Thursday, March 26, 2015

Darcie and Hanabi in Japan!

Hello everyone! My name is Darcie Knight and I am a student at Seinan Gakuin University in Fukuoka Japan. Fukuoka is a large city located on the island of Kyushu, Japan's southern island. I am working hard trying to learn Japanese language and culture. My dragon has been learning along with me, her name is 花火 or Hanabi, which means firework in Japanese (it is actually my favorite Japanese word). 

Hanabi studying Japanese.  She is trying her best!

Living in Japan has been fun but it also has its difficulties. Fukuoka is a really good city to live in if you are a student. The cost of living is not as high as other places in Japan and transportation around the city is easy to navigate. There is plenty to see and do in just this one part of Japan. Once I become better at Japanese, I feel like Fukuoka would be a place I could live in again someday. Seinan is a great college to go to. I live in an international dorm with people from all over the world. I have made so many new friends from different countries who same similar passions about Japan. Classes here are also interesting. I take Japanese four times a week and also other cultural classes such as Japanese history, traditional theater and dance, and a class about manga and anime. I am even taking judo, which is super tough but also fun! 

I have managed to go on so many adventures since I came to Japan in January! My first big trip was to Tokyo during a break in February. Tokyo is so different from Fukuoka. It is bigger, more complex, and filled with a lot more people from all over the world, like New York City or Paris. I was overwhelmed with just how many people there! I went to many famous places in Tokyo. I saw the Tokyo sky tree and went to the largest fish markets in Japan (I think it's also one of the largest in the world) to eat real, fresh sushi. 

Sushi at Tsukiji fish market, Tokyo

I went to Akihabara twice, since it was one of my number one places to visit in Japan. I am a huge lover of Japanese anime, and Akihabara is the center for it, so I spent hours running around and collecting as much anime merchandise as possible (maybe even a little too much). I also went to Shibuya, which reminded me of Times Square, and visited the imperial palace. Tokyo was an interesting and a fun experience, however, I would never live in such a big and confusing city. I actually prefer Fukuoka. 

My next big adventure was a school trip my college organized for international students and Japanese students to explore the island of Kyushu. I loved this trip because I got to see more of the island that I live and study on. On the trip, we went to a pottery place out in the country and painted our own plates. We went to Yufuin in Oita prefecture, which was near the mountains, and visited the crowded tourist area near a popular lake. I ate ice-cream made from the local limes, which is one of the foods the area is known for, and saw a bakery that was a recreation of the bread shop in the movie Kiki's Delivery Service! We then stayed the night at a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, in Kumamoto. I got to wear a yukata and have a really amazing meal with everyone in a very Japanese setting.

Group photo of students from the Kyushu trip wearing yukata at a ryokan in Kumamoto

I also went to an onsen or hot spring for the first time. The onsen was my favorite part, it was surreal sitting in an outdoor spring looking up at mountains. The only thing was I had to be naked in front of a bunch of other women for the first time in my life, but I got over it since onsen is something you just have to experience when coming to Japan. The next day we went back to Oita prefecture and visited an historical town called Hita Mameda Machi, famous for being a government center during the edo period and for producing the Japanese dolls seen on Girls Day. While here, I somehow ended up on the news! I was interviewed while viewing an old exhibit of Japanese dolls, and later while eating lunch, I saw myself on TV for the first time! It was shocking. On the last part of the trip we went to Dazaifu, a famous shrine where people come to pray to do well in school and their studies. I hope being there helped me a little for my future studies in Japan. The Kyushu trip was a great memory for me, not only did I get to see more of the island but I bonded with the other international students and made new Japanese friends that also came on the trip. So far, it has been one of my favorite adventures here in Japan.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Brittany and Callum in Strathclyde, Scotland!

Hiyah everyone! I’m Brittany and I am studying this semester at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland with my little dragon Callum. It is hard to believe we’ve already been here for eight weeks.  I am so happy that I chose Strathclyde Uni. It’s in the city centre meaning there’s great night life, plenty to do, and you can see street performers on any given day. The international student community here is extremely close and I’ve yet to meet a mean Scottish person. So far the experience has been amazing. I’ve made several friends, visited sites in Glasgow and Edinburgh. I have participated in a two day tour to the Isle of Skye and the Highlands, where we saw castles and breath-taking landscapes.

Most Recently, Callum and I travelled to Dublin, Ireland (somewhere I’ve always wanted to go) for St. Patrick’s Day weekend! We stayed at Isaac’s Hostel (I highly recommend it) for two nights in a 16 person room. Although it looked like a scene from Annie, it ended up being a lot of fun and incredibly inexpensive. 

Flight to Dublin!  Don't be afraid of Ryan Air.
The first day my flatmates, Callum, and I attempted to adventure the city with 6 other girls which we quickly realized was a terrible idea. I definitely recommend traveling with no more than 5 people in a group or it just gets too difficult to keep everyone together and happy. We spent the day wondering around the city centre, mainly along the river and the famous Temple Bar District. Later that night we checked out the Dublin nightlife. We found a random pub called “Bad Ass” (I kid you not) where there was live music, dancing, a bachelor party of men dressed as leprechauns.…to say the least it was a great night. 

Strathclyde girls take Dublin! (I'm third in the front row)

The next day we did 8 hours more of site seeing. We went to an Irish restaurant, Dublin castle, various cathedrals, Ireland’s oldest pub, and visited the Guinness store house which is really impressive! The Guinness store house is about 7 stories high and from the top floor you can see everything in the city. The only things I regretted not seeing while there was the Book of Kells, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral but I know I will visit again in the future. 

Callum tastes his first Guinness!

Callum and I have been bit by the travel bug and can’t wait to visit more places! For spring break in April we have decided on a 10 day trip to Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin, and Prague ending with 12 hours in Brussels. It’s going to be a tiring 10 days and we’ll probably hate each other by the end but it will be well worth it. If you are thinking of applying to Strathclyde Uni, go for it! Don’t believe what everyone says about the weather. Yes it is quite chilly still but since being here I’ve only seen it rain a handful of times. I still have so much to knock off my Study Abroad bucket list and I hope the next 3 months here will be just as unforgettable as the first 2. Cheers!!

Brittany Jones
University of Strathclyde
Glasgow, Scotland
United Kingdom