Monday, November 21, 2016

Lights, Camera, Action: Living in a Fashion Capital


My name is Joselyn and I am currently living life in Milan, one of the most important fashion capitals in the world. What is it like living in such a prestige city you may ask...well, let's just say it's nothing like I was expecting but in a way much more than I could imagine. 

First off, I have just gotten adjusted to the idea of living in another country, one that I had never visited before or was the slightest bit familiar with and it only took me two months and I am leaving in less than a month, ironic right? Before coming to Milan I was extremely excited to be able to experience some place new that I've only heard about or seen pictures of however when I did finally arrive in Italy, the culture shock and unfamiliar surrounding was a bit overwhelming. 

Yes, culture shock is a huge part of studying abroad, especially if you're someone like me who's never been to another country before BUT I have adapted to my new home and can proudly say that Milan has stolen a piece of my heart. From walking to school, to seeing familiar faces each day, to getting to know other study abroad students and being able to be apart of another culture is truly an memorable experience. It's definitely one of the best decisions I've made so far even when I was told it would be impossible to study abroad my senior year but here I am! 

Shortly I'll be writing a post about traveling to other countries right after I have visited my 10th country while studying abroad (that was my goal), so stay tuned!


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Weekend Adventure to Busan, South Korea

We’re halfway through the school semester at Sungkyunkwan University and not only am I trying to balance my classes and study for upcoming finals, I’m also scrambling to complete everything on my “things-to-do-in-South-Korea” checklist (and honestly, I’ve already done sooo many).  I really want to make the most out of my experience here in South Korea because who knows?  This could be my only chance to go out and explore.
Recently, I visited Busan during the weekend with a few other friends and I must say… I understand why so many people (and locals) LOVE Busan!  As the second-largest city after Seoul, Busan is a mix of both old and new, featuring hiking trails, beaches, scenic mountains, shopping malls, and also seafood cuisine.
If you’re a first-timer, I highly recommend that you visit the Busan Gamcheon Culture Village.  Situated on the foothills of a coastal mountain, you’ll see clusters of coloful houses with many narrow staircases and hidden alleys.  What makes the community more unique and charming is the fact that the village is decorated with whimsicial artwork including murals and sculptures.  Other places that we visited included Taejongdae, Haeundae Beach, Nampo-dong, the Busan Exhibition and Convention Center, and the Jalgachi Fish Market.
Next stop?  I’m crossing my fingers for Jeju Island.  We’ll see!

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Saturday, November 5, 2016

Resources: RAs,Tutors, IEC, and Lingwave

One thing that really surprised me when I got to Japan was how much support I was provided with. Right off the bat, I was introduced to my RAs Hinako and Yuka, who have been a massive help to me in so many ways since I’ve arrived in Japan. From translating important documents to helping me not get locked out after curfew, these two have been so crucial to my new living adjustments. ‘Where is an ATM? Where can I buy toilet paper? What’s the best route to get to school? Where can I buy food? Does this have mayonnaise in it?’ These are all the things you don’t think about beforehand and then panic about when you arrive. And this is where your RAs save you're a**. Kids, take note: be nice to the RAs. You will need them.

In addition to the RAs, Aoyama Gakuin’s International Exchange Center has been exceptionally helpful in getting adjusted to the school. During orientation week the staff members introduced themselves to us personally and walked us through the registration process for courses at Aoyama Gakuin as well as presented us with a wide variety of extra curricular options. Nao, the program coordinator, has been especially helpful in keeping in touch with me both over the summer and during the first few weeks of adjustment. I had a major issue with being able to pay my dormitory fee and I was able to work with IEC to make staggered payments for my invoice both in America and Japan. She was a godsend. The dormitory payment on the other hand, was probably the most difficult money exchange I’ve ever experienced in my life, and I 10/10 do not recommend attempting without guidance.

Outside of IEC, there’s a club/organization called Lingwave at Aoyama Gakuin run by students that focuses on hosting events for exchange students. Basically, these people really love foreigners. And in a country where you aren’t competent in the language and can be easily isolated, it’s pretty fantastic to have people that actually want to talk to you. Lingwave hosts weekly events like bingo games and chat sessions where Japanese and foreign students come together and essentially have a reason to talk to each other. It’s a pretty nice change of pace from the seriousness of classes and studying, and has allowed me to meet some of Aoyama’s Japanese students as well as get to know the foreign students a bit better.

I was also assigned a tutor when coming to Aoyama who I’ve met up with a few times since arriving. During the first few weeks, she took me and some of the other exchange students to Karaoke for the first time. While the Japanese students were more reserved, most of the foreign students went all out belting beautiful and not so beautiful interpretations of classic American and Japanese songs. Basically, drunken westerners are animals, and things got really bizarre. I’m pretty sure we mortified our tutors, but I like to think they secretly enjoyed watching the show. They still talk to us when we cross paths in the hallway, so I’d call karaoke night a success. 

Karaoke with tutors and fellow exchange students in Shibuya, Tokyo. 

Arriving to Tokyo

My first few weeks in Japan have been a blur of errands and meetings and orientations for nearly anything and everything you could have imagined. I have managed to fully furnish my apartment entirely out of the Hyaku Yen shop (A store that sells $1 miscellaneous products), figure out Japan’s public transportation, and register for classes. Finally starting to establish a sense of normalcy, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on what’s been happening since I left America.

When I first arrived in Japan, I was met by a representative that took a batch of exchange students from the airport to their respective dorm. I was surprised to see that I was the only American amongst the students, and most came from different parts of Asia or Europe. Due to the language barrier, I was immediately put to the test of utilizing all my knowledge in Japanese to be able to communicate with my fellow dorm mates. Severely jetlagged and fueled on airport coffee and animal crackers, it was both exciting and completely terrifying.

I soon learned that most of the students that I originally met with were from China or Taiwan, and their Japanese was much more advanced than mine. While communication was a bit patchy, they were all very kind and seemed to be just as nervous and eager for an experience abroad as I was. I like to think that coming off the plane with my ukulele case in hand gave me the quirky edge of being from Hawaii- which also served as a good conversation piece when conversation got difficult. All in all, I think my introduction attempts went as smoothly as I could hope for.

My dormitory is located in Ikebukuro, a busy and bustling subsector of the giant metropolitan that is Tokyo. Ornate with a variety of restaurants and nightlife activity, and just a short walk to the station, the Ikebukuro dormitories quickly earned the title of “desirable location” in my book.

My first night in Tokyo, I found myself walking in the surrounding neighborhood of my dormitory. Out of all the lights and signs competing for my attention, what captivated me the most was seeing these traditional Japanese lanterns that hung humbly outside of the convenience shop around the corner from where I live. While Ikebukuro is one of the more urban areas in Tokyo, these street lanterns were a small but powerful reminder of the culturally rich country, which I had entered. They were subtle, warm, and beautiful. And to me they said, “Welcome to Japan.”

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Studying abroad in America, SEA Part 1 of 2

Hello everyone! My name is Kyra Thompson I am a sophomore studying marine biology at HPU. I am currently studying abroad as a part of the SEA semester program. For those of you who have not heard of this program I will explain it a little more. The program I am in is called Ocean Explorations and it has a maximum capacity of 24 students in the program. The semester is split into 2 six week chunks. The first six weeks is called the "shore component" where you live and study and take classes in Woods Hole, MA which is on Cape Cod. The second six weeks is called the "sea component" where, in my program, we travel to New Zealand to sail around in a tall ship doing research and taking more classes.

My semester started much later than HPU session started. I arrived here in Woods Hole, MA on September 26, 2016 for move in day here at the SEA campus. When I first arrived here on this small campus I was very nervous to see how I would fit in with everyone. Once being assigned my cottage, my family helped me into my room. In my house we had 8 people, 5 girls and 3 boys. The way this program works they have you become a sort of family who live together and also cook dinners together as a group. This was my favorite part because we had some very yummy meals made in my house.

Both program classes S270 and C270 
Once moved in orientation started where we learned about the classes we are going to be taking as well as how everything runs on campus. On campus with us was another program so we had two separate classes on campus at the same time. The total number of people in my program was 15. Some of the first nights together we all were getting to know each other by playing board games and card games. My favorite thing we did was go to the beach and ride the bike paths around Woods Hole and Falmouth. The weather and scenery was beautiful here for early fall. 

The classes we took here on shore were Nautical Science, Maritime Studies, and Oceanography. Our captain, Pamela, taught our nautical science class where we learned more about the tall ship we will be sailing, the Robert C. Seamans, terrestrial navigation, and celestial navigation. This class was my ultimate favorite because I got to learn more about what could be a part of my future career, living on boats. Maritime studies was more like a history class tying it all in terms of maritime history. Oceanography was like any other basic oceanography class you would take at HPU but with an additional research project attached to it that we will continue to do while at sea.
Navigation tools and charts

We took a couple field trips, one to Boston and one to New Bedford. In Boston we learned about how it used to be an old port town and a very popular one at that. We also learned how historical events that occurred there connected to maritime history. In New Bedford we went to the whaling museum and got lots of information on whaling history and how New Bedford was involved in that.

Tomorrow is my last day here in Woods Hole for my shore component. I can not believe that six weeks has already flown by and we have taken in all kinds of information that will be useful to us on the boat. I fly to New Zealand to start my actual abroad part of this program. I am super excited to start sailing around having no contact with the outside world. The best part is going to be using Polynesian navigation where you use nothing but the stars not even a compass to sail and navigate from place to place.

I will post and update again once my six week sea component is over and I gain wifi again in New Zealand on land. Wish me luck!

The tall ship we will be sailing in New Zealand, yes they still exist

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Reminiscing the Month Spent in Korea

     There is still so much to see in Korea, that I definitely have to come back in the future. I have only been in Korea for about a month and 4 days, and I had a really great time! It was really fun! Studying abroad is worth it, and I definitely recommend that students should go study abroad. I gained new experiences, new friends, and tried a lot of new things. Plus, I met a lot of cool people from 20 different countries, including people from the mainland United States of America.

Countries Such As:

Vietnam, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Germany, Canada, Taiwan, Singapore, Macau, China, Taiwan, England, Finland, Romania, Mexico, Australia, Turkey, Serbia, Venezuela, United States of America (Missouri, Minnesota, Georgia, Texas, California), and Korea, because local Korean students part of the program volunteers helped made us feel very welcome. ^_^

     I am back home now, and I am currently reminiscing my time spent back in Korea, it was amazing, but it felt so short~ I really would like to come back again in the future. The next time I go back, my Korean will (hopefully) be a lot better. I didn't experience the culture shock as I thought I would because I did kind of had an idea of what Korea would be like. It was a good image, and about everything turned out as expected. It could have been better though, if I had some coffee (and then instantly be not tired) I would have went out with my friends to go see more places of Korea, because there is honestly so much more to see. And I thought that I should put it out there, but after two weeks of learning Korean, it felt so good to be able to read Korean, but I still need to figure out what I read. I needed to expand my vocabulary, and understand the grammar. I remembered in the past me and my mom would go to the Korean Supermarket in Hawaii, to buy lots of groceries, and cute snacks that were unique to Korea, and I thought that the characters were so strange with the circles, but knowledge is power, and it feels great to understand that the circles mean either "ng" (at the end of a character) or is just a silent space holder in the beginning of a character. :)

     Another thing was that it took some time to get used to hearing Korean (instead of English) all around me, plus it is very quiet around the streets even in the daytime because people don't talk loud at all, and majority of the people I do see walking around are listening to music with earbuds.
     Also, when my friends told me that Korea will be more humid than Hawaii, I didn't really understand what that meant, but now I get it. I also did a lot of walking, exploring and eating. Based on my experiences, I felt that Korea is hotter than Hawaii, and in the subway stations it would be hot, but I can still handle it, and then once I got in side the subway train (because it had air condition) it felt great, but then after a while of being in the train, it started to get cold, and finally when I left the train, it got hot again. But for one thing that I was super glad, that I took care of myself, drank lots of water, and ate food all day, therefore I did not get sick at all.

     For breakfast, I would go to the bakery nearby and purchase baked goods and pastries:) and sometimes in a rush of time, I end up eating instant ramen in my dorm (before class). For lunch, my friends and I, or sometimes I go alone, we would go to Emart and purchase food and other things that we may need. And on days when there wasn't any program activities, my friends and I would go around shopping or exploring parts of the city, Seoul.

     In one of the bookstores (Band & Luni's Bookstore), I went to the music section and saw that there were many western pop music, which was a surprise to me because I was expecting more kpop variety music. But there were also various sections, a part dedicated to western pop, a section dedicated to K-pop, and a section dedicated to Korean dramas OST (Original Sound Track). My friend and I went to several places (I don't remember the name of) to shop for K-pop albums, there were also so many items printed with my favorite idol's faces.

Some restaurants/fast food places that I have seen:

  • Mom's Touch
  • Lotteria (reminds me of McDonalds)
  • Dunkin Donuts
  • Baskin Robbins (ice cream place)
  • California Pizza Kitchen
  • Pizza Hut
  • Domino's
  • Subway
  • McDonald's
  • Burger King
  • Natuur Pop (ice cream place)

Some Coffee places/cafes' that I have seen:

  • Coffee Prince  (I saw it from afar, but we didn't go in that direction)
  • Starbucks
  • Ediya Coffee
  • Angel-in-us-coffee
  • Holly's Coffee
  • Caffe Cucina
  • Ivy Coffee
  • Caffe Bene
  • Caribou Coffee
  • Zoo Coffee

Some interesting food/drinks I have not seen before:

  • Banana Milk
  • Mango Milk
  • Strawberry Latte
  • AND an actual Brand Name called: "No Brand"

Other places/shops I have seen:

  • Forever 21
  • Bandi & Luni's Bookstore
  • Kyobo Bookstore
  • NewBalance (shoestore)
  • Luxury (Highest Singing Entertainment)  <--a Karaoke place
  • Art Box
  • Sewing Factory
  • Tasty Market
  • Line Friends
  • Kakao Friends
  • SM Town (specifically the @ the coexartium)

Cosmetic/beauty shops I have seen:

  • Nature Republic (in Myeong Dong, famous tourist place)
  • innisfree  (all lowercase on purpose)
  • The Face Shop
  • The Body Shop
  • Etude House

Conveniences Stores I have seen:

  • GS25
  • CU
  • Mini Stop
  • 7-11

Some of the New things I have tried:

And here are some of the other places we went to in Korea:

  • Samsung Innovation Musuem (SIM)
  • Amore Pacific - Story Garden (K-beauty)
  • National Musuem of Korea
  • The War Memorial of Korea
  • Kyung Bok Goong (Emperor's Palace)
  • National Folk Museum
  • Korean Spa (Jjimjil bang) at SPAREX
  • Dongdae Mun History and Culture Park (where there were nightflowers)
  • Nam San Tower
  • K Star Road
  • Lotte Cinema (watched Now You See Me 2 in English in Korea)
  • Bukchon-ro (a place in the city where there are traditional korean houses)
  • Han River (it was a dinner picnic near the river)

Pictures of the two rooms inside the Korean Spa, 100 degrees and a 97 degree room. Super hot and moist inside.

Night Flowers at Dongdaemun

Me with my new friends
     There are some things that I have learned while abroad. Next time I come to Korea, I need to bring the extension surge protector with me, and a new travel adapter.

     While riding the subway, I noticed that almost 90% of people in the subway train is either listening to music or looking down in the screen on their phone doing something.

     In some restaurants, we had to order first before sitting down, and water is self serve. And in Holly's Coffee, I found it interesting how they separate their trash. First one is Recyclables, second one is other waste, and the third one is pouring in liquid and ice.

     It only rained for a few days during the entire time I was in Korea, and something I found interesting while I was there is that before entering the department store they have this small thing that you stick your umbrella in and then grab it out and your umbrella comes out in this plastic bag to prevent water being dripped all over the floor. It is different from the one I see in the buildings back home in Hawaii.

Nam San Tower
See what I mean? This was the invention I mentioned previously. You would stick your tall umbrella in the right side, and then pull it out with the plastic bag, so your umbrella comes out inside the plastic bag.

Lobby view of the Korean Traditional Spa place

Wet Napkin Dispenser at Lotteria
Deep Fried Ice Cream Street Food, it's hot and crispy on the outside, but then inside is cold ice cream. So unique flavor!

Update: I meant to post this blog the month after I came back from Korea, which is in September. However, time flies, and it's November 1, 2016, and I am finally uploading this last blog.

Thanks for reading, if you got down this far. :) All photos are taken by me.