Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Tips for Those of You Going to PUC-Rio

Tips for PUC Rio

Rio is amazing, and you will probably have the best experience of your life while studying there. However, you need to be careful, and hopefully my advice can help you avoid some of the situations that I encountered.

Safety:

-Do not hang out on the beach late at night, you’ll be robbed at gun-point.

-Do not walk around late at night either, if you have to then walk fast! Uber is really common there and very cheap so take an Uber!

-The only favela you should go to visit is Vidigal, but do not live there! Loads of PUC international students decide to live there, and after a few months, something unsafe happens and they all have to move.

-Watch/read the news on your phone (learn Portuguese asap), it will tell you if drama is going on in the favelas, and places to avoid. [When I was there, there was a gun-war and we had random gunmen who took over the area around the school and Joatinga].

-Always carry valuable items in your underwear. Even when you think it is safe, there is a pick-pocketer somewhere watching you. I was robbed so many times because I left my bag unattended at the beach or my phone in the small pocket of my bag (someone literally opened the pocket and took it out while I was walking).

-You should withdraw money from Bradesco, there are no withdrawal fees. HOWEVER, the Bradesco located in Copacabana on Rua Santa Clara is compromised. Me and my friends who used an ATM there all ended up having our cards copied. If you do end up a victim of fraud, don’t panic: your parents will be able to send you money using Western Union- you go there with your passport to pick up the cash.

Other Advice:

-You can take an Uber from the airport- there is wifi there, go to the second floor and I think you have to go to Terminal 2 (you can ask someone at the airport “oi, to procurando o lugar pra pedir um uber, ce sabe onde esta?”).

-Lay on your bag if you take it to the beach. If not, someone will run by and grab it while you’re not paying attention.

-There are some safe parts of Rio. Recreio is awesome and safe, as is Barra. Recreio is also great for surfing. You can take the metro to Barra, or a bus from a stop along the beach to go to Recreio.

-Don’t rely on the bus to take you to school. It is almost always late. Try to get a bike, but be careful with the cars and stay in the bike lane when possible (they drive like maniacs).

-VEGANS: you will find vegans in Rio, but it is very uncommon, and so expensive to buy vegan alternatives. (There are also festivals and events showcasing vegan alternatives.) I suggest you go to Hortifrutti to buy Soy Protein, which is not expensive. There are also so many fruits and veggies there. Just be prepared to not eat as well as you can in the US, and also bring any vitamins with you (they are so expensive in Brazil).

-The cheapest grocery store is Mundial. It’s crazy when you take a visit to Mundial! Completely jam-packed full of people but very cheap. I went there every week, and they don’t accept international cards so always go with cash. You will need 60-100 reais to shop for the whole week depending what you buy.

-I paid pretty much everything in cash, not many places accept international cards (apart from shopping centers). So go prepared, make sure your bank is prepared for you to use international ATMs.

-TRAVEL! As much as you can. Go up to Buzios and Arraial do Cabo at some point (Air BnB is great). Travel to Bahia, and if you have money/time, go to other countries in South America. A really cool place I visited is Itacare in Bahia. It is also interesting to go to places like Sao Paulo and Curitiba, because they are so developed and it literally feels like you’re back in the US.

-You can always take a bus to travel. If airlines are too expensive (this is usually the case) and you are travelling to a state that is quite close like Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo, Curitiba etc., you can take a travel bus for about 150 reais return. It takes ages but it is cheap (it took me 10 hours to get to Minas Gerais). You just search in google "Onibus Rio de Janeiro a (location)". You probably won't be able to buy the ticket online with your card, so try to find a Brazilian friend who will let you use theirs, or go to the actual bus station and pay there in cash.

-Contact me! If you need help with anything, I probably have the answers. I also have loads of friends still in Rio/ lots of friends all over Brazil. 

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Classes at Soonchunhyang University

Classes at Soonchunhyang University

        Happy Holidays Everyone! The fall semester has ended and exams finished in Mid December. Attending this school under the Asian Studies program, you have a minimum of 12 credits and a maximum of 19 credits to be a full-time student. I took 6 classes that summed up to a whopping 19 credits!


Academics:

        Here is a rundown of how the classes work. So you are not required to take any certain type of class, but be a full-time student. Below are the classes I took and how it went:

        Cultural Internship Discussion class. This is where you would discuss the journey of adapting to a new environment. This is the class that is 6 credits but would be transferred as a General Education in Global Crossroads and Diversity.

         A Korean Culture Class - Calligraphy (1 credit). A time where I would come in for 2 hours and just distress as you practice your calligraphy on phrases the teacher wants you to write.

 

        The two business classes that are the only two offered that semester. Global Entrepreneurship was a class where you learn about powerful business leaders and you would make group presentation and group work. The other class, International Trade and Finance are more of a lecture class with the only midterm, final exam, and a small presentation. Also, these two classes took us on field trips to Samsung Innovation Museum and Hyundai Motors Factory, two of Korea's biggest businesses or conglomerates. (The picture below is a group picture on a souvenir mouse pad from Samsung company tour)



        Korean Speaking and Writing (2 different classes). Even though they are on two different days, you will have the same teacher and will cover both subjects simultaneously. Before entering, you take an entrance exam at orientation. You would either be automatically placed in Level 1 or your place to a higher level. Usually, you need to have taken professionally taught class previously before SCH to get placed into a higher level. If you are self-taught, you would need to make a request. If you have taken Korean class before, do not be afraid and take the test to place higher.

        Ultimately, you will not have a hard time learning as most of the classes are taught in English. The community of people are great so it is manageable to do the class work. Keep in mind that most classes, only 30% of the students can receive an A in the class. I worked hard, made sure to participate in class and ask suitemates for help. My transcripts are out and I’m proud of my grades.

       Next time I will talk about student life and how to manage your money in South Korea! Enjoy the Holidays :)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Saying Goodbye

As the time of my study abroad at Ewha Woman's University draws to a close, I have found that the hardest part of this experience is saying goodbye. It sounds very cliché, but it's the truth. The countdown began a month ago, and time seems to have sped up for me and my friends during this final month together. As it became less than a week, the tears came and realization was hitting. Hard.

I couldn't believe that all of my time for the past 4 months were spent in Seoul, where I needed to adjust to the lifestyle, culture, education system, and living accommodations. Not only is it hard to say goodbye to the country, but it's the hardest to part from friends. The friends I've made here were the biggest factors in making the experience what it was--the best time of my life. They were there to experience all of my first times: living away from home, living with a roommate, going on spontaneous adventures in the middle of the night, first birthday away from family and first Thanksgiving away from home. I cry hard knowing that we are all separated from each other and not knowing when the next time we are going to see each other. These connections became so strong in such a short period of time, and the emotional investments for these relationships show how far we have come these past few days. Crying and feeling depressed about the ending is something that I wasn't prepared for or even thought might happen to me, but it did. I'm not sure how to deal with it, but I find that talking about your experiences and keeping busy really helps.

I've also learned a few lessons that I'd like to share with you as you prepare for your study abroad :)

1. Keep a Study Abroad Journal and document EVERY SINGLE DAY of your time abroad. This little project may seem very tedious, but you will be so grateful to have done it at the end. I brought a journal with me and wrote everything I did and felt every single day. Reading back on it, I can remember small and big details from any day that I was abroad. When we remember our memories, we tend to just generalize the most important details. But with your journal, you can remember the small moments that may have touched your heart--like a bake sale or the time you randomly went to McDonald's at midnight with a friend and had the most heart-to-heart conversation you ever had in your life. But if writing's not your thing, you can try taking pictures everyday to remember your time abroad :)

2. Even if you feel sad (towards the end), push through and have fun with your friends. Time went by so fast and you don't want to remember a depressing ending. Make the most of your time with your friends having fun and creating more memories to look back on.

3. One of the things I wish I had done more was travel to other countries. If it's possible, go and visit other neighboring countries. I didn't because of my class schedules and tight money budget. Who says when you study abroad you only have to be in one country? :) But if money's tight and it doesn't look like it would work out, then explore and make the most of your time in your host country.

Those are the most important things I wanted to finish off with, and I hope you find this helpful! :)

-Kula

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Spontaneous Weekend in Busan

I took a spontaneous weekend trip to Busan right before my midterms.

It was a great idea.

Okay, so the timing wasn't the best. But I still passed my midterm with an A :) For any other time, if you're interested in travelling around South Korea, Busan is a great location to check out for a weekend trip with friends!

The main things that are the most important in planning the trip is researching how you will get to Busan and where you will stay. For me, I went with 7 other of my best friends (all girls and yes, we are ALL crazy) and all of us contributed in planning this trip. We stayed at Kimchee Guesthouse (how Korean lol) and it cost 24,000 won (less than $24 for me to stay two nights) and our bus tickets cost 23,000 won one way (46,000 won = approx. less than $46). So in total, I paid about $70 to get from Seoul to Busan and living accomodations.

Not bad at all.

We booked our reservations for the guesthouse online, and in order to do so, you will need a Korean credit card and phone number. In our case, two people had one of each so that was really helpful. You can also book bus tickets online as well, but we ran into issues with the credit card so we all bought our tickets at the Express Bus Terminal.

To get to Busan, you can take a bus or the train. It was cheaper for us to take a bus (about $46 roundtrip) than the train ($60 one way/ $120 roundtrip). The bus does take about 4-5 hours to get from Seoul to Busan and vice versa, but the train takes about 2.5 hours. If you're not in a rush, I would recommend taking the bus since it's cheaper. But if you're on a time crunch, then it would be a better idea to take the train.

I remember so much happening on the day we left. The feelings of excitement and some anxiety (because of my midterm on the Monday morning) and just wondering if I had made a bad decision by going on a spontaneous weekend trip. But going on this trip with all my friends--they comforted and supported me from all my worries. They took care of me, and I felt safe.

We left Seoul around 8pm, and arrived in Busan at midnight. The night lights of a new city sparked curiosity and the adventurous streak in me. Midterms? What midterm? Two of our friends were already at the guesthouse waiting for us, and we had to catch two taxis in order to reach our guesthouse.

That taxi ride was the craziest ride of my life.

Immediately, we noticed an accent from our taxi driver and it was adorable! He was basically speeding (he went over 160 kmh / 99 mph), and two of my friends and I are sitting in the back without our seatbelts (bad idea, but there was no room with all our things). I was sitting in the middle, and the thought going through my mind was, "If we get into a car accident, guess who's going to be the first out of the car?" Luckily, despite his speeding, he drove us safely to our destination.





Busan reminded quite a bit of Hawaii, and I don't mean just the beaches. The weather was fairly warm, and the pace was much slower compared to Seoul. People here are so friendly and helpful. It was nice to have a little reminder of home.

We got to take a ferry tour around along the coast for 7,000 won (less than $7) and it was sooooooo worth it!! My friends were amazed at how clear and beautiful the ocean was (another reminder of Hawai'i) and it felt invigorating to be back on a boat on the ocean. It was a beautiful sunny day, but really windy.



My friends will kill me for this picture, but that's how windy it was.

We also explored an old village called Bukchon Village, and the colors of the houses are bright and vibrant. It was such a beautiful place to visit, but the hills there killed my legs.



 
 
Our day didn't end there, although it was night. We pushed through our tiredness and were determined to visit the International Film Festival in Busan. Since it was late at night, we didn't get to see any films; however, there was like an outside shopping market where we were able to see different types of fish and seafood, and street foods being sold around. It reminded us of a less crowded version of Myeongdong (a famous shopping area in Seoul).


My friend and I left earlier than the rest of the group on Sunday, since I needed to study for my midterm that was the next day. Overall, the trip was a wonderful experience and one of the best spontaneous decisions I ever made during my time abroad. It was time well spent with great friends and gave me the opportunity to explore somewhere outside of Seoul.

If you want to explore outside of Seoul, Busan should definitely be on your list. And take risks! Sometimes the best experiences come out of the most spontaneous decisions :)

-Kula

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!