Saturday, December 9, 2017

College life in Israel as of today

Shabbat shalom everyone!

I was planning on writing a totally different blog post than this, but I ended up deciding that this must be way more intriguing than what I had in mind... so here it is! 

First off, I must point out that living in a country which has been in a state of emergency since its establishment is quite different than what you must imagine. Israel is a small country, surrounded by countries such as Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan, and divided by Israeli and Palestinian territories. People living here have a looming threat over their everyday life - the possibility of an incoming missile is not unimaginable, however, this does not stop them from living their everyday life to the fullest.

During my stay here I have discovered that life is just like back at home - we all go to school every day, explore the country during the weekends, and have tons of homework waiting for us when we get back :) The food is amazing, and people are incredibly hospitable. As the country is quite small in size, my new friends and I have travelled quite a lot around to make sure we see as much as possible. And as always, heed caution! The university will send you emails warning you of places not to travel, and as you are a guest in this country, heed their advise - and stay away from places they warn you of. Now, this is not meant to scare you - Israel is amazing, and I love it here. But I want you to know that things are a bit different here than at home, and listening to the locals is always the best thing to do. 

Still, that does not mean that you should not travel! You are only here for a limited amount of time before you return to HPU. So go out and explore! Meet locals, eat street food, and let loose! The staff of the international school are great and have planned many trips around Israel for the international students. So far, we have visited Jerusalem, Rosh HaNikra, Atlit, Ceasara, and more, plus had countless events around in Haifa - from volunteering to pub crawls - there is tons to do and see!

Getting around is not difficult. There are buses and trains that can take you anywhere, and car rentals if you want the freedom to go wherever, whenever. Remember Shabbat though! From midday Friday to Saturday night almost all public transport stops, and shops are closed for the Judaism's day of rest. However, there will be a few buses operating on Saturday, as Israel has a very strong tradition of freedom of religion and of expression - thus, some Israelis keep to Shabbat very strictly (no work, no travel etc), and equally as many don't keep it at all. Therefore, Friday and Saturday has become the weekend, and Sunday is technically the first day of the week (therefore, school starts on Sunday as well). 

The classes are a bit different as well. You will have about the same amount of classes and credit hours as you have at HPU, however, how they divide their class-hours is a bit different. A class will only be taught one day of the week, thus, in my case for example, I will only have my Arab-Israeli Relations class one day - on a Monday, for 3 full hours (we get a small break, of course). Now, as far as I'm concerned, this is not a problem. All the Israelis follow the same system. And honestly, you get used to it after some time. Plus, as all your classes follow the same system, you can technically end up with an incredibly long weekend! Which is perfect if you wish to have longer trips around the country - or more time for writing all your papers ;) 

I hope this helped you guys if you were wondering about life here in the Middle East. It is a totally different way of living - while at the same time, not so different when you think about it. I can only hope more of you will consider studying abroad here. HPU has to represent, haha :) Have a great weekend everyone! Aloha

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Fall at Soonchunhyang and Korean Holidays

Entering Soonchunhyang University (South Korea)
Ft. Korean Thanksgiving - Holidays


Communication before entering school:

The morning of my flight to Korea, I got a notification that my flight will be 3 hours late! I was worried that the school facilitated bus will leave me because I will arrive 10:00 pm instead of 7:00 pm. I emailed and facebook messaged the hosting universities study abroad director but did not get an answer before leaving my flight. Fortunately, the incoming and returning exchange students had a big group chat and they were able to contact the director. Upon arrival, I found out many of our flights were delayed and we took the bus together to enter our dorms at 11:30 pm. Overall, the communication between other exchange students and program director is great!


Entering a suite of 12 students:
I have always anticipated the dorm room experience as I live at home in Hawaii. When arriving in your dorm, only the foreign exchange students (around 3 per suite) will be present, then a week later the Koreans will come over. It was an interesting transition, but fortunately, they had good English conversation skills. I also brought them some Hawaiian Chocolate Macadamia Nuts to share with them.


One month later… KOREAN THANKSGIVING (추석 - Chuseok)
This is a very important three day holiday where they gather with families in celebration of full moon harvest every fall. At this time, it is normal to visit ancestral graves and maintain it by picking up the weeds. A representing dish is songpyeon, which is a type of rice cake prepared with rice powder, assorted with different fillings such as sesame seed, red beans, other beans, chestnuts and so on. Upon the start of the holidays, the global office of the school shared some songpyeon and rice drinks.



This year, the holiday was on October 3-5, but they extended the holiday observing days in school starting Oct. 2 (Monday) to Oct. 6 (Friday). The following Monday, October 9 was Hangul Independence days, celebrating the writing system of Korea, thus practically having a 10 day holidays (weekends included).


My plan for the Korean Thanksgiving:
Three days, Two night stay in Hongdae, Seoul. Hongdae is one of the districts that are great for foreigners to stay in. I got an affordable Airbnb with two friends with a great park and stream where families hang out all day and night. Also, got a needed classic American Breakfast there :) And finally got to see the annual Fireworks at the famous Han River.


Bungee Jumping in Gapyeong, north of Seoul. I went with my suitemates and his friends as it is $40 to bungee jump. It was held at Nami Island, a famous water park. It is 4 hours away from my school, but 2.5 hours away from central Seoul. It was a great way to try new things and feel adrenaline.


Jinju Lantern festival, one night stay. I made a Korean friend in HPU when they are visiting to learn English for a week. When I met with her in Korea, she told me to visit this place and I decided to bring friends and meet a fellow Korean student. It is far south of Korea and I took an express bus there.


Meet a suitemate in Gyeongju, a historical place where he grew up. Straight from the lantern festival, I took another express bus to the east of Korea to visit a city full of historical landmarks and villages. My suitemate was a great tour guide and we rented a Hanbok,  traditional clothing of Korea.


Holidays are over… STUDY TIME!

After this holiday you have a week to review as it is midterm time! Classes here are really interesting, and I will tell you more all about my studies in the next blog post. Within the next two weeks, I have final exams and last week of classes. Experiencing the change of seasons from Summer to Fall to Winter is keeping me motivated. Let’s work hard and see you guys again!

Monday, November 27, 2017

Japan: 3 Months Later

Hello future HPU travelers!

My name is Conor and I am studying abroad in Japan at Musashi University (武蔵大学) for one year . I have been in Japan here now for just under three months and I thought I would give my thoughts on Japan after being here.

I arrived in Japan on August 5th, 2017 to Haneda Airport (for those of you who are interested in coming to Tokyo, I would highly recommend flying into this airport as it is closer to Tokyo and easier to navigate). After having jet lag being 16 hours ahead of my hometown, I finally arrived at Musashi University Asaka Plaza Dormitory (武蔵大学朝霞プラザ). I personally really enjoy living here as everyone gets their own room and two meals a day (breakfast and dinner). The only thing that may bother some people but has yet to bother me (because I enjoy doing it everyday) is the commute to the main campus. It takes about 1 hour (Walk-Train- Walk). There is a bus that goes every morning from the dormitory to the station but walking around Asaka is beautiful and doesn't get old.

Since my arrival in Japan, I have fallen in love with the country and culture. Every month, there is an outing to a different part of Tokyo. Ive included a few photos of the outings I have gone on so far. One outing, the group went walking from Ikebukuro (池袋)to Akihabara(秋葉原). Along the way, we stopped at many shrines and temples. The picture directly to the right is a famous shrine for students to go and pray at for good luck on their studies/ entrance exam.

 The Next one I went on brought me to a town right near Asaka called Kawagoe (川越). Here we got to see a fall festival. The photo to the left is of a performer in this procession of traditional floats representing the god Inari. It is a really incredible thing to see, especially since this tradition is ages old.

One of the last things I have done so far being here in Japan is visit Mt. Fuji. This is the #1 thing I would recommend everyone that comes to Japan to do. I went to a small town called Kawaguchiko (河口湖) which is the same town with the famous Pagoda and Fuji picture. While there, I visited some more shrines and explored the surrounding area. I also had my first Onsen experience here. An Onsen is a traditional bath which is heated by geothermal energy to produce these amazing hot springs!
Overall my experience in Japan here has been amazing so far and I can't wait to see what happens next during my stay here in Japan! Until next time!

PS: I am planning on Starting a vloging channel on Youtube soon! hopefully I can keep everyone up to date more frequently!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Studying abroad in Thailand

Hi everyone!

My name is Mariken. I’m doing my semester abroad in Thailand, at Mahidol University.

I thought I was brave when I moved from Norway to Hawaii all by myself, but Thailand has challenged and inspired me on a completely new level.
Little did I know about the Thai language, culture and religion when I moved here, and it was honestly a big cultural shock. My university is located in the suburb of Bangkok, so the locals here barely speak any English, which was really challenging at first. Because I don’t live with all the other international students (most of them live in a huge student accommodation called Bundit), I really get to experience the authentic Thailand. I had the option to move in at Bundit, but chose to stay in my Thai accommodation to embrace the local culture. And trust me, that feeling of finally being able to interact with the locals, having my neighbors smiling at me every morning when I walk to school – it’s incomparable. At first I thought it would be impossible to feel at home here, but now I actually feel like a part of their society. And it’s the best feeling! 
My campus on the other hand, is as international as it can be. MUIC is the college in Thailand with the highest percentage of international students. A lot of our professors are international too. I've literally made friends from all over the world here, which is really cool. The school system is similar to the one in the U.S. Only difference is that we have to wear school uniforms. 
The classes I’m taking here are pretty intense, so most of my weekdays go to lectures, studying at the library, and trying out new food with my friends. Food is a HUGE thing here! Restaurants, street food, and food markets are everywhere. Half of the time I don’t know what I’m eating because of the language barrier, but I have learned to accept that. If locals can eat it, I can probably eat it too 😉
During the weekends we usually travel somewhere. So far I have visited Phetchaburi and Ayutthaya in central Thailand, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai in the north, and Kanchanaburi in the west. I also got to travel to Cambodia and Siem Reap one weekend to see Angkor Wat (largest religious monument in the world!). Traveling around here is very cheap. A 3 hour bus ride from Bangkok to the west would cost you $3, and the 11 hour bus ride to the north around $15.
Here are some pictures from my adventure so far:
Visited an elementary school during orientation, and met these cute little ladies.
A young novice monk (samanera) in Wat Pho, Bangkok.
Elephant sanctuary in Chiang Mai.


The White Temple in Chiang Rai.


Sunset in Bangkok.
Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Finding Your Seoul

Aloha everyone!

If you're interested in studying abroad in South Korea, definitely go for it! It's a unique fusion of modern and historical architecture that comes together whenever you walk around the city. The food is amaaaaaazing and there are so many awesome things to list, but I wanted to describe how life has been for me during the first phase of my study abroad living in Seoul and attending Ewha Woman's University.

LIVING

I was told by another student who studied abroad that if you had visited the country you were studying abroad before, then it was pretty unlikely you would feel homesickness. She was right for the most part. I only felt homesick on the plane ride going to Seoul because I was questioning whether this was the right decision for me. The thoughts of, "It's too late to go back, did I make a mistake?" Or, "Living in Seoul is going to be different from just visiting, will I adjust well?" All of these doubts and hesitations made me worried during the 9-hour flight over.

But as soon as I saw we were landing, I knew I had made one of the best decisions of my life. Landing in South Korea symbolized my freedom--the first time I would ever live on my own, live in a dorm, live with a roommate, live in another country for college.


That was the extent of my homesickness, and it will be different for everyone. Some people, myself included, felt more of a culture sickness, if anything. Not necessarily a culture shock, but missing aspects of our home culture as we first adjusted to living in South Korea. Koreans are much more reserved and tend to keep to themselves in comparison to foreigners such as Americans or Europeans who are much more open and show more energy in their mannerisms.

I arrived in Seoul a little over a week before school started, so I moved into the dorms and quickly became friends with my awesome roommate, Anne-Laure, and other international students living in my building. So what did we do during that week? Explore and eat.


King Sejong Statue


(My awesome roommate and our friend Kyle)





One of the things I highly recommend students to experience is to wear a hanbok (traditional Korean clothing) and visit Gyeongbokgung Palace. It is free entrance into the Palace for those who wear hanboks. Many shops nearby offer affordable rentals. I brought the one I owned and we visited the palace grounds on a SUPER HOT day. I do NOTadvise you to do this during hot/humid weather, Fall may be a good time to do this since it will be cooler and you can see the foliage.




Some of the things my friends and I saw while we were hiking up a hill to see the Ewha Mural Village, which is perfect during sunset time because the lighting offers a very peaceful aesthetic.

STUDYING

While it's so easy to have ALOT of fun in Seoul, I also came to study at Ewha Woman's University. The most bizarre part of university in South Korea is registering for classes, and it is extremely stressful. Here's why:

All exchange/international students register for their classes on ONE day, and that day only essentially. The time begins at 9am and finishes at 5pm. Students must have arranged their schedules and classes beforehand so they know which ones to automatically register for. On that day, students were awake at around 8am, prepared to register. It was crazy. Some classes will only accept a few exchange students (ex. I had a class where only 3 exchange students were accepted out of a 60 person lecture class). If you are unlucky in registering for a class on that day, there is another period where you could register in case someone drops the course, etc. If that also doesn't work, you can also email the professor to request that you be added to the class.

Overall, registering for classes at Ewha was very stressful and time-consuming when you needed to figure out a different class to take that would fit your schedule.

One thing that might be really appealing for students interested in Ewha is that it is HIGHLY LIKELY that you will lose weight. The campus itself is built on rolling hills and it is a hike to get from the dorms to classrooms or from class to class. It takes awhile to get used to walking/running up the hills between classes (it took me longer than a month). Also, South Korea has some hills as you stroll through the city so you're getting a great workout while you're exploring!

Classes are mostly lecture-style, which is something new for me since I'm accustomed to small-size classes with more emphasis on discussions. Since these classes are fairly big (60-100 people sometimes), the exams are the biggest part of your grade (midterm and final exam). I prefer to do projects, rather than measuring your understanding through a test. The courses are much more relaxed in comparison to the work load at HPU, however, this means you need to be very responsible about your time management.

During my time at Ewha, there is only one class out of five that I have made Korean friends. There's a couple of reasons for this: 1) this is the only class I have based solely on discussion, so we must interact and discuss with each other, 2) the lecture style doesn't allow for international and Korean students to take advantage of verbal interactions 3) as mentioned earlier, Koreans are much more reserved than foreigners. I also think there is some intimidation about their English skills when speaking with a foreigner, so there's also a language barrier.

I hope you find this helpful if you're studying abroad in South Korea! :)

- Kula

Friday, November 17, 2017

Argentina pt. 3

For anyone really interested in studying abroad in Argentina, you'll most likely find yourself in Buenos Aires, so here are some tips. Get an apartment, roommates are so much more helpful with immersion than a homestay. Trust me, I've done both multiple times. Take advantage of the nightlife, it really is unlike any other and gives you the most natural contact with locals. That being said, the city is dangerous, really dangerous, but if you employ common sense and stay in a group you shouldn't have any problems. The most common crime is phone stealing, almost every local and foreigner I met there has had there's stolen, many of the exchange students had more than one stolen throughout their stay. Keep valuables in your front pocket and keep your hand over them, people with purses actually had them stolen more. Don't do to La Boca after 5pm, just don't, you're not missing anything. For me, Argentine cuisine is good, not to die for good, but good. However, a lot of the foreigners I knew really hated the food, which is funny because I was vegan for the majority of my stay. Barrio chino hands down has the best and most diverse food in the city, there are also great natural food stores and ethnic restaurants in Palermo. The music scene in BA is spectacular, they love rock there as well as boliche EDM and raggae. Bomba de tiempo is a must, there are speakeasys in Barrio Chino, and music festivals throughout the year. Crobar, Bayside, and Rose in Rio are the best boliches. Makena Club! Makena Club! Makena Club! My biggest regret is only going there once. Argentine Spanish is very different but not impossible, different pronouns, pronunciations, accent, conjugation, and slang. I love Spanish rioplatense, it sounds like Italian and is truly unique. The locals are really friendly for such an urban city, I made great friends there from different Latinamerican nations. The only way to make friends is to make an effort to talk to people, don't be afraid of sounding stupid no one cares. There are dozens of museums and they're all great, CCK, MALBA and Bellas Artes are lovely. There's also a lot of ferias like San Telmo, Buenos Aires Market, and really in any large park on the weekends. But the city will drive you crazy, so go exploring out of the region or even better out of the country. You can never experience too much or travel too far.


Chau, argentina

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Argentina pt. 2

If anyone is interested in courses in the International Relations sphere, the Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires is seriously top-notch. Human Rights and Cultural Representation, Estudios Culturales, and Latin America in the Modern World were just some of my favourite classes. My teachers were engaging and empathetic and classically-late. I was so unaware of almost the entirety of Latin American history that having professors who have lived through military dictatorships and civilian coups d'états was eye-opening to say the least. 

I owe so much to Buenos Aires and everything it has offered me. The city has shown me a whole new side of Latino ways of life, what the people have endured and how much they have given to the rest of the international community. Living in an apartment with Mexican, Argentine, and Spanish roommates means ten different accents in every conversation, each with its own dialect, innuendos and sense of humor. I am so grateful to be surrounded by people and friends so open and intelligent, the day each one of us left there was always the same phrase being said, "cuando vengas, tenés casa," we all move on and we may not speak for months or years but the best people don't notice, the best people are home.