Archive for the ‘Kelsey in Tokyo’ Category


Kelsey: What I’ve been up to

June 8, 2010

So midterms are finally over!! I didn’t do half as bad as I thought I did on my Japanese midterm, so that gives me motivation to keep trying to do well in the class. The class material and quizzes are comparable to the Japanese class I took last semester, but the exams are SO HARD! I’ll just keep studying…

I had gotten into the bad habit of bumming around in my room rather than going out, with homework and the expense of going anywhere else my excuse. But instead of coming home and actually doing my homework, I would just waste time on the computer. So last week after my one class days, I decided to change that. I ended up buying a konbini (convenience store) lunch and taking my homework to a park on both Monday and Thursday. The weather has been beautiful, so it was nice to sit in the sun and be productive all at the same time. It greatly improved my mood as well!

PhotobucketHere is my oishii lunch from the konbini! The package in front is onigiri, a rice ball with salmon flakes and wrapped in nori (seaweed). Pucca are little chocolate cookies filled with vanilla cream, like little Oreo balls, heh. And that’s Lipton Apple Tea… so delicious!

Below is the view from my bench where I did my Japanese homework and studied for my History midterm on Thursday. The park is really close to the station where I get off for school, so every 5 minutes I could feel the rumble of the subway going underground.


I’m down to less than 2 months before I leave! I feel like I’ve wasted a lot of this experience, so I’m determined to make the most of the rest of my time here. One thing that has really helped is that I gave a trial lesson to a potential English student this morning and I have another lesson set up for tomorrow. I signed up for two English teaching services as soon as I got here, but gave up on getting students because I hadn’t heard anything for a while. Better late than never, though, right? The income will be much appreciated and I am hoping to improve my teaching skills too.

I am going to try to stay on top of homework better, go out and see more of Tokyo, and update this blog more!! I am homesick and I can’t wait to be back in America, but I don’t want to waste this opportunity.


Kelsey: Been too long

May 16, 2010

Besides being busy with an awesome Golden Week (post on that later, I swear!) and getting a wake up call from my first Japanese exam grade, my computer has had a virus for the past couple of weeks!! I FINALLY got it figured out and now it’s back to normal, so there’s no excuse for not posting, right??

This week was mostly uneventful, but it went extremely fast! Each day led up to my second Japanese exam on Friday, and I think I did pretty okay on it.

Last night I went out with my friends to see a Beatles cover band in Roppongi. It was so fun!! The band played half-hour sets with about 20 minutes of break in between. There were request cards at each table, and all of the drinks were named after Beatles songs. I had a “Yellow Submarine,” my friends had “Strawberry Fields” and “Here Comes the Sun.” The only downside was that it was reeeeeeally expensive. Drinks were about $10 each, admission was $17, and there was a 10% service charge (service charges are kind of rare, and you never have to tip in Japan, in case you didn’t know).

I think I mentioned before my disdain for the Metro closing down around midnight. Why can’t there just be one train an hour all night? I don’t get it. We left the club at 11:30, what seemed like plenty of time to get back. After deciding on the way to go (or so I thought) we (or at least the other girls and me) booked it down to the platform, and got on one of the last, extremely crowded trains. Unfortunately, all of the guys in our group took their sweet time and ended up way behind us and got on a different car. Long story short: the guys all made it back to Heiwadai, no problem. We girls, however, made it only to Ikebukuro—about five stops short of Heiwadai. So we found ourselves in Ikebukuro at 1 a.m., with the choice of walking or finding a 24 hour karaoke bar, in uncomfortable shoes (because we’re girls), and really hungry (because we’re girls, haha). Also not helping were our friends who made it back, who were gloating because they made it and we didn’t, even though we followed their directions and didn’t even offer to help. Typical “gentlemen.”

After starting to walk the wrong way, Kate said that we should just take a taxi. I agreed immediately. I’ve been terrified that taxis in the city would be suuuuuper expensive, and they are, but we had some advantages:
1. There were three of us to split the cost.
2. We had already made it to Ikebukuro, so it wasn’t far away.
So we hailed a taxi and spared a long night of trying to find our way back. It only ended up being about $10 per person, which really isn’t that bad. But it definitely made for an expensive night!!


Kelsey: in a bit of a slump

April 21, 2010

After the initial glamour and excitement of being here wore off (and after classes started, bleh), I finally had to face the reality that I’m not going to be home for a while. Which has been kind of tough.

I have been going out and doing some cool things, at least. Last weekend I went out with Yuki and some of her friends. We had conveyor-belt sushi, then stopped at a coffee shop to hang out, then played billiards and darts at a pool hall. That was really fun, and I’m looking forward to hanging out with them again! Yuki and her friends are all English majors, but they talk to me in Japanese a lot too, which is nice.

The trains stop running completely by 12:30, which is strange because even in the Twin Cities the buses run all night. It sucks to have to cut your night short sometimes, but it’s also nice to come home at a decent time. Jeez, I’m such an obaasan (grandma, lol). If you miss the train, there are 24 hour karaoke bars/internet cafes that you can crash at. For about 1000 yen you get unlimited drinks (juice/pop/etc.) and a private computer area for the night. It’s a nice alternative to wandering around in the streets all night or trying to walk home, but I still don’t want to take my chances.

Anyway, yesterday I decided to get out of this slump I’ve been in. Two of the things that have been hard are dealing with the lack of personal space and my constant self-consciousness of being a gaijin (foreigner, literally- outside person). However, I had to realize that yeah, I’m an outsider, and yeah, it’s going to be a while until I’m back home, but this is my one chance to experience life here, so why waste it? If someone looks down on me for being a foreigner, there are 12,789,999 more people who might not mind me being here. So, I’ve made some plans for the next couple of days, and I’m really going to try hard to make the most of my time!

My schedule for school kind of rocks in that I don’t have class on Wednesdays, and I only have one on Mondays and Thursdays. So, today was my day off, my mini-weekend! I took advantage of the beautiful weather (mid-70’s and sunny) and took the JR to Ueno Park. I went to the National Museum of Nature and Science in Tokyo, which was a great museum with a lot of really cool exhibits! I hadn’t been to a science museum in a long time, so it was neat to look at the exhibits relating to my area of study for the past 4 years…

After the museum, I bought some ice cream and took a stroll through Ueno Park. It is a really beautiful place, I will definitely have to go back again! There is a zoo, a lot of museums, and a shrine, so there’s definitely a lot to see!

Here are some pictures via Facebook.


Kelsey: さくら さくら のやま も さと も (Sakura, sakura, noyama mo sato mo)

April 8, 2010

The title of this post is from a Japanese folk song about the start of spring, sakura being the cherry blossoms that are blooming everywhere right now. Consequently, I could not get it out of my head today. The last time I was in Japan with Measure 5 (my orchestra from high school), we played an arrangement of it.

Today I walked around the entire Imperial Palace area of Chiyoda, Tokyo. It is the imperial palace, the residence of the Emperor and his family. It is smack dab in the middle of Tokyo and is just a huge wooded/garden area with moats and castles and museums. It is also about a mile from my school. When I first saw the area map of the Yotsuya area (where Sophia is) I was in awe of how there could be such a huge area of green in the middle of the city. I’m glad I got to see it today, but unfortunately the palace grounds and museums were closed by the time I got there. It will definitely be worth going back another time.

I will soon find out the results of my placement test and we have an advising appointment. I’ve picked out my classes and I am very excited to start learning more about Japanese society in a classroom setting.

I feel like I always have really good things to write about when I’m out, but as soon as I get home I can’t think of anything to put here. I would like to have theme-like posts about certain aspects of Japanese society instead of full synopses of my days here, so I’ll have to start taking notes throughout the day so I can write something interesting later. I get home after hours of being out and walking around everywhere and I just want to sit, so it’s hard to do anything worthwhile except mindless things like upload pictures on Facebook.


Kelsey: Ikebukuro/Nerima adventures

April 6, 2010

Today was great! I got a lot accomplished, and at the same time saw a lot of sites and new places. I think I only need to get lost walking back to Azalea House a few more times before I know the entire Heiwadai area like the back of my hand.

At 8:30 a.m., Priscilla, Anna, Claudia and I left for Nerima City Hall to get our Alien Registration Cards. Nerima is one of the 23 wards of the Tokyo metropolitan area, and Heiwadai, where I live, is one of the neighborhoods of Nerima. It’s kind of like Nerima is the county and Heiwadai is a town within it. At the City Hall, we had to submit a form and our passport to get registered. Then Priscilla and I went to the post office, where I mailed a note to my grandparents and exchanged some money. It was exciting to do everything on my own and in Japanese!

Next we took the train to Ikebukuro, where Priscilla had open a savings account at CitiBank (“Shitty Bank” in Japanese, no joke). We wandered around the building, which had 10 stories of different stores like HMV and Claire’s, then ate at “Maku” (McDonald’s). The place was packed, but an elderly gentleman got up to give us his seat, and said “Have a nice time.” as he was leaving. It was very sweet.

After some more wandering in Ikebukuro, we decided to go back to the train station to get our student commuter passes. At the Tokyo Metro ticket office, after a little bit of confusion from my broken Japanese, I got my pass! It cost 12270 yen, which is about $130, for 3 months. The way the passes work is I pick a route from Heiwadai to Sophia, and with the pass I can go anywhere in between that route for free. The station clerk told me I picked a bad route because I go through Shinjuku station, but it is worth the extra time to get to school because Shinjuku is within a really good area for sightseeing, nightlife, shopping, etc.

At this point, we decided to head back to Heiwadai. We first went to a store called Life, which is pretty much like Walmart only so, so much better. The food section of the store was amazing. All the produce was pristine and very tasty looking. I bought a 6 pack of ramen noodles and some bananas for under 400 yen, and then some stuff for my room in the other sections of the store.

We were on our way back to Azalea when we ran into some people who were going to Donkihote, so we decided to suck it up and go with them. This store was INSANE and we’re going back tomorrow. It was like as if someone had crammed a Super Walmart, Spencers, toy store, and arcade into 6 floors. I can’t describe it any better than that… but I took a lot of pictures.

Priscilla and I left and headed back to Azalea, when genious me said, “Hey! I know how to get back from the Heiwadai library. It’s a shortcut!” We got fairly far back to Azalea, and to be fair, it was a pretty good shortcut, but then I second-guessed myself and decided to ask for directions. We stopped at a little tobacco/convenience store and talked to the owners in Japanese about where we were going. They were so very nice and helpful and just super adorable. I’m glad we stopped. I bought some Pocky as a thank you to them, and Puri-chan and I finally made it back!

I feel like I’ve walked a million miles since I arrived here, and the rest of the week sounds like it will be just as much!


Kelsey: Arrival in Tokyo

April 5, 2010

My plan was to sleep on the plane in order to get used to the time change, but you probably know how that went. I ended up watching some movies and TV shows on the screen at my seat. I also played Tetris, because the touch screen came with a little remote/game controller. Haha! After 13 hours, we were on the ground in Tokyo!!

After going through immigration, getting our luggage, and customs inspections, Seth, the other student studying at Sophia University, and I finally made it through the overly dramatic door to the arrival gate to meet the students Sophia brought to pick us up. Yuki was my guide, a 2nd year student majoring in English. Consequently, her English was much better than my Japanese, so we defaulted to that for the trip to my apartment. So begins the really bad day of arrival…

First, we dropped off my suitcases at the “baggage drop-off service” Sophia had suggested in the pre-departure notes. Since it wasn’t specified, I thought it meant Sophia would have someone drive our bags to our living arrangements for us. Instead, it meant that I would pay about $40 to have my suitcases arrive… the next day. Now this wouldn’t have been that bad if we didn’t have to bring our own bedding, but my pillow, blanket, towels, etc. were in those suitcases. I spent the 2 hour train ride to my apartment angry that I hadn’t insisted on bringing at least one of my bags with. The train stations were really busy, though, so I suppose it wouldn’t have worked very well.

After 4 trains and a 20 minute walk in Heiwadai trying to find my apartment, we arrived at the Azalea House. my home for the next four months. I checked in at the office and found out, surprise! that I had underpaid my rent when I sent the bank transfer from TCF (TCF was horrible when I tried to do this, they couldn’t tell me an exchange rate and I had to just estimate what it would be when the money was transferred. Ugh.). Also, as I was warned, it would take about 2 weeks to get internet set up in our rooms, and it is super expensive. Bummer.

Yuki left after taking me to my room, and since I had nothing to unpack I immediately grabbed my laptop and went to the lounge where everyone else was taking advantage of the wifi. I sent out an email telling everyone I had arrived and then went to “sleep.” Even though I put the heater on full blast and I was wearing a sweatshirt with my pajamas, I was FREEZING!!! I tried to use my coat as a blanket, but laying on a mattress with no pillow while shivering like a mad woman made it impossible to sleep. I dozed for a couple of hours, than sat awake for 20 minutes before watching Breakfast at Tiffany’s at 2 in the morning. I dozed for a little longer, but at 5 a.m. I decided it was time to get up.

Day 1, and holy smokes, what a day it was!
I took a shower and got dressed, then went to the lounge again where another girl was already on her laptop. It turns out nobody else could sleep because they were freezing too and their luggage hadn’t arrived either. It made me feel a little better knowing I wasn’t the only one in that predicament.

At 8:30 a group of us left for Sophia, as we had orientation and our placement test. At orientation we received a bag with a huge stack of papers and information books, and a laundry list of paperwork we as exchange students had to complete, as well as information about registering for classes. A guy came in late and sat down next to me, and it turns out he is from St. Thomas University in St. Paul! How coincidental! After orientation, we were split into groups and take to go eat lunch. Yuki was the guide for my group, so that was nice to see her again. She took us to the cafeteria for lunch, and I bought a yummmmy bowl of the special donburi, a dish that is a meat and sauce over rice.

We were getting ready to leave from lunch, and the thing that I had been dreading the most since March 5 happened: I felt my ring and the middle diamond had fallen out. I looked around on the floor and was absolutely heartbroken, as the cafeteria was super crowded and we were leaving and I just couldn’t see it anywhere. It was absolutely horrible!! Read the rest of this entry ?


Kelsey: 九日!!

March 23, 2010

I leave in NINE days!! I have all of my paperwork in, I’ve received my visa, and I (hopefully) have saved enough money so I don’t starve. Right now is just an awkward period where I’m seeing friends, coworkers, and family for the last time and I just don’t know what to think.

Although it has been nearly 18 months since I decided to study abroad in Japan and began the application process, the preparations seemed to drag on. In order to help out future Sophia Bilateral Exchange students, I’ll start from the very beginning.

The way the Bilateral Exchange Program works is you switch places with a student at the school you want to study at for a semester or year. It is the cheapest way to study abroad, as the program fee is simply your regular tuition charge that you pay to your home university. If you are willing to plan all of the details of your trip on your own, you will save a lot of cash.

Because the Bilateral Exchange is so cheap, it is also extremely competitive. An applicant must first be nominated by their home university, then be accepted to the university you will be going to. All of this planning began way back in the Fall of 2008. I decided to try to be nominated to go to Hiroshima University, so I gathered recommendation letters and transcripts, filled out the application, and wrote my personal statement. I submitted my application in December, then began the first of many agonizing waits.

At the end of February I received a phone call that I had been nominated to go to Sophia University in Tokyo. I was a little upset that I didn’t get to go to Hiroshima, but I was happy to be nominated for anything at that point! I scrambled to submit all of my confirmation materials, do an online orientation, and come up with $500 for the deposit, all of which was due less than two weeks from being told I was accepted.

After that I heard nothing until the middle of April, when the orientation for all of the students nominated for exchanges at Japanese universities occurred. This was not very helpful, since it was an entire year before I would be going and I still didn’t know anything for certain. Nevertheless, I got to meet the nominated students (less than 10 total for 3 different schools!) and received some advice about the trip. When I expressed my fear that I wouldn’t get accepted to the school, I was told that they had never nominated a student who didn’t get accepted, but there was always a chance it wouldn’t happen. Read the rest of this entry ?

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