Shrines, Anime fare, Cat cafe, and more!

So this past weekend has been a busy one for me because I received my financial aid money. This meant I was able to finally travel! So the first place that I went to with my new-found freedom was an area in Osaka called Shinsaibashi that is very popular for its shopping district. Although we did not do a lot of shopping, we got a lot out of the trip by spending an hour at the cat cafe, another hour at sweets paradise, and then sought out a Burger King later that day to eat the new black burger that everyone had been raving about.

Now let me explain all of these things I have just mentioned. A cat cafe is where you pay to spend time petting cats while you drink a coffee. Yes, it is as amazing as it sounds. However, the cats can be a little snobby but they get real friendly once you buy some treats! I had some everywhere, including on my head… Now the sweets paradise! This restaurant is for the sweets lover because you pay about 1500 yen and you get an hour to eat as much sweets as you can. Sweets include all sorts of cakes and cookies as well as all you can drink coffee and melon soda. I tried quite a few, including a pear, green tea, and strawberry treat. As for the shopping, we saw a J-pop store, a three story Hello Kitty store, and a three story Disney store. There were also a lot of original Japanese stores as well as an H&M. I was surprised at all the American stores I did see in the area.

As for the next day in my traveling weekend I went to see an anime and manga fare at the manga museum which showcased new animes and mangas that were just released or were going to be released. It was really interesting to see all the different animes and I got plenty of free stuff! Outside of the museum was an outdoor far also going on with live music, food, and a giant robot! From there, we went to the shrine Fushimi Inari which give respects to the fox so there are plenty of statues scattered about the grounds. It was really gorgeous though and I can’t wait to see more! 20140920_112848 20140920_115117 20140920_113144 20140920_121347 20140920_131613 20140920_160717 20140921_114406 20140921_111528 20140921_142746 20140921_144029 20140921_144731 20140921_143728

Moment For Life

Tomorrow will mark my first week in England and I am irrevocably in love with Exeter! It is more than I wished for. I live in the city centre, therefore, everything is relatively close to me (grocery store, shops, museums, quay, Cathedral, train station, and more).  I have been adjusting pretty quickly and I might just stay :)

Fresher’s Week:

The school has about 200 societies and throughout fresher’s week you get to attend “tasters” to get a feel for the society. I have been mainly interested in:  Slow Cooking Society, Raise and Give, Out of Doors Society, French Society, and African Caribbean Society. I had the opportunity to attend several events on campus hosted by a few of these societies:

Slow Cooking Society- I learned how to make mushroom risotto and root vegetable crisps. I love to eat so I am for sure joining this society.

Raise and Give- a historical tour of Exeter. I had the opportunity to see the Cathedral, quay and have some cream tea at the Boston Tea Party (delicious).

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African Caribbean Society- attended a Barbecue and got to meet people of various backgrounds.

Welcome Team- Went to Exmouth Beach.  I got to climb the Orcombe Point and enjoy some Fish and Chips.

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Out of Doors Society- I went to the Dartmoor National Park and words cannot describe how beautiful it is.

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Facts/ Observations:

  • There are many hills such as the infamous cardiac hill
  • Lay’s chips are named Walker’s
  • TJMaxx is TKMaxx
  • Eggs are not in the fridge!??
  • No it does not rain all the time in the UK
  • Modules = classes
  • Timetable = schedules
  • Queue= line
  • JK Rowling went to the University of Exeter!
  • Gandy street ( which I have walked on) inspired Diagon alley
  • The Old Firehouse restaurant inspired Leaky Cauldron

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Waiting in the terminal

Hi there,

My name is Gino Jo, and I am sitting in the terminal waiting to board the plane.

I’ve been waiting and working for this moment for the past few months, and I am really excited. There are very few things that give me the special feeling I’m feeling right now, like the kind of feeling of anxiousness and excitement that a small child gets a few hours before he or she gets to open their presents on Christmas. So far, I’ve really enjoyed this whole experience of planning because I know most people don’t get to travel for this long at my age.

I’m one to plan for everything, and even for this trip, I’ve planned everything that I can, but I know that this trip is special, this kind of trip will have many things that are unexpected and spontaneous, things you couldn’t plan for even if you tried. Knowing that gives me a smile, because there aren’t many times that I put myself in situations like that. I think I’ll enjoy the bad experiences too, just because I’m having them instead of being back home.

Like just now, I got picked to get my hands swabbed by the TSA. I guess I came off as uncooperative since I guess I took to long to take my belt off. Anyway, I was pulled aside and had my hands swabbed, and that was put into some device, while the really friendly TSA guy was saying “Think this is funny?” and “You wanted this?” Yeah, he really said that. But that’s ok, because now I’m at the terminal. I didn’t think it was funny at the time, but I kind of do now.

Interactions like that is what I’m kinda looking forward to in a strange way, they’re just so weird.

Anyway, a bit about myself:

  • I’m Peruvian; born there and then moved to US when I was 5
  • I’ll be studying at Exeter for the Fall
  • I’m a Junior studying Finance, and hope to work on Wall Street
  • Mostly taking Economics classes since I can’t take my major classes abroad, which really sucks
  • I am traveling with my girlfriend Emily who is also studying abroad at Exeter with me
  • I plan on staying for a few weeks after the term to travel through Europe

I chose to study at Exeter mainly because it’s in England, and because my girlfriend and I could both study there. My other options before considering were some business schools in France, but she’s a Nursing student and couldn’t take her science classes over there. It’s also a Top 10 school in England according to some ranks, so that’ll look good on my Resume. But really, the biggest reason was because it’s in a rural city in England. But really, the reason I chose to study abroad in general is because most people I worked with at my last job, all college educated, told me that they regretted not doing stuff like study abroad when I told them I was a Sophomore. Just being able to do things that others either don’t or can’t do is the reason I’m waiting in this really cold terminal. I think that this experience will be a cornerstone of my life. I really still feel like I’m in high school or something… I don’t feel like a grown up yet. My biggest hope is that living alone in a foreign country with very limited funds will help me grow, and survive.

I’m also excited about the food. I’m really weird in that I like stale food. Not like cold or old food, but simple tasting food. My favorite snack is bread and cheese with water. I don’t like chocolate or sweet things; I’m more concerned about the texture of the food. I think that I’ll just be in gastronomic heaven in France where I can have real French Baguettes and Croissants.

I really hope I’ll be able to experience everything Europe has to offer,  my only concern being my school schedule not keeping me in Exeter too long. Thanks for reading, and I hope that you enjoy all the pictures I’ll be posting during the next few months.

 

Warm regards from a frigid terminal,

Gino

 

2 kids in a terminal

2 kids in a terminal

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Florence At Last

After a very, very long day, I finally arrived in Florence! While I should have arrived closer to 2 PM at the Florence airport, we had a sudden change in landing location because of excessive tailwind. Instead, we landed in Bologna and waited on the plane for a bus that then took us to gather our luggage, all of which was at least two hours of just waiting around. Though I sure felt like it, I wasn’t alone! This was all of our first learning experience as study abroad students. Sometimes things don’t go as planned, but it’s not nearly as big of a deal as you first think. Finding the proper area to wait for our bags with absolutely no direction and then navigating through the airport to find our buses to Florence was frustrating, but really not too difficult. Thankfully Bologna’s airport wasn’t too large! And, on the bright side, once we did get on the road, I got a scenic view.

I’m pleased with my apartment here in Florence. It’s on the Oltrarno, the other side of the main river, so it’s a 15-25 minute walk to all of my classes, but I’m also living amongst the locals. The apartment is quite large, but only has one bedroom; seeing as there’s four of us, it should be interesting getting used to so little privacy. I’m not sure which I’ll miss more, that or air conditioning! It truly is gorgeous here though and I’m so happy to have this opportunity,

Though I was exhausted, I did go out to dinner with my roommates my first night here and snapped a couple of photos. A delicious and filling portion of meat lasagna, and beautiful sunset view over the river:

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Orientation was informative and, after a long walking tour of all the campus buildings, I truly can’t wait for classes to start. If anyone does plan on coming to Italy, do learn more Italian than I did this summer. As soon as I arrived, everything, even the basics, seemed to have just disappeared from my mind! Hopefully, with much more practice and my weekly classes, I’ll be speaking in no time though.

Until next week, ciao!

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3 years in 3 months

I cannot believe that I am leaving for the United Kingdom in two days!!! I have been looking forward to this moment since my freshman year of college. Although I have experienced MANY setbacks, I am finally going to study abroad at the University of Exeter. It took me three years to make it there but I would definitely go through the process again. I have watched myself grow throughout these three years. It taught me to be patient, persistent, and most importantly to rely on my faith. I could not have done it without family members and friends who supported me from the beginning. Words cannot express how I feel right about now. I am happy, nervous, scared, overwhelmed and more. I am looking forward to this experience. I am ready to be immersed in the culture and just take it all in. As far as preparing myself for the trip, I must say that packing 3 months’ worth of clothes in one suitcase is overwhelming. I thought packing for college was hard, well try packing for a new school in a different country. Even though I am quite overwhelmed as of now, I am looking forward to Fresher’s week (orientation week) and just meeting my roommates and exploring Exeter!

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授業が始まる!Class Begins!

During Orientation Week, Kansai Gaidai hosted their Asian Studies Program Opening Ceremony. They invited guests such as the US Consulate General of Osaka-Kobe, Allen Greenberg, who gave a speech on the complexities of today’s intercultural and political geographies. After this, we were treated to a Nankin Tamasudare,a traditional Japanese street performance utilizing bamboo blinds. The performers were all elder Japanese citizens, so I found this quite adorable.

 

The Asian Studies Program for the 2014-2015 semesters (courtesy of Kansai Gaidai)

The Asian Studies Program for the 2014-2015 semester (courtesy of Kansai Gaidai)

 

All the flags of the representatives

All the flags of the representative nations

View of the Nankin Tamasudare performance

View of the Nankin Tamasudare performance

Later on that day, the international students were led on tours to Kyoto. My group had two Japanese female student-guides. We had a blast visiting two shrines in Kyoto as well as trying green tea ice cream.

My group for the Kyoto Tour

My group for the Kyoto Tour

Weekend One

The next day, since I tested into Japanese 3 I was required to attend a lab orientation. Since I was already at school, and my roommate Maria wanted to head to Hirakata Park, the local amusement park, I had her meet me and we rode our bikes down to it. Finding it was harder than it looked on Google Maps however….all we did was basically follow the train tracks down until we saw the Ferris wheel on our left, and eventually made our way to the entrance. The Park was hosting an event for a famous anime about basketball called Kuroko no Basket. My brother loves this show and so does Maria, so I thought I’d give it a look. I was surprised how much work went into this “exhibit” like event, where “memorabilia” was made for characters that don’t actually exist. It was truly for the most committed of fans. Even the cafe at the Park had drinks and desserts dedicated to some of the characters from the anime, for a limited time of course.

Maria and I at the Kuroko no Basket event

Maria and I at the Kuroko no Basket event

After the event, Maria and I wondered around the Park taking a few photos. When we went into the arcade section of the Park, we found a Purikura booth which actually takes photoshopped snippets of you. Maria and I tried it out and these were some of the results:

Purikura!

Purikura!

Purikura, ah, look at me (on the left) I look like an alien!

Purikura, ah, look at me (on the left) I look like an alien!

When we were about the leave, since the Park was closing in about an hour, we spotted a lot of Japanese sitting in a semicircle. We realized that during certain times of the year, the Park will host closing ceremonies everyday. Today was one of the last days of the Summer Ceremony. Thus, we sat down as well and proceeded to watch one of the most interesting things I’ve seen in a while. Each of the characters had their own dance alongside back-up dancers and for everyone, the songs were obviously very unsuited. The old man wizard character danced to a dub-step piece and the main character elf to “Beat It” by Michael Jackson, for example. We then ate dinner at a Ramen Shop adjacent to the Hirakata Train Station.

The Summer Closing Ceremony

The Summer Closing Ceremony

That same weekend, my Speaking Partner, Yu, and I met at the Starbucks at the station. I asked if she would like to take me anywhere interesting, and she professed Osaka Castle. We hopped aboard the next train. The changing of trains and where to stop was difficult for me at first, and I was glad to have Yu with me.

Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle

Yu and I at Osaka Castle

Yu and I at Osaka Castle

After seeing Osaka Castle, we decided to head to Namba, a district within Osaka that’s marketed for the younger crowd. The lines of shopping continues to what seems like no end. Yu took me into a store called Donkey Hotei, which has everything from food to beauty supplies to pop cultural gifts. After this, I finally tried Takayoki, in which Yu and I split.

Diagon Alley for young Japanese people, but one that never truly ends

Diagon Alley for young Japanese people, but one that never truly ends

Namba

Namba

Takoyaki (Fried Octopus into little balls)

Takoyaki (Fried Octopus into little balls)

Classes and Tests

The next day classes began and decided to try my hand at the test for moving up to Spoken Japanese 4. Although we had an initial test via online to get a placement, in order to prove ourselves worthy we needed to take ANOTHER examination by the end of the week. Students had the choice whether they wanted to take the test for the next level up.  It is possible to move up but you needed to talk to your current professor in order to do so.  That week I had to sit in on Japanese 4 classes and participate. Since the tests are graded at a curve, depending on your classes’ abilities, you may be made to move up or down. By the end of the week I needed to take two tests, one to prove I could do Japanese 3, and another to see if I could pass with the Japanese 4 students. At the end of the day I was notified that I was moved up into 4. This is already the second week of class, and already I know that this program is a very intensive one. It’s come to my attention that although most of us would like to explore all the time and have fun with friends, this is not the program catered towards that.

Weekend Two

With Maria and two other girls from my Seminar House, we head to another part of Namba, which is basically a street full of anime, manga, and video games and the Akihabara of Osaka. This part is often referred to as “Nippon Bashi” or “DenDen Town”. I bought some gifts for others and interesting things that I found for myself as well. We only spent about 3 hours there, but with the amount of people and the goods for sale, it become overwhelming. After eating at a nice restaurant within the Namba station we headed home.

wow

wow

Nippon Bashi/Denden Town

Nippon Bashi/Denden Town

Examples of merchandise

Examples of merchandise

 

 

The next day I invited three of my friends to go on a 2 hour hike with me to the Fushimi-Inari- Shrine. I found this website for some good hikes in Kyoto (http://www.insidekyoto.com/best-kyoto-hikes). The directions helped a lot while we were climbing and confused about where to go. Passing through tori, or the red arches, while immersed in nature and alongside Japanese architecture was phenomenal. It was such a great experience being able to do this alongside friends as well, since we challenged one another along the way (especially by climbing those stairs farther up repeatedly). After returning to the initial starting point, we decided to head into a local Neko Cafe, or Cat Cafe, where one can eat and drink while being in the company of cats. I love cats, so this was the best. We had ice cream at the local shop as well, me and Stephen having green tea tofu, Jadia having ramune, or soda ice cream, and Katrina with purple sweet potato ice cream. Wanting real food though, we took the train ride to the 11 floor Kyoto Station and decided on an omelet cafe. After shopping around we headed back home. Can’t wait till next time! まってね!

Climbing the stairs...

Climbing the stairs…

Offering to the goddess Inari

Offering to the goddess Inari

Smaller shrines within the hike

Smaller shrines within the hike

 

Katrina, myself, Jaida, and Stephen after the hike (photo courtesy of Stephen Kahlow)

Katrina, myself, Jaida, and Stephen after the hike (photo courtesy of Stephen Kahlow)

Me at the cat cafe, and a pet dog too.

Me at the cat cafe, and a pet dog too.

The ice cream store with unique flavors

The ice cream store with unique flavors

View of Kyoto Station

View of Kyoto Station

Yep, we climbed these stairs too to get to the 11th floor

Yep, we climbed these stairs too to get to the 11th floor

 

 

 

 

 

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Intro Post- I LEAVE TOMORROW

Hi, my name is Brittany Foster and I’m in my second year at USF. I’m a psychology major and I will be spending this semester at the University of Exeter in Exeter, Devon, United Kingdom. I’ve always wanted to go to England, since I was in middle school at least and that’s why I chose a program located there. I’m really excited to attend this institution as the town and university are so rich in history, beauty and architecture. My flight leaves tomorrow at 2:31 pm and I will land in London on September 11th, at 6:20 am. I’m very excited to begin this journey and I’m so thrilled that finally begins tomorrow! Now I just need to start packing…

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Une semaine en France

The first week is done, starting the second week now.  The first week seemed like one really long day.  You got a lot done in one day, but then again you really didn’t.  It was orientation week at ESC-Rennes, and I had the pleasure of accidentally sitting in  on a lecture about a partnership company that employs interns from ESC-Rennes on the first day.  Sounds wonderful right?  Except that it was completely in French and I was barely able to understand what was going on.  If not for the slides I probably wouldn’t have even gathered as much as I had.  It turned out that my orientation brief was immediately following this one, however this one started late(when mine was supposed to start). Last week we got our computers set up so that we can access the internet on campus, use their student portal, and have access to our new student email through ESC-Rennes.  We got our pictures taken, paid for the social security which here is health insurance basically, and were able to apply for a French Bank account for our daily/monthly transactions so as to avoid any fees while here.  Like I said, we got a lot done.

Then we realized, as we were shown the student portal, that we can see our schedules for the upcoming semester.  This was a big shock to almost everyone.  Some classes don’t meet every week, the rooms change from week to week, the hours change, the days change, you may not have your first class in one of your classes for three weeks!  That’s right, one of my classes doesn’t meet for the first time until the end of the month!  I couldn’t believe it.  But, of course, they then cram so many classes in its not even funny.  From Thursday through Saturday, all day long I will be in the same class.  Completely mind boggling, I’m hoping that it isn’t too rough.

I’ve gone around the city and checked out some things.  I still have a lot to explore for sure.  I’m going to have to go and find the museums and churches to really get a good feel of the history of this town.  That will happen over the course of the semester I’m sure.  The town is beautiful, in some parts, there are new shops built right into old architecture.  There is an outdoor mall surrounding a massive ancient church that is truly magnificent.  It was so magnificent that as  I was wandering around, I took a route closer to the church so that I could see it.  I was thinking that I would be able to get back to my original route once I hit the main street, however that was not the case.  I wound up walking an extra 5 miles that day simply because I was too stubborn to turn back around, or to get onto a bus.  Lesson learned, since then I have used the bus routes almost exclusively and plan my trip the night before so that I have a good idea of where I am going.

I still need to take my phone out with me to take some pictures, I left my camera charger at home and it is completely dead unable to be plugged in to anything so the phone is all I have.  When I go back out on another trek through the shopping center I’ll bring my phone along for the journey and take lots of pictures to upload.

Life here is relatively normal compared to anywhere else I have been.  There is an adjustment period where you find the necessities for life and then settle in for the rest of the trip.  Luckily I have a grocery store right by my flat, a pharmacy, a bus stop, and really everything I could need.  Well not everything, an elevator would be lovely.  I’m staying on the quatrième ètage (Fourth Floor) but in Europe that really means the Fifth Floor!  I don’t have any need for a stairmaster that’s for sure.  I’ll be in better shape just walking to and from my flat.

This week starts classes, and hopefully everything goes according to plan.  However, as I have learned thus far in my trip, nothing goes according to plan so just enjoy the ride.

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My First Week In South Korea: Settling In

My first week in Seoul, South Korea went by much quicker than I originally anticipated. I reached my final destination; a Goshiwon (kind of very small room that houses only one person in an overall dorm-like setting) called Herb House. The owners have been very accommodating and help me whenever help is needed; even going as far as to provide me with bedding as a free service, helped me to find my way to Sokcho beach, to find places around Seoul which provide printing services, and to book a train ticket online. The owners have been very generous as well and have been giving me fruit drinks, grapes, and a platter of food in celebration of Chuseok (essentially the Thanksgiving holiday here in Korea).

I tried dried squid for the first time as well which surprised me even since I do not like fish to begin with. Aside from squid I have noticed that I have become much more open to trying new foods or beverages than I would have been in the U.S. I suppose that is because of two things: everything I eat is something that I am not used to and even if I inquire about the ingredients I wouldn’t understand them as I don’t speak fluent Korean. So, I’ve resided to not ask and just enjoy the food that is given to me.

Today, is actually Chuseok here in Korea. In celebration of the holiday and my having survived the first week of being off on my own, I will be heading to Sokcho beach for a two day stay with several of my new foreign friends. I hope the weather will continue to be nice and sunny, hot, and humidity. (Did you catch any sarcasm in that?) Korean weather right now is very much like Florida; the heat is not so bad but the humidity is a bit worse than Florida’s humidity levels.

 

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Goodbye and Smile

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It’s so hard to say goodbye… How time flies. I can’t believe 8 weeks is over and it’s time for me to return to the United States .I write this with uncontrollable tears rolling down my cheeks. The farewell song that the children sang for me ended abruptly as we couldn’t restrain our emotions amidst tears.

Oh, sweet memories of these adorable children who have become part of me. I will miss these children so much! We laughed, danced, sang, learnt and ate together. I hope to see them again and again, praying it will be pretty soon.

I look forward to a day when the whole world will believe in them, when there will be no more discrimination against them and they will become doctors, lawyers, engineers or whatever they choose to be. There is hope in them! They can smile and I want to see them smile forever! I can smile, you can smile and we can all smile!

Thank you for following me on my blog! I appreciate you for being part of this great and lasting experience!! As Alcholi’s would say…

Afovyo!!!

Watch the short farewell video here! Also, enjoy the UNOFFICIAL  MUSIC VIDEO of Smile and watch out for the official video!!!

Farewell video

Smile unofficial music video

 

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Parting hug with Patricia

Parting hug with Patricia

All smiles ...

All smiles …

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Some members of HFH Staff.

Some members of HFH Staff.

 

 

 

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