Friday, December 31, 2010

and so it end...ed

I've been home for more than a week and made not a single bit of progress in catching up on this blog! :D

Study abroad is over.

"Real life" begins again...except it's winter break, so I'm still on vacation.

And then, "real life" begins after graduating from school...

And then, that might not feel real enough, so "real life" might not start until I get married and have kids...

At this rate, when will I ever enter real life?!

Maybe my whole life is real already.

Including Japan.  Including college.  Including everything I have ever been a part of.

All of that, and right now, is a whole lot more "real" than the future I can't predict or control.

2010--hard times though there were, may I always remember it as a seriously God-blessed year.

2011--let's go even further~

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Time is tickin’, T-Time is tickin’ away…

"One (feat. Ji-Sun)" by Epik High is a prettttty cool song.  I just looked up the lyrics, conveniently found a translation, and ummm, gosh, I think I'm going to need to re-read this a few more times before I understand...

BUT the point is:

4 days left.

no way.

no way.

no way.


I always knew the end would be difficult, but...oh, this is ridiculous. ;-;

♥ Our Christmas/Holiday/Goodbye/Final Family Dinner ♥

I won't say that there's nothing good about good-byes (ha, just look at the name!)...but [no words left to properly express how I feel]...


it suddenly got suuuper cold these past few days (single digits, in celsius, admittedly still positive numbers), but according to, will warm up again next week...very slightly.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


trying to write final papers on top of overwhelming feelings of anticipatory sadness is difficult.

figuring out what topic to write on the night before the paper is due was a bad, bad idea.

a note to future KGU exchange students: do as much of your work as you can, as early as possible.

Otherwise you're left juggling:
  • FINALS--studying for tests, writing papers, projects/presentations....
  • packing
  • sending stuff home by post
  • goodbyes, goodbye parties
  • last-minute traveling
  • souvenir shopping
  • selling your bicycle
  • all the fun of "terminating" your status as a student at KGU
  • a deep desire to slow down, really pause and reflect on how damn quickly this semester's gone

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Everything I Want to Say and More

Ohohohoho...I didn't update at all during November, did I..


Doesn't mean I didn't want to update, though!  REALLY.

For your anticipatory pleasure, here are various drafts I have in progress (some have been sitting for almost 2 months now, haahahahaha):
  • Hiroshima trip
  • Tokyo trip
  • Being Christian in Japan
  • Analog Fish live (concert) in Osaka
  • Things I like to complain about
  • my 枚方市 (Hirakata-shi, the town I've been living in these past few months..) family ♥
  • etc.
by the way, this post was a draft for about a week.  haha...

Other things, not yet drafts, but definitely worth mentioning:
  • 紅葉 (kouyou, autumn leaves turning colors) trips
  • my participation in 華道部 (kadoubu, flower arrangement club), where we do 生け花 (ikebana, flower arrangement)
  • super-long-awaited home visit in Wakayama
  • seeing Merry live
  • final update on how the "study" in study abroad actually happens in reality
  • living in Seminar House 4
  • food-related nonsense
  • etc.
Hmmmmmmm hopefully I'll have time during winter break to compose some of this stuff....hopefully. 8D

Entries will probably also pop up as I procrastinate on final papers~☆

楽しみにしてね~ (tanoshimi ni shite ne~)
Look forward to it! :)

Sunday, October 31, 2010

time goes by...


"so slowly"?!  Madonna is so wrong.

(by the way, just for context, I'm supposed to be writing a paper for my Japan-China class right now... maybe we can say this is warm-up?  I've discovered this excellent trick with coffee for people, like myself, with low caffeine tolerance: drink a little coffee at a time and then a lot of water; sure, you end up going to the restroom quite a bit, but this way the caffeine gives you a boost while the water keeps you hydrated and refreshed☆)

Just for masochistic pleasure and general procrastination, I've put a little countdown-thingy on the right-hand side of my main blog page, underneath the little "about me" blurb.  Shouldn't be too easy to miss.  Those awaiting my glorious return to the Bay (SF Bay, the only one that matters of couuuuurse) can clap in delight as the number spirals down.  For me, I shall be mildly panicked every time I see it and how much more reduced it is compared to the last time I looked.

In other news, I've booked a rather last-minute trip to Tokyo for the next weekend (Nov. 5-8).  And yes, I will be skipping a couple days of class, hahahahahaha~   As for how much money I'll be spending............we can address that later, when I've taken some pretty pictures to prove that it was worth however-much-it-is. 8D

Okay, there are lots of topics I want to write about here, but first, that midterm paper.....

Ah, priorities...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Object Permanence

Last night while we were hanging out in the lounge, "studying" (aka, sharing stupid YouTube videos, updating Facebook/blogs, maybe doing homework) as usual, someone mentioned,

"We're already halfway done."

My gut reaction was to let out an anguished yell, so I did.  I also requested, in a slightly panicked, manic manner, that they please, please not talk about it anymore.

Anyway, the general idea I'm trying to convey is: My time here is short, and hitting a milestone (like midterms) is a brutal awakening to that fact.

I've visited some pretty cool places, like Kyoto's Kiyomizudera, Shinsaibashi and Peace Osaka, Hiroshima, and Kanazawa...but there are still tons of other cities and sights I wanna see.
I've been doing okay in Japanese class, covering the material, and using Japanese every day...but I'm still far from comfortably conversing and conveying my ideas satisfactorily.  Not to mention, my kanji = crap.
I fall asleep exhausted every night, spend plenty of time with people instead of hermit-ing in my room (like right now, hahahaha)...but it still seems like there's so much more I should be doing.

In a way, here and now is all there is--at least, that's how part of me wants it to be.  Just live in the moment, laugh and have your fun while can, don't worry about tomorrow.

Another part recognizes, very practically, that there's a lot waiting for me when I fly home--family, friends, fellowship.  Every moment spent on things-not-here-and-now is a moment invested in the future.  Those things don't cease to exist because I'm not there, obviously, but when they're so far's almost easier if they don't.  Like a baby playing peek-a-boo, if I cover my eyes, they're gone.  If they aren't there, it's easier not to miss them, easier not to keep in contact, easier to live in the now..

But that kind of thinking is meaningless and immature.

I do miss everybody back home, want to know what's going on in their lives, even as I am thousands of miles away, occupied in far too many ways.  It's hard, truly difficult for me to stay in touch with people over long distances--it's a serious character flaw, or something.  But I'll do best I can....and when I alone am not enough, pray to God for the strength to go on.  Remembering that as a Christian, my life is centered on God and lived within the context of eternity, there is much, much more than just here and now.

I will treasure everything that happens here, that I learn here, that I find here, but I must also continue to keep close to my heart those that sometimes seem so far away.

Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 9:51 PM

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Life in Japan II

a pretty spot around campus, on a pretty nice day
snacktime!...happens every night, not always this crazy.
separating garbage is important! (though, it varies from city to city.)  my roomie and I divide between plastics and burnables.
our room in an unusually neat (yeah, this counts as neat) state.
my new keitai strap (phone charm) ♥
it's a momiji (maple) leaf~ to commemorate this fall semester.
Thursday, October 14, 2010 @ 3:05 AM

GO TO 金沢!

Vacation #1!

Destination: 金沢 Kanazawa, Ishikawa-ken (prefecture)
Date: Sep. 18-20 (Sat-Mon)
Cost: ¥22,000 - ¥24,000

5-hour train ride!
View of (not the ocean, but) Lake Biwako
it's humongous O_O
Kanazawa JR (Japan Railways) Station
Local streets
random art :)
cool building in the shopping district~
Late Summer in Shirakawa~
Light Festival & other special events
we watched dance performances by local college groups at this festival.. めっちゃ楽しかった~ (meccha tanoshikatta, very enjoyable)
(all reserved through, all heartily recommended, especially Pongyi and Namaste~)
Guest House Pongyi
Guesthouse Namaste
Ryokan Shibaya

I wouldn't consider Kanazawa an "essential" stop if your time in Japan is short, but for a last-minute planned trip (don't wanna waste those 3-day weekends...), it was nice~  Shirakawa-go (about an hour-long bus ride from Kanazawa, round trip¥3200) is definitely worth a visit if you're in the area!  The sights can be seen, in a fairly relaxed manner, in about 3-4 hours...but if you want to spend longer there (which you might, it's really lovely~), it's not hard at all. :)

Thursday, September 30, 2010


I have much pleasanter things to record later, when there is time to spare, but right now....

the USD-JPY ($ /¥) exchange rate is deeply saddening to me.

US$1 = ¥83.5 (thank you google.)

That's market if I go exchange my traveler's checks at a local bank, the rate I receive will be 1 or  points(? don't know this terminology..) lower.  ¥82 or ¥81 per US$1.  It's pretty close for the post office's international ATM, too....

should I try and wait it out for a better rate, or just get some money?  The highest it's been this month is about ¥86, I think.  Bahhh..... my wallet's going to be emptied tomorrow (paying for insurance), and I'm going to Osaka for a field trip on Saturday, so I'll probably just suck it up and do that ATM-thang.  Cash disappears so quickly...really forces me into consciousness of how much I'm spending and how constantly I'm buying.


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Life in Japan

A picture's worth a thousand words, so let's say this entry is ...a little over five thousand? :)

Rilakkuma slippers.  Worn all around the seminar house (dorm), except on the tatami mats in rooms.

Futon.  They're arranged a little differently now (this was taken during orientation week), but you get the idea.  Rolling out of "bed" is easy and painless.

Bicycle.  In Japanese, 自転車(jitensha).  In Kansai-ben, チャリ(chari).  Not utterly essential, but pretty darn amazingly helpful.  If the USA is a car culture, Japan (at least in Hirakata?) is a bicycle culture.

Cell phone.  In Japanese, 携帯電話 (keitaidenwa), or just keitai for short.  Again, not absolutely essential for life, but exceedingly useful and advantageous for one's social life.  Almost every other 留学生(ryuugakusei, exchange student) has this same, exact phone (in either black of white), but I've finally distinguished mine by adding Kanazawa gold lacquer シール(shiiru, stickers).

Pudding.  プリン (purin) is my favorite dessert here in Japan; it has a flavor and consistency similar to flan and/or creme brulee.  This particular pudding has a special point: 焼きプリン (yakipurin) is browned on top...not sure how much it actually affects the flavor, but I like it a lot.  A lot. ♥

Tuesday, September 21, 2010 @ 9:40 PM

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Monday, Monday, always comes again so quickly...
...and now Tuesday is already over (I started this post yesterday, hahaa...).

Here at KGU, all of the exchange students attend classes in the Center for International Education (CIE, also technically building 3).  Morning classes are Japanese language (taught in Japanese, with occasional uses of English vocabulary), and afternoon classes are lectures (in English) that can all go under the topic of "Asian Studies" in some way or another (they're actually divided between Business classes and Social Science/Humanities).  Most of the students are internationals, but in (most of the?) afternoon lectures, there are several local regular KGU students, either preparing or just back from study abroad.
All students are required to take, at minimum, 14 credits, and allowed, at maximum, 17 credits.  This translates to 4 - 5 classes (regular classes are 3 credits each, spoken Japanese is 5 credits).  Spoken Japanese meets five times a week (50 minutes a day), Reading/Writing Japanese meets 3 times a week (also 50 minutes/day), and the afternoon classes meet twice a week (90 minutes/lecture).  Japanese classes are typically less than fifteen people, and Asian Studies classes hit capacity at about 30 - 35 people.

I'm taking four classes this semester (a loooovely break, considering that I took five a semester last year...):
  •  Spoken Japanese, level 5 (required) - Japanese classes here are divided between spoken (required) and reading/writing (optional).  This one's every single day, but Naito-sensei is quite sweet and funny, so I don't mind. :)  Also, for some reason, the class's lessons are structured very similarly to J10 classes at Berkeley.. I personally suspect this may be because Naito-sensei studied at University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the authors of the J10 book, An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese, are also from that school. who knows~
  • Monsters, Ghosts, and the Making of Modern Japan - (Media studies) Umm....the topic is pretty cool, covers how 妖怪 (youkai, spirit-demon-ghost-things?) and other Japanese ideas about supernatural phenomena, plus how those things are treated in Japanese society, help us understand Japan.  There are plenty of interesting ideas and interpretations presented in class and in the readings, and I like it well enough...umm...I just don't have much to say about it yet?  haha..
  • Japan-China: The Challenges of Modernization - (International/Area studies) Professor Scott is pretty cool, has plenty of interesting things to say about all sorts of topics relating to China, Japan, Korea, and East Asia/the world in general.  This subject this class covers is one of the key reasons I chose KGU over ICU.  Tons of reading though...feels just like classes back home. :P
  • Religion in Japan - (Japanese/Religious studies) I adore Professor Kenney.  This class miiight just be my favorite (which doesn't say thaaat much, because I like all of them).  Subject is interesting, lectures are interesting, looking forward to learning lots~  I would describe the class as...a general survey of religious practice and beliefs in Japan.
In general, all the professors are fairly interactive with the classes (especially Kenney)~  I really love how the subjects we cover in class connect really well with the topics from some of the classes I took last year--Chinese history, the religion class (Faith, Religion, and Religious Experience), Ethnic Studies, and of course, Japanese.
    Mmmm....anyway, now it's time to go study/do homework.  Or eat/make dinner.  Or finish planning a trip to Kanazawa.

    Hmmmmmmmmmmm, so busy-busy.  いつもそうよ。

    Or maybe I should just write a few more entries to actually record life beyond academics, because what I'm learning outside of those classes is super, super interesting (at least to me), too.

    Sunday, September 5, 2010


    Classes start tomorrow... ((technically today))

    I'm simultaneously excited and sleepy.  Only the afternoon, taught-in-English classes will be held.  Japanese language classes (speaking level 5, yay!) don't start until Tuesday.

    We finally did official check-in to the seminar house today!  Grocery shopping, yayyy...except I had to borrow money from friends. ^^;; Going to the bank before classes tomorrow to exchange some traveler's checks, yosh~

    My 携帯 (keitai, cell phone) has an amaaazing emoticon selection and texting with it has spoiled me for normal writing.  :(  I want to add kitties and weird faces and other random cutesy stuff to everything I write....

    Okay, gonna go pack my backpack!  Posts on orientation week to come later, once I've figured out a decently organized/readable way to write them~

    ((you know what also makes me feel ドキドキ? (dokidoki, onomatopoeia for rapid/throbbing heartbeat, often indicating nervous excitement)  exchanging text messages (メール, meeru, e-mail) with Japanese girls. >o<♥ 友達作ってた~))

    Monday, September 5, 2010 @ 1:50 AM

    Saturday, August 28, 2010


    It's 9:30 AM on August 29 here~

    Melon pan actually tastes like apricot. O_o

    The mood?
    Think in yen.
    Think in GST+9:00.
    Think Japan.

    (..."think Japanese" will probably come later..."think in Japanese" should be happening now..)

    Short timeline of yesterday's (8/28) arrival:
    -flight (about 10 hours) arrived on time (maybe slightly early?), 3:30 PM.  Got through customs by 4 PM.
    -took KGU's pick-up service-hired bus (comfy~) to Seminar Houses.
    -arrived SH4 around 6:30 PM, checked in, received super-informative orientation packet.
    -followed tour to supermarket at 8 PM.  bought food! yay.
    -ate food and talked to many new people.  will hopefully remember most names.  this is just like freshman year all over again.

    Saturday, July 31, 2010

    End-of-July Update

    Soooooooooooooooooooo, July has actually been a fairly exciting month on the study-abroad front.  Which surprises me, considering that earlier I only expected to be expectantly anticipating August during July.

    On Kansai Gaidai's part:
    • Applications for the Speaking Partner Program and Home Visit Program (deadline was July 20...I think I managed to e-mail it in while it was still that day in Japan 8D)
    • Housing notified me that I'ma be inhabiting a room in SEMINAR HOUSE 4 this coming semester~~ (actually, SH2 was my first choice, but SH4 has a really nice'all good ♥)
    • An e-mail containing a question concerning my financial situation was answered (ah, now I have to answer them back..)
    • Fall 2010 course descriptions came out (fairly early in the month)
    • They sent me my CoE :D
    On my part:
    • I applied for my student visa (does not cost $$ for US citizens, yay!)....and just picked it up today!  (I also picked up two gigantic gourmet sandwich cookies, a gruyere-and-onion brioche, and a wig....welllll, if I'm going all the way to SF, I may as well go all out, hahahahahahaaa..)
      *relevant note: If there are no problems with your application, a student visa from the San Francisco branch of the Japanese Consulate will be ready in about a week*
    • I finally started assembling some of the stuff I'll be packing
    • (actually my parents' part) bought a biiiig, but fairly light suitcase~
    • I realized that I haven't studied much....any...Japanese yet....and summer is almost over
    Still TO-DO:
    • Wire tuition and housing fees over to KG so I don't have to carry several thousand (US) dollars worth of traveler's checks with me (so in yen...several hundreds of thousands?)
    • Hang out with all my dear friends ♥
    • E-mail people.  Many people.  I am a bad person.
    • Plan out where I want to go in Japan.
    • Pack.
    The time is just flyyyyying by..

    28 days to go.............

        Tuesday, July 6, 2010

        YOU APPLIED!! what?

        So once you're done applying, what comes next..?

        Ohohohohoho, the fun (and fees) don't end with the initial application. (unless you're rejected. >_<; sorry!)

        Once You've Finished Applying to Kansai Gaidai..
        1. Do not compulsively check K-GENESYS every hour possible.  Once accepted, you will receive an e-mail notifying you of your acceptance.  Congratulations!  If rejected...I assume you will also receive an e-mail letting you know about that. :(
          If you are financially dependent on someone else (i.e., parents), you will also receive an e-mail with a Financial Guarantee form attached.  If you refer to Step 4 in my application guide, notice that I said to pay particular attention to item 4 in the Form G instructions--now is when that item matters.  KG will want a bank statement, a copy of a loan application, or a copy of your scholarship application/approval--something that proves you will be sufficiently supported during your time abroad.

        2. Go to K-GENESYS, admire how it says you're admitted, and once you're sure you want to attend, fill out the "Address Form" (it's online).  This is super easy, and a way of letting them know you intend to attend.  Make sure you fill it out right--the Certificate of Eligibility (CoE) needs to get to you.  Without it, you cannot apply for a student visa to Japan.  If you already bought plane tickets, fill out the "Arrival Information Form" (also online).  If not, fill that out soon as you confirm travel plans.

        3. Rejoice; you get to send more stuff out through expensive international postage. :|  This time, with another international postal money order (IPMO), pay US$250 to KG ($50 admission fee, $200 "enrollment confirmation" deposit).  The $200 will be counted as part of your tuition, so when you get to KG, you will pay $200 less than whatever the website says the tuition is. 8D
          This post-admittance batch of mail should be: Financial Guarantee form + IPMO (+ photocopy of passport if you didn't submit it when applying)

        4. K-GENESYS will have an update under "notes" once KG receives your money, so you can then stop stressing and imagining horrible scenarios where the envelope's been lost and now you'll never get to go to Japan and...
        5. During the months following admission (May through July), KG will start e-mailing with MORE EXCITING INFORMATION!  Stuff like: Housing Application (online, K-GENESYS; basically stuff to help them place you in homestay or dorms, hopefully with someone who won't drive you crazy); a link to the Admitted Student website (lots of important info there, especially relating to financial and insurance stuff); link to Cultural Interaction Programs website (how to apply for the home visit program, speaking partner program, etc.).  Even as you're ridiculously excited, remember to apply for stuff you want to participate in and submit all your forms on time. :)

          When everything you can do has been done, GOOD JOB.  Just be a good kid now and wait for your CoE~ (They'll e-mail you with a DHL shipment tracker once it's dispatched.)

        Applying to Kansai Gaidai

        As I considered, then applied, to Kansai Gaidai, the resources that were the most informative and helpful (besides some of the official info) were blogs--those written by current and former KG Asian Studies students. It was wonderfully reassuring to hear (real!) people describe their application, social, academic, etc. experiences. Hopefully, this blog, too, will be of use to other prospective KG students. :)

        Most of the student blogs are written by direct-exchange students--those who apply through their schools (which have an exchange agreement with KG). However, because my school is not affiliated with KG, I had to apply as an independent student. Though it was at first a really intimidating idea, now that I've gone through the process, I've realized it's not quite as daunting as it first may seem. In fact, certain aspects are simplified and far more efficient. But there are certain drawbacks, mostly relating to the payment of fees.  You'll see..

        Okay, enough intro-talk, here's a basic sort-of detailed outline of the process!

        Choosing Kansai Gaidai

        Nearly every college you apply to (at least in the USA, for sure) advertises the awesomeness of its "Study Abroad" opportunities. Which is really lovely, but gets kind of boring after the fourth or fifth college tour.


        As soon as I learned of this "study abroad" business, I knew this was something I wanted to do. My original plan (made junior year of high school) was to do a semester in Hong Kong, then a semester in Japan, totaling up to one year away from the US of A. This would be my junior year--freshman and sophomore seemed too soon, senior year...I wanted to graduate at school, yep. Well, plans change, and by the time sophomore year started, I'd decided to only go for fall semester. Now the question came down to where to go: Japan or some-Chinese-speaking-place? After some deep, exceptionally nerve-wracking consideration, I picked Japan.

        At first I intended to apply only to a quarter-long program at International Christian University (ICU), a university near Tokyo, through the UC Education Abroad Program (UCEAP). However, one day in November, a poster on the bulletin board outside the Japanese tutorial room caught my eye--"Kansai Gaidai Asian Studies Program." Asian Studies Program. What's my major? Asian Studies. What part of Japan did I want to go to? Kansai (to be explained elsewhere). How perfect did this look? VERY.

        After a minute or so of staring (it was a very pretty poster), I copied down the website url, and went downstairs to the computer lab to check it out.

        Upon reading the first few info pages and taking a glance at the course offerings, it seemed so, so cool.

        And after further research, so, so expensive.


        For a while, I decided this wasn't really worth pursuing. ICU was a fine school, and the UC program there was a fine option, and the safety net of UCEAP would feel a lot more secure. But Asian Studies..and just seemed way too perfect.  Additionally, there were a ton of awesome blogs describing students having awesome-times at KG.

        In the end, I just decided to go for both schools, with KG as my first choice.  Why not?  This was going to be my only study abroad, I might as well try for everything I can.  And something's worth more when you have to work more for it, right?  Hopefully...

        Thursday, May 6, 2010



        Nice to meet you (even if I know you already, haha)--my name is Jo, and this is the blog I will be using to chronicle my study abroad experiences at Kansai Gaidai 関西外国語大学 (KG for short~), in Japan!


        I am currently finishing my second year of college at UC Berkeley, majoring in Asian Studies (with a focus on China). I like to cook, bake, blog, read (mostly blogs, novels and Wikipedia), draw, and "appreciate music." I've been studying (with varying levels of diligence) the Japanese language since September 2004..that makes it almost six years now. だけど、まだ苦手で片言だけ話せる。 T-T (vague translation: I'm still incompetent.)

        This blog's title "West of the East"....has some meaning to it, I guess. I've always found it a little odd that whenever I fly to Asia ("the East"), we fly westward. Additionally, Kansai 関西, the region where KG is located, is in what is considered the Western region of Japan. And that should be enough explanation, yep.