Good morning everyone! I hope you are all doing well. A lot of interesting things have happened to me over the past two weeks including moving into my homestay parents house, taking placement exams and so on. Sometimes it has been very stressful while others have been amazing! Let’s do a little catch up from the last blog.
I was traveling to various places in Japan before moving down to the seminar house in Osaka, Hirakata-shi. I took the Shinkansen from Tokyo down to Osaka where I had to travel to two other stations via subway.
If you are planning on studying abroad at Kansai Gaidai don’t be embarrassed about asking simple questions. At the first subway at Osaka station I was standing looking at the subway map for like 10 minutes trying to find Hirakata-shi. I asked a young couple, who were so friendly, where Hirakata-shi eki was and they pointed out that I had to go to another station to board a special train. They even brought me to the kaisatsuguchi (ticket gate)! Well now the hard part is over…wrong. I literally stood at the train platform trying to decipher jukugo (kanji compounds) on the signs and trains for 10 minutes. On my specific line, three different trains came through and they all looked the same. I let 4 trains pass after my fruitless efforts of reading kanji and I just decided to jump in the next train. Luckily, I got in the right one because we stopped at my station I needed. Getting from one train to the next at this station was very simple. I have to give a big thanks to Takashi who is a study abroad student from Kansai Gaidai currently studying at USF. If you are reading this, maybe you already know him. He had his friend meet me at the station to take me to the seminar house. That took a great deal of stress off me! From the station to the seminar house it was about a 10 minute bus ride. I checked into the seminar house and was given a tour around the facility and finally brought to my room. I had 2 other roommates but they both showed up later in the week.
I really enjoyed staying at the dorm for the first week. If you are planning on coming to Kansai Gaidai be prepared to eat very minimal for the first week unless you plan on dinning out every night. Unfortunately, the dorm would not allow us to use the ovens which limited my meals to mainly microwavable rice, ramen and toast. Oh, I forgot to mention…they also do not allow you to use their utensils. Just be prepared to buy your own bowl, cup, chopsticks, etc. I bought a lot of bananas because that was my main breakfast food source while I was there. For lunch, I usually at ate at one the the Kansai Gaidai cafeterias. You seriously can’t beat the prices they offer. I usually order the カツ丼カレーライス(katsudon curry & rice) which costs a whole 350 yen (3 USD) and it is a big plate. After leaving Kansai Gaidai in the afternoon, I usually stopped at a grocery store called Top World. It was not so expensive and they had a large selection of goods to choose from.
Orientation week was pretty straight forward. Follow your schedule and you will have no complications. I will say that orientation week was really fun though. In the first four days of orientation week I made around 20 Japanese friends. I was slightly shocked at the number of students at Kansai Gaidai majoring in English. Probably 15 of the 20 students I met were majoring in English. When I meet Japanese people I use Japanese all of the time when talking to them. I feel that doing so will steadily improve my Japanese communication abilities. Of course, if they have any English questions I will help them. One of my friends who also came from USF only speaks Japanese to students and even me. A tip I will give to future study abroad students is to not be shy. All of the Japanese students at Kansai Gaidai want to speak to foreigners and it is very easy to tell which ones do. I would suggest sitting in the study abroad student lounge because there are always a bunch of Japanese students that come in and sit at a table by themself and just use their cellphone while looking around the room. Find that courage and go start a conversation!
On February 1st I meet my homestay family and I couldn’t be happier! Actually, I was very nervous because I had asked some students who have been here since last year what home-stay is like and have received many mixed comments. My homestay family consists of a Mother and two highschool boys. Of course the first meeting was strange, I think they always are! After we talked about the household rules and regulations, we left for her house. We first pulled into an apartment complex parking lot and I figured she must live in one of the rooms but I was wrong. I got my bags and we started walking towards a road next to a large Japanese wooden gate and then we entered a sliding door. I was very surprised at the size of the house, not to mention that the Japanese style garden in front of it adds a nice touch! So my life for the next 115 days will be in this house:
I have always heard Japanese people complain how much Americans eat but honestly I have a hard time finishing all of my food at her house every night. So far every dish has been excellent! The first night I was here she invited two of her friends over and we had okonomiyaki and a ton of other food. I brought some omiyage (gifts) from Florida and presented them to the family after her friends had gone. I bought a mini calendar, magnet, various snacks and keychains. All of the gifts were very small but they seemed to enjoy receiving them. The only downfall about my homestay is the distance to school. On average it takes me an hour to get to school. 10 minutes from the house to the bus stop, 15 minutes from the bus to the train station, 12 mins from the station to the station closest to my school and then a good 25 minute walk from that station to my school. This time will also varies with weather. But I don’t mind the commute that much now. I bought a Japanese mystery novel the other day so I usually try to read that on the bus or train.
The first week of classes was very easy. They are mainly reviewing and talking about what we will be doing in the class for the remainder of the semester. I was placed in Japanese three speaking and reading & writing. However, I did not want to be in level three because I already knew most of the information so I decided to test up to level 4 this past Friday. The listening part of the level 4 test was pretty hard but I understood all of the reading and writing. I found out on Saturday that I had passed the level four examination and I was now moved to a new speaking and reading&writing class. I was very happy because I can already tell that this class will be pushing me the whole semester to keep studying.
Well today is February 10th and apparently I had a test in Level 4 reading and writing that I was unaware of because of my recent change in level. I walked into class to be met with a 3 page test mainly on translating hiragana to kanji compounds, grammatical structures and a 1 page essay…yayy ;( However, I think I did pretty well…I hope.
February 11th: Well, I just checked my email and found a message from my sensei. I Passed! I was actually pretty surprised because I wasn’t able to study for it and it was difficult. However, I have noticed that since I have been in Japan, I have been able to recognize far more Kanji than I could while I was in Florida. Today is also a holiday over here so we did not have school today. I am just spending the day studying and doing homework for various classes. I hope all of you have a great week!