From the last time I posted online to now I have experienced many more adventures throughout this journey. Now this journal is a little later than anticipated, but I wanted to delay this journal a little further to also be able to include my first day of classes.
If memory serves correctly, the last write up I promised myself that I would shift my mindset and become more optimistic. Luckily this past week I was able to uphold that promise to myself and it could not have been at a better time because the start of the semester has just arrived.
Before talking about the highlights it is essential to talk about the hurdles that I have gone through. At this point I have been in Japan for about two weeks and there were a few adjustments that I had to get used to in comparison to when I was back home. The biggest adjustment I had to get used to was the trash sorting situation.
In Japan there is a very specific system for the trash and it needs to be followed perfectly. For trash there are different clarifications as to how to dump the trash. The two main categories are the burnable trash and the plastic trash. Back home I never had to think about separating my trash into different trash bags, so it definitely came as a surprise when I realized I had to carefully read the label and look for the symbols to tell me which can be thrown in the plastic garbage and which can be thrown in the burnable. There were definitely moments where I thought I had messed up, but once I asked people who had been in the dorms for a while how to do so it became easier to do with a lot of focus.
Outside of that there was a bigger moment that I wanted to share. As a part of the orientation week we were taken on an excursion to Korankei Gorge in Toyota City. But to be more specific we walked through Sanshu Asuke Yashiki which allows the visitors to take a step through many old houses with different demonstrations and attractions to see. For example, we were fortunate enough to catch a blacksmith in action and someone carving a bowl from a piece of wood. Additionally there was a model of an old school living room set up and, if I am not mistaken, a live bull. Now the best way to describe the experience is if you were walking through a living museum and getting to interact with most of what there is to offer.
Unfortunately it was quite rainy so it was not the best weather conditions, but it did not dampen the experience. The view from the bridge that we crossed over was beautiful and photos cannot even capture how truly serene the area is in person. But if I had to choose my favorite activity it would have to be making gohei mochi. Gohei mochi, at least the ones we made, is rice that is stuck on a wooden stick and covered with a miso sauce. Normally, I eat the sweet mochi that you can find at a store, but this one was on the savory side which made me like it even more than the mochi with sweet fillings inside.
From that excursion I can happily report I was glad I got to experience that before going to class. Something about seeing a sight other than my dorm room or the area that is within like a mile radius of my dorm was refreshing. It really helped give me a piece of mind and allow myself to think about more to come. Also I was able to wash a part of the self doubt that came with the other negative experiences that occurred earlier on. There is still a reasonable portion of doubt and fear, but a small win is still a win at the end of the day. Needless to say it felt like everything was now moving in the right direction.
Finally, the last thing I want to share is the first day of class. It was overall pleasant, but I was glad I had taken the opportunity to explore the campus before. Otherwise I would have a hundred percent gone to the wrong classroom. Fortunately, ever since I was a young child I was always taught to stay on time and be early to any activity. So naturally it makes it easier for myself to be able to get up in time for classes and be ready to get going. It is especially helpful because a requirement for classes is that I cannot miss ⅔ of class which roughly translates to one absence. And if I am late three times that will count as an absence in the records. But time will tell once the rest of the semester has happened.
Like always I cannot end this journal without a few tips that I picked up along the way.
First, learn as much as you can about the etiquettes within the country. There are some things that you may have already picked up on through online research. However, it is a whole different ball park when you experience it in person. So, if there are people in the dorm that are either from the country or have been at the school longer than you, do not be afraid to pick their brain. Most of the time they are going to be really nice especially if you have RAs and they want to help you out.
Second, check the weather and if it is raining get an umbrella. As I mentioned earlier in the journal, the day of the excursion was predicted to rain. I thought I would be fine with just a rain jacket because it rains in Hawai’i so I thought I knew what rain was going to be like. And when I say I regret not buying an umbrella I really did regret it because my backpack and I ended up getting very soaked in the process.
Normally I would not be phased about my bag or myself getting wet because I could always just dry off once I get back to the dorm. However, as an exchange student you have to carry around very important documents in case a police officer does stop you to see some identification. One of those being your passport with your visa and it would be a terrible thing if the passport gets wet. So one can imagine the horror that I went through rummaging through my wet backpack for my passport. Thankfully it did not get any water damage, but after doing a Google Search of what would happen if it did get water damage I am very grateful my passport survived.
After that realization hit, I knew I needed to find an umbrella immediately and luckily we were also going to walk through a town across the street. And according to Google Maps there were stores that were in the little town, but, unsurprisingly, all of them would not open for another hour. So, myself and another student who had shared their umbrella with me and was helping me on my search for an umbrella went to this small bookstore run by two older women who both spoke English. They were really sweet and once I had asked them where I could buy an umbrella they went to look in the back and they gave me an umbrella for free. I was really fortunate to have met those two women, but do not think if you make my mistake that can happen. I really do urge that if there is rain please buy an umbrella before hand especially to protect vital documents like your passport.
But if you do not take my warning lightly, at least do this third tip which is to put any important documents into a ziploc bag or buy a waterproof case. Accidents are inevitable, but you can do something to prolong those accidents from happening. Investing in a waterproof case or even a ziploc bag will make a world of difference, and you would not have to panic too much about the potential damage that your passport could experience. Especially because if there is water damage to your passport it becomes invalid and you may have to go to the local embassy in the country and find a way to ship a new passport to the country. And then you potentially have to get a new visa. So save yourself the trouble and try to protect the passport to the best of your abilities.
Finally, before classes start explore the campus and get a general idea of where the classrooms are located. It is always a good idea to get a feel of where to go on campus because it makes the first day go a little smoother. Plus it helps calm down that thought of potentially being late to class because of entering the wrong classroom. If you do not want to go alone, try to ask those in the dorm if they want to go with you because there are going to be other people who want to map out the campus to get more familiarized. That way you can get to know others and you will not get lost on your own.
I hope those tips are helpful to anyone planning to go abroad and as the school year continues there will be much more experiences and much more to learn. So for now see you in the next journal!