Language training & Japan studies- Week one!

Hi all,

My first week in Japan was full on and when I say full on I mean full on! I arrived to my accommodation late Monday afternoon and Tuesday was straight into business. Tuesday morning I was met in the hotel lobby by all my my new classmates and the university buddies at 9am. We then travelled together to Ritsumeikan University on a Kyoto city bus (very packed that day)! On our first day we were allocated our classes (based on our writing abilities) and got a tour of the campus.

Ritsumeikan Daigaku (photo courtesy of Linda H)

Ritsumeikan Daigaku (photo courtesy of Linda H)

In the afternoon we also got a tour of Kyoto’s museum for world peace which was very interesting yet very sad. In the afternoon a group of my newly made friends and I went grocery shopping and we spent hours there! No one knew what anything was or even where to start but it was very interesting. Admittedly we had Mcdonald’s for dinner as shopping didn’t go as well as planned, BUT Mcdonald’s was very different than what I am used to in Australia and so it was a cultural experience in itself! In my defence, Monday night I did have my first ever bowl of Japanese ramen!

On Wednesday I had my first language class which was not what I was expecting at all. I thought that our teacher (sensei) would explain to us the phrases and sentence structure etc in English and then get us to practice them in Japanese, this wasn’t the case. Our sensei only spoke Japanese to us and it was difficult to ask questions in English as she didn’t always understand. In a way it was probably a good teaching method for the short amount of time that we were there but I am unsure whether I could learn that way full time as I am a slow learner most of the time. In total there were eleven people in my class (myself, Ayesha, Chester, Josephine, Chris, Cherry, Apple, Jade, Carl, Ruben & Wilson). There were also a number of other classes. After having lunch at the cafeteria, we broke into our Japan study groups and went to visit the Kinkakuji temple (Golden temple).

Kinkakuji Tera

Kinkakuji Tera

It was beautiful there and I ate the best shaved ice I have had in Japan so far. The temple was lovely and there were carp and turtle swimming around in the pond. We were told that the carp made the water murky and the reason they were placed in the water was so the emperor would know whether the water had been poisoned because if the carp died the water would go clear. After visiting the temple, we all went back to the university (daigaku) to have our opening ceremony where we got to eat lots of yummy Japanese foods.

Fan printing

Fan printing (my design)

On Thursday for Japan studies we got to do one of my favourite activities in the whole program: fan printing. After our language classes we we taken to Kiyomizu to print onto cloth to make into a traditional fan. We had many colours and patterns to choose from and no two looked the same. Afterwards, some of my new friends and I explored Kyoto Station, which is HUGE! There are so many places to eat and shops to look at, some very expensive while others cheaper. It was here that I had the nicest bowl of ramen I have had yet in Kyoto, although I don’t know how I feel about eating bamboo.

Carolina, Maritza, Ayesha, Sydney & I at Kyoto Station

Carolina, Maritza, Ayesha, Sydney & I at Kyoto Station

Pottery with Ayesha & Marvin

Pottery with Ayesha & Marvin

On Friday I got to go back to Kiyomizu for a pottery class as a part of Japan studies. During this class we got to create an piece of crockery that we desired and then got to choose the colour that we wished for it to be painted. As clay takes a long time in the kiln we were unable to paint it ourselves but were to be presented with our masterpiece at the farewell ceremony of our program along with the fan that we made. We then walked up the hill past all of there amazing food and gift stalls to get to the Kiyomizu-dera and participate in some of the activities within the temples. For example, the waterfall Otowa-no-taki is believed to bestow health, longevity and wisdom to those who drink from it; however, you are only allowed to drink from two as drinking from three would be greedy and hence none would have effect. At Jishu-jinja people try to ensure success in love by walking with their eyes closed between two stones which are 18 meters apart. If you miss the stones your desire for love won’t be fulfilled. I didn’t risk it! On the way back down the hill I ate so much food. There was this great crepe place- I’ll definitely be taking my mum there one day (she loves crepes)!

Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera

We had no classes on Saturdays or Sundays so most of us used that time to sightsee or have a rest. On Saturday Sydney, Maritza and I went to the Nishiki Market. This area was great and it’s still my favourite place to get flavoured bubble tea! The market itself is filled with food; however, the smell of fish may be a bit much to handle for some. Surrounding the fish markets are rows and rows of stalls- sweet stalls, gift stalls, you name it, it’s there. It’s here I went to my first Manga store and my first bookoff store. I bought plenty of reading material to practice my Japanese. On Sunday I had a restful day which included a visit to an Irish pub and some study in the common area of the hotel.

Crepes- Yummy!

Crepes- Yummy!

Souvenirs

Souvenirs

The New Colombo Plan Scholarship & an introduction to who I am

Hi everyone,

Me with my NCP certificate

Me with my NCP certificate

I thought I ought to make a post about who I am and what is motivating me to study in Japan. So I am 20 years old and studying abroad in Japan. During the university year I live in Albury, NSW and over Christmas I live with my Mum, Dad, brother and two sisters in Tumbarumba, NSW. I have never been overseas before and this year has meant big things for me. A year and a half ago I moved out of the small town I called home and ventured an hour and a half to go to university. This was a major turning point in my life and even though so close to home I felt so far away. Jumping ahead a little, now I am a nine hour flight away from home in a country I have never been before with people who speak a language I barely know and yet I LOVE IT! So far I have been here for six weeks and i have loved every moment of it and I can’t wait to share it all with you. But first let me tell you a bit about me…

I have lived in the small town of Tumbarumba for my entire life. During this time have been involved in various school and community activities. I was the School Captain at Tumbarumba High School in 2012, have taken the position of President, Vice President and Secretary of the Tumbarumba Youth Council and have been a member of the Tumbarumba Rotary Interact Club during my high school years. After graduating from Tumbarumba High School in 2012 I took a gap year and worked at a cafe/ nursery/ gift shop called Gone Barny in the small town of Rosewood, NSW. In 2014 I moved to Albury to undertake university studies at Charles Sturt University where I am studying a Bachelor of Environmental Science and Management. This is a four year course which I hope will lead me into a career working with native Australian threatened species with the National Parks and Wildlife Service. In July 2014 I was nominated by Charles Sturt University to apply for a prestigious New Colombo Plan Scholarship which is only awarded to a select few of Australia’s most dedicated university students each year. After an online application process I was selected by the Australian Government from the Australian university nominations to engage in an interview at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra. During this interview I was allocated 30 minutes and was given a list of questions to expect in the interview by a panel of five highly distinguished members of the Australian and Japanese communities. Due to my performance in the interview I was chosen as one of 69 New Colombo Plan Scholarship recipients for study in 2015.

My Family

My Family

The New Colombo Plan is an initiative by the Australian Government to increase knowledge of the Indo- Pacific region in Australia and strengthen the relationship Australia has with other countries in the Indo-Pacific region. The 2014 round of New Colombo Plan Scholarships (for study in 2015) were awarded to 69 Australian students including myself. The scholarship supports Australian students to study in a number of countries across the Asia Pacific region and is valued at $23,000. This scholarship entitles continual support from the Australian Government in the form of an allocated case manager, insurance cover, up to $1,000 for regional language training, up to $15,000 paid tuition fees at a foreign university, $2,500 travel allowance to cover the cost of flights, $2,500 establishment allowance upon arrival in my host location and a $2,500 monthly stipend to support me whilst overseas. Aided by the scholarship I will be residing in Japan for a total of eight months.

Upon my arrival to Japan’s cultural city of Kyoto, I participated in the Ritsumeikan Summer Japanese Program from the 7th of July until the 7th of August, 2015. This opportunity involved intensive language training, Japanese culture classes and fieldwork excursions. The classes provided a thorough introduction to the Japanese language whilst maintaining a balance between reading and writing. Afternoon classes focused on business, sociology, history and traditional culture in Japan as well as proactive activities such as making sushi, creating traditional fans and participating in taiko. On the 8th of August 2015, I relocated from my accommodation at the Palace Side Hotel in central Kyoto to the Avocado Share House on the outskirts of Kyoto where I am interacting with other international students and practicing my Japanese in a relaxed environment. On the 16th of September 2015, I will move to university residences in Beppu. Beppu is a small, mountainous town in Japan with only 122,000 people. It is highly regarded for its natural hot springs and beautiful scenery. Formal university studies will commence on the 21st of September 2015 and conclude on the 8th of February 2016.

Outside of the departure gates

Outside of the departure gates

The main reason that I chose to study in Japan is to bridge the gap between Australia and the Asia Pacific region and to gain an understanding of Japan’s approach to environmental issues. Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu offers an intensive language program and ongoing language training; a buddy system to ensure I settle into university life; subjects in both English and Japanese and; engages its students in a multicultural environment supported by a number of multicultural festivals. During October I will participate in the Tenku Campus Festival which is rich in cultural performances, tea ceremonies and international cuisine. This festival will allow me to settle into university life at Beppu and deepen my cultural connection with the area. From December to January I will also have the opportunity to participate in the Multicultural Weeks Festival.  This festival will expose me to vibrant cultures from all over the world. I will return to Australia on the 26th of February 2016 after a few weeks of sightseeing and travel throughout Japan. In March 2016 I will recommence my studies at Charles Sturt University in Albury.

I hope that was a bit of an introduction to who I am and the reasons I am studying abroad. In the next couple of days I will hopefully make some detailed posts about what I’ve been up to in the last six weeks so stay tuned!

Goodbye Australia, Hello Japan!!

6th July 2015

Leaving the comfort of family as I walked through the departure gates at Sydney airport was one of the most daunting experiences of my life. I had everything organised down to the tee… my passport (tick), my international drivers licence (tick), my tickets (tick), a list of contacts in case I lost my phone (tick), maps (tick), power adapters (tick), comfort food (tick), boarding pass (tick)… and yet still a part of me wanted to run from the airport and escape to the comfort of home. I expected this feeling to linger but surprisingly it didn’t, not a11825583_962300133812382_4381967982629680949_nt all. As soon as I sat in my seat on the plane I felt a sigh of relief as I realised that everything was okay. I had gotten through customs no worries at all, I was on the plane and I was settled. The plane ride was smooth and I watched out the window as the lights of Sydney faded into the background.

 

 

11811388_962300113812384_5175216232011095520_n                                                                                                  Just as the sun was rising

The first thing I noticed upon arrival to Japan was the heat. It was only6.20am yet I was instantly feeling uncomfortable. Once inside the airport, knowing that my mum would be waiting anxiously, I took the time to notify my family that I had arrived safely.

For the remainder of the day I continued to take my time. I rearranged my baggage so I was more comfortable, checked and rechecked my maps and began the journey to Kyoto from Tokyo airport. This involved taking a local train, the bullet train, the subway and walking for about 10 minutes. Overall the trip was easier than I imagined. I asked multiple times for directions just to confirm what I already thought and people were more than willing to help me even when I didn’t ask for it. Some even carried my heavy suitcases up and down the stairs for me.

 

Goodbye Sydney!

Some things I noted for the future: it may have been a better idea to use a courier to transport my luggage for me, have the address of my accommodation written in Japanese in case I need to ask someone and when someone says “you’ll have plenty of time to get to the bullet train” don11800226_962300123812383_1308790867295081529_n’t believe them cause they really mean “you’ll have 20 minutes of running up stairs with your luggage looking lost in the humid heat that is Tokyo”. The best and worst feeling of the day was arriving at my accommodation, showering and jumping into bed. I felt clean and cool but I couldn’t help but feel alone and overwhelmed. It was only when my roommate Maritza knocked on the door that I felt a sense of relief. She was from America and had travelled 20 hours to reach Japan.

           

My First View of Japan

My trip felt like nothing in comparison and spending the night and the next day getting to know new people from all around the world completely overwrote the feelings of homesickness. Luckily for me I have a roommate w11696761_948543985187997_264587427_nho is doing the same language program as me and everyone around me has become my makeshift family: people to have dinner with, people to travel with and most of all people to rely on.

 

 

 

My room mate (Maritza) & I