to a club and dancing for 3 hours solely because I needed to use the bathroom.

The small, close-knit community and campus brought us together – eating the set lunches together everyday, chilling in Komachi lobby, staying up till 4am every night. I could list all of the wonderful memories but there’s too many to list. You wouldn’t have the sense of family at any school as we did in Akita. We were all there for each other. It was the people, definitely. Especially Patrik and Isabella. The both of them changed the course of my study abroad experience.


Patrik, man, I don’t know where to start with this guy. Be honest, right? He actually went back to Okinawa with me for the couple of weeks of winter break. We became friends after day 2 in Akita. He complimented me on my smile and I thought he was an arrogant boy. Funny how quickly things changed. Surprisingly we were in the same Japanese class (his Japanese is 10x better than mine), and as a result we were always together, studying Japanese, eating meals between classes, learning the lyrics to Childs Play, talking for hours about the meaning of life…he really loves asking people what the meaning of life was. I still remember the first time he told me about this “beautiful sadness.” I’ve always been told that sadness is a bad thing but now I understand that it’s the complete opposite. We have all gone through pain but it’s only made us aware of ourselves. Patrik made sure that I understood how sadness helps you grow. Without sadness, we wouldn’t appreciate the happiness. Every time I was down, he would come in with this dorky smile, raise his voice, and bounce his shoulders and explain to me that because I was sad now, I know that I was happy before. I made great memories and now I have those to cherish. A beautiful sadness.

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I want to share with everyone that I fell in love with someone while studying abroad. Making myself vulnerable to her seemed like a risk knowing we would only be together for a short time. But, it was a beautiful risk, creating the space for her to make me feel more protected. I experienced the most intense feelings with her…confusion, desperation, pain, heart-exploding joy, and passion. She made me happy. It has been two weeks since I last saw her smile. You know, if it’s meant to be, it will be. We might come back to each other, but we might not. You can’t let the uncertainty stop you from doing anything. Fall hard and deeply in love. Go all in, man, because when are you ever going to have the chance again? Just live in the moment and let things play out the way it’s supposed to. I’m so happy that I fell in love with her while studying abroad. My time in Akita wouldn’t have been what it was without her by my side. Thank you for being vulnerable and letting me be a part of your life.

Like I said, it was all the people. I’m not sure what I was expecting from Akita. Maybe to speak Japanese fluently, meet some cool people from Europe, and leave knowing I had “ the best time of my life” as most people claim study abroad to be. I do have to say, Akita far reached my expectations. Akita has become one of my homes to me. Thank you Akita, for the confusion, heart-exploding joy, pain, constant excitement, and beautiful sadness.


Week 15: 焼肉 Family Dinner

December 15, 2016

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After our Japanese reading class, I asked Patrik if he wanted to go to the convenience store with me to just buy some hot coffee and hang out for a bit. We both didn’t have anything after class so he agreed. Of course, we stopped in his room first so he could drop some stuff off. As we were leaving his room, he told me to put my hand out. I did as I was told and he dropped some peanuts into my hand. Surprisingly, I’ve never eaten peanuts with the shell. I’ve always eaten peanuts from jars that were already de-shelled. He had to show me a trick on how to crack them open. Apparently everyone back home eats peanuts all the time around Christmas…his mom even sent these peanuts to him all the way from Slovakia. We ate them while walking to the convenience store and they were delicious. I’m going to have to ask my mom to buy some peanuts for us to eat on Christmas!

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Isabella surprised me with box of Wasabi Kit Kats from Tokyo. I remember trying one in high school; my friend’s mom had some and had us try it. I thought it was the most interestingly delicious Kit Kat. I always talk about it around Isabella and Annabelle because they’re obsessed with finding different types of Kit Kats. Well, while they were in Tokyo they found a store with several different types of Kit Kats, one being wasabi, so Isabella bought some for me. I had her try one too and she even admitted that it was good! I gave Patrik one as well and he liked it too. I don’t know how to quite describe the taste because it takes just like wasabi but the Kit Kat is also very sweet. I love it.

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This week, I went to my last RCOS activity with Patrik, Isabella, and Annabelle. We all decided to sign up for one together. I know Patrik and I have already gone to two together but we thought it would be fun for Isabella and Annabelle to experience hanging out with Japanese elementary school students. We arrived at Nangai Elementary School pretty early so the man in charge told us that we could walk around and explore the school. At the moment, the kids were doing work and cleaning around the school. Everyday the kids have to clean the floors, bathroom, classrooms, and well, basically do housework in the school. I snapped a picture of a couple of kids wiping down the basketball court floors. There were several other kids washing the floors. They would look up at us and see that we were international students and scream “HELLO” and “NICE TO MEET YOU.”

Instead of playing games with the kids, like Patrik and I did at Omagari Elementary School and the kindergarten, the children asked us questions in English. Each student had a sheet they had to fill out after asking us what our favorite fruit, sport, subject, country, food, and animal were. They sat in groups of four so we would each sit with a group then move onto the next group after about 10-15 minutes. The kids were surprised when I answered with Okinawa Soba for my favorite food. I explained to them that I used to live in Okinawa and they were very shocked. At the end of the interview, the kids were allowed to ask us any questions they wanted to until the time ran out. One of the groups asked me what my favorite Japanese word was and I answered with 時差ぼけ (jisaboke), which means jetlag. I learned this word for one of my vocabulary quizzes in Japanese class this semester and I don’t know why, but I love the word. You wouldn’t believe this, but after saying 時差ぼけ the children immediately asked me what that word meant. I had to have the teacher explain to them the meaning of the word. I guess I didn’t know what jetlag meant when I was in elementary school either? Who knows? Anyways, we all had such a great time interacting with the children, even Isabella and Annabelle, who don’t know much Japanese. It was a fun last RCOS event!

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After Nangai Elementary School, Isabella, Annabelle, Kevin, and I wanted to go to the mall to go grocery shopping, so we decided to eat dinner at the food court there as well. Patrik stayed on campus to eat dinner so I bought him his carton of milk from the grocery store. He always drinks a carton of milk after drinking and partying since it apparently helps prevent hangovers. I should probably start doing that…well, Isabella, Annabelle, and Kevin all got dinner from Pepper Lunch. This fast food restaurant serves the steak in a sizzling plate so you have to cook the steak yourself once you sit down. I decided to get udon because they had some spicy special and I love spicy food so, of course, I had to order it. After we ate, we shopped around in different stores, went to the pet store to see the cute puppies, and went to an ice cream shop. Annabelle and Isabella are obsessed with the matcha ice cream they serve. I also bought Kevin a 6-pack of beer to thank him for letting Patrik and I sleep over in the Airbnb they rented in Tokyo. He started drinking one of the beers immediately after I bought him the back. It’s legal to drink alcohol from a can in public in Japan; Kevin loves to take advantage of that rule.


Remember the ポスター発表 (poster presentation) I mentioned before? Well, we had our presentations on Friday. An elementary school even came to watch us present some of our posters. I was very nervous but thankfully, I was able to memorize my speech! I did mess up a couple of times but my message still came across so no worries. At the end of our speech, we are supposed to ask 何か質問はありませんか, which translates to “are there any questions?” I had a couple of people ask me about 5 questions and oh man, I loved it. I love talking about Okinawa. It made me even more excited to be going back in just a couple of weeks for winter break! Don’t get me wrong though, I’m also very upset that I’ll be leaving Akita soon.

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For her flower arrangement class, Isabella was allowed to create her own flower presentation. When I first saw it, I jokingly said it looked like Easter. Unfortunately, I never took a picture of the flowers while they were alive so here is a picture of the dying flowers. I opened the curtains and let the lighting in and I don’t know about you, but I think this is a pretty cool picture despite the dying flowers.

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For dinner on Saturday night, Patrik told us about this all you can eat 焼肉 (yakiniku) that costs only ¥2000 per person. It was a 15-minute walk away from the mall, which we were all dreading considering the amount of snow on the ground. By the time we got to the restaurant, our hands were freezing so we used the grill in the middle of the table to warm up our hands. I was so surprised with the amount of food available to us. Not only did they have a large selection of meat, they also had regular food (spaghetti, ramen, udon, meatballs, fries, etc.) and many different types of sushi. They even had a dessert section where you could make your own crepes and cotton candy. It was a beautiful sight really.


Nils and Kevin decided to take the fish from the sushi and grill some of it. Kevin ended up liking it so much that he came back with about 20 pieces of squid sushi and grilling it. Kevin doesn’t like rice so he ended up stacking the rice from the sushi in a bowl. Don’t worry though, it didn’t go to waste; Griff ate it all with his meat. Oh, I forgot to mention that there was an ice cream section as well. They had matcha flavor and oh boy, Griff went all out. He LOVES match flavored ice cream. I’ve never seen such a happy boy. All of us got full after about 30-40 minutes of straight eating. I couldn’t sit up straight. We all sat at the table and talked while letting our stomachs digest. Patrik’s crazy self kept getting more and more food though. Every 5 minutes he was sitting back down with another dessert. He really wanted to get his money’s worth.

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Here’s a selfie Patrik took of all of us. What a great last family dinner. I’m not going to lie though the walk back to the mall was probably the best part. The guy and I all had a snowball fight. We were trying to form alliances but kept going against each other. The girls were all the way in the front trying to avoid us. One minute they were next to us…the next minute they were 100 meters ahead of us. We ended up catching up to them and hitting them with snowballs.


Isabella and I decided to do laundry at 1am just to get it out of the way. We needed to change so I broke my ¥1000 bill in the vending machine and bought hot coffee for me and hot milk tea for Isabella. The snow was beautiful so we walked outside for a bit while sipping on our hot drinks. The picture above is of Isabella concentrating on the snowflakes attaching to her eyelashes. I couldn’t stop laughing because it looked like she was staring off into the distance…we were laughing so hard. Oh brother. Sleep deprivation is a wonderful thing.

15403156_10210866845014487_103781612_n.jpgThe snow just keeps piling up. I still don’t own any boots so I’m walking around with my slip on vans. Did I mention that my vans have holes in them? There’s only two weeks left here though so I think I can manage. I should probably buy a pair of boots before I return to Richmond though considering it snows there too. Oh man. Well, last week of school starts tomorrow then I’m off to Osaka. I don’t think it’s hit me that I’m leaving Akita yet. It’s hard to believe that I’m never going to see most of these people again. 11 more days and that will all be over. I’m so used to walking around, going to class, and grabbing meals with friends. It probably won’t hit me that I’m leaving until I set foot into the airport. I’m really going to miss this place.


Olivia in Scotland: The Final Countdown

December 7, 2016

Hello everyone!

I finished my classes today (which is Thursday December 1st as I write this). I can hardly believe it. The semesters are shorter here than they are back home and in some ways it really does feel like I just started my classes. I’ve also been behind on my work for several weeks now because I’ve been sick, and today marked the day that I finally caught up and finished my last paper for which I received an extension! It took my first all-nighter of the semester to do it, but it’s done.

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I was very tired in my final 9 AM class this morning, but I was happy to see that they’re making the school buildings look a little more festive for the Christmas season!

The odd thing is, with my English seminars, it isn’t really the end for most people in the course; although the seminars only last one semester, they don’t have their exam until the end of the spring semester, and they meet again to review the material before then. It was a strange feeling to be nearly the only one really leaving. They’re all saying, “See you later,” and I’m saying, “Goodbye.”

It’s hitting me now that I have less than three weeks left before heading back home. In that time, I’m taking two short trips out of the country, writing two exam essays, taking an exam, celebrating Advent with my church, and showing my best friend from back home around Edinburgh when she comes to see me. It’s going to be a jam-packed few weeks! In general, I’m planning to do all I can to see the parts of Edinburgh that I haven’t gotten to see yet and make the most of my time in this lovely city, as well as spend as much time as I can with the friends I have made here. It promises to be a challenge to accomplish all this, but I’m going to try my best to make the people here my priority until I leave. I feel that one of my biggest regrets would be not spending enough time with them.

Now, where am I traveling to, you might ask? Well, one of these trips is starting tomorrow (Friday the 2nd)—I’m going to VENICE! I’ve wanted to go there for as long as I can remember. I hadn’t actually planned to travel there while studying abroad, but I discovered that a couple friends of mine wanted to go there and suddenly my dream started to become a reality. It is absolutely surreal to me that I’m finally going to this place I’ve always dreamed about; hopefully it will feel a little more real to me once I’m actually there! For my other trip, I’m going to Paris after my exams with my best friend from back home. She’ll be here in Edinburgh for a few days and then we’re going to Paris together. That’s the other place I’ve probably wanted to go to the longest so I’m absolutely thrilled, and I can’t believe I get to go there with my best friend. It honestly seems too good to be true.

I wanted to take a moment to reflect and re-center as I enter these final weeks. I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how much easier it is to talk about what I’m doing than it is about how I’m feeling. I’m going so many places, writing so many essays, seeing so many people. attending so many church events. There’s plenty to talk about right now on the more surface level of my life. It’s even easier to focus on that in posts like these when the past month has been one of the hardest periods I’ve ever gone through emotionally and I have struggled with how to deal without that. Going through your first breakup anywhere is really hard, but being abroad during that grieving process carries its own unique set of challenges. Although I did a lot of great things and spent time with people I care about, it wasn’t enough to heal my heart or shake the depression I’ve been feeling. However, after all this time in the dark, I think I’m finally beginning to feel the sun coming out again. (It’s ironic for this rather dark and rainy time of year in this country, but it’s true.) I certainly have not arrived anywhere yet, but I know I’m on my way to healing. I also know that I am not, nor have I ever been, alone in this—God has been with me every step of the way. He has been my strength when I had none.

As I move into the final weeks of my study abroad experience, my prayer is that I am able to fully enjoy what I’m doing and be present with the people around me in every place in which I find myself. I want the memories that I carry back home with me to be good and beautiful ones. For me, when I am actually present where I am, that is when I am most able to feel God’s presence, whether that is through a sunset, a city street, or the person across the table from me. It may be through a simple thing, but when I really look around, I can see the hand of the Creator who made it all and feel that he is right there with me. For my trip to Venice, that will probably mean making sure that I put down my camera enough to let the beauty of the place sink in and allow me to appreciate the sweet friendships of those with whom I’m traveling. It can be very hard to stop stressing about getting the perfect picture and be still for a moment. When I do, though, I am finally present in that place and can find God’s presence as well.

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I found these steps on my day trip to Stirling this last weekend: I intend to “be careful” with how I spend the remainder of my time here, and for me, that means looking around and appreciating what is right in front of me.

I will update you all when I return from Venice! (I still can’t believe I’m saying that.) Ciao!


Naomi at Akita Week 10: EXCITING NEWS!!

November 10, 2016

OKAY, SO VERY EXCITING NEWS! I Facetime my mom pretty often while I’m here since it’s so easy without the usual time difference while I’m in Richmond, as she’s in Okinawa with my younger brother, Tyler. Well, she has met a couple of my friends here via Facetime including Patrik. She knows how close the two of us are and knew that Patrik had nothing planned for winter break. See, Patrik is staying here for a year so he has about a three week winter break to do anything. Well, I’m going back home to Okinawa from December 22nd – January 5th before heading back to Richmond and…

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My mom invited Patrik to come with me to Okinawa and he had to get approval from his parents AND HE JUST BOUGHT HIS TICKETS THIS PAST WEEK! HE’S GOING BACK HOME TO OKINAWA FOR ME AND I’M SO EXCITED!! I’m sorry for all of this excitement but it’s just…I’m so happy. We’re going to have so much fun. I get to show him where I grew up during high school and he gets to try Okinawa Soba and Milk Zenzai and all of the other Okinawan food that I love. I told him we’re going swimming at the beaches; I don’t care how cold the water is, we’re still getting in the water. We’re going to chill on the seawall. I’m so excited. You have no idea.

Another thing that made our day even better…after he bought the tickets, we started walking back to our dorms. I was talking to him about chilling on the seawall as someone passed us. This woman immediately turned around after hearing the word “seawall” and asked me if I was talking about Okinawa. I told her I went to high school there and she told me that she graduated from Kadena High School, the rival of Kubasaki High School, my school. I was shocked. I asked if she was a student here and turns out, she’s a professor! I told her that Patrik was going back with me this winter break and she told us she’s going back too. It was a great moment. Everyone from Okinawa understands how close everyone is, especially with the military life. I CAN’T WAIT TO GO TO OKINAWA WITH PATRIK!

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Remember last week how I mentioned we had a speech to give in Japanese class? Yeah, it went very well! I snapped a quick picture of Patrik giving his speech. If we used difficult vocabulary in our speech we had to put it on a slide and show it to everyone so they would know the English translation. Patrik talked about the culture shock he felt when coming to Japan. For example, how kind and helpful Japanese people are. I didn’t provide a slide of difficult vocabularly words because the Japanese words I used were words students in our level should already know, or so I thought. I talked about Japanese vending machines and how they sell hot food and drinks, and the convenience of selling iced black coffee, since they don’t have that in the states. After a speech, the students have to ask the speaker questions. I had about seven questions related to vending machines directed towards me. Just as I was about to thank everyone for listening to me, Will, one of my classmates, raised his hand to ask a last question. He asked me what 自動販売機 meant…he didn’t know the Japanese word for vending machine. Everyone started laughing. Here I am talking about vending machines and everyone asking me about vending machines and poor Will didn’t know what I was talking about. 亀井先生 (Teacher Kamei) laughed as well.

Cool Japan, a show on NHK that promotes Japan’s “creative industries” to foreign countries, came to campus and asked for international students to give two hours of their time to watch popular Japanese YouTube videos. After every video we had to write down our comments and rate the video. Between videos the camera crew would walk around and quickly interview students, getting our opinion on Japanese innovations. They had us watch videos on bullet train, PPAP (if you don’t know what this I recommend looking it up), bentos, and raw squid. We had to watch 43 videos. It took a while but it was interesting trying to understand why certain videos had millions of likes in Japan and even outside of Japan.


On Wednesday, there is no early Japanese class so Patrik and I decided to sign up to go to Omagari Elementary School to hang out with the students. The Division of Research and Community Outreach (RCOS) puts out events weekly for international students to participate in. Most of the events include going to elementary/middle schools and talking to Japanese students.

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We got to the school an hour early so Patrik, Okka, and I walked to a nearby grocery store to get some breakfast. It was super cheap. We were able to buy a 2L bottle of tea for less than¥100. We bought a couple of riceballs and some sweet bread then headed back.

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We were directed into the gymnasium and seated in front of all of the students. The students welcomed us by all standing up and singing a song to us. They were all so cute. Afterwards, we each had to introduce ourselves and introduce our home country with the file book we made ourselves. Of course, we had to do it in Japanese. It was a challenge but very fun to try out. Patrik stole my camera and ran to the back to snap a picture of me introducing the US to everyone. The kids yelled with excitement when they saw the pictures of the hamburger and pizza that was already included in the file book.


After we all introduced ourselves, we played a couple of games with the kids. The teachers all stood around and announced what games we were playing. We played Rock, Paper, Scissors first. I was so confused as to how they were paying but I understood towards the end. Everyone runs around while the music is playing and once the music stops you have to find someone to go against. The loser has to put their hands on the winner’s back and follow them around when the music continues playing. The winner runs around and looks for someone to go against once the music stops. The loser then goes behind the winner again. This is repeated over and over again until there are two winners left. You can imagine how hectic this is because the winner’s lines of kids behind them increases more and more with each win. Whoever wins gets to walk around the entire gymnasium with all the kids behind them. It was so funny seeing us, the older international students, following the winner in front of us and having more students behind us. The kids were too short to put their hands on our back so we all had to bend down!


The school provided lunch for us and it was quite delicious. Two students from each classroom had to bring our lunch trays to the classroom. Patrik and I were assigned to the same classroom for lunch so we followed the students there. I was surprised to find out that we were served the same amount of food as the elementary school students. The rice bowl was filled up only a quarter of the way. We were served a vegetable soup, gyoza, and some type of noodle and meat mix. We also drank milk with our lunch. I used to drink milk with every meal when I was younger but I haven’t in a while so it was interesting. The milk actually tasted really good.

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Patrik ended up getting more food since it wasn’t enough. Funny because when we got back to campus he immediately went to his room to get more food because lunch wasn’t filling enough.

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I snapped a picture of the students’ backpacks. This is a typical Japanese backpack that you see in アニメ (Japanese animation) or 漫画 (comics). I used to have one because my mom made me attend Japanese Elementary School for a month every time we visited Okinawa during the summer. I had to wear a uniform but these students didn’t have to…quite envious.

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Can you believe the students brush their teeth after eating lunch? Some kids didn’t even use toothpaste. The teacher told everyone to sit down and start brushing their teeth as she played some listening video in the background. Patrik and I sat there smiling at each other while watching the clean and healthy children.

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After lunch, we headed back to the gym to say bye to everyone. The kids made a tunnel for us and it was the sweetest thing. Again, since they were so short we had to bend down the entire time we ran through the tunnel. It was uncomfortable bending down for that long so I ran through the tunnel as fast as possible to get to the end quickly! I had such a wonderful time so I told Patrik we should sign up for another one. We’re going to try going to RCOS tomorrow and sign up for another Wednesday morning/afternoon one.

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Unfortunately, Patrik and I have been stuck in the IT lab all day working on our papers. Fortunately, my paper has to only be 1500 words long; Patrik has to write a 4000 word essay. I actually just finished and left to go back home. Patrik wasn’t even half way through…he’s probably going to be stuck there all night. Poor guy. His paper is for his Japanese Literature class and my paper is for my Japanese Premodern History class. It’s our last long paper for the semester! We still have to write short papers for the discussion forum and come up with our final project. I should probably start coming up with an idea for that considering the semester is quickly coming to an end.


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