Lera's in Japan, living the dream, studying Japanese, exploring Nagoya and taking generally ridiculous pictures while attempting to try every single drink that Japanese vending machines have to offer.
summerflairs asked: Hi :D! I know it's been awhile since you've updated your blog (for obvious reasons haha) but I just discovered it as I was researching Nanzan University, since I'm currently filling out an application to attend the Fall 2014 CJS program [EXCITED SQUAWKING] I just wanted to thank you for putting so much time and effort into documenting your experience - it's by far the most detailed account I've come across, your photos are gorgeous and your writing style makes reading everything so fun!! ^^
In an unsurprising twist, it’s taken me three months to write a reply to these asks that I don’t get notifications about on my regular tumblr. Sorry about that! I’m so glad you found this blog and so sorry that it hasn’t gotten an update in a while! (Though, it’s for obvious reasons, as you say).
I’m so excited for you and how you’re going to the CJS program this fall, that’s so great! You’re going to love every second of it and then maybe hate a few seconds of it with the studying and the oral exams, haha. Let me know if you have any questions or need any advice!
And to respond to your second ask about homestays; do it! So much fun, so rewarding if you really want that full Japanese culture experience, I cannot recommend them enough!
onna-spy asked: wow thank you so much for the detailed reply! i recently came back from studying abroad in florence for a year... and while I enjoyed it.. it was tough learning the language because a lot of italians spoke english. so i'm excited to hear that immersion in japan is a lot more intense. I'm also considering choosing nanzan because of the offered homestay. How is that so far?
Honestly had no idea this ask was sitting in my ask box… whoops! xD
Learning language is always tough, though I feel like with more European countries, you’re typically at a disadvantage in language immersion because you can interpret so many things into English on your own because of cognates and such. Japan is, needless to say, a little bit different in that respect.
I actually had two different home stays. When year-long programs, families are only required to keep a student for one semester at a time. If you get along really well with your family, they can opt to keep you around for a year, but most like to switch up students.
Personally speaking, I loved my home stay experience. It’s easier to have a home away from home, and as a bit of a home-body, I welcomed that sort of atmosphere. Home-cooked meals, sometimes children or pets, and your own room. Families differ, of course. My first host family was incredibly easy-going and didn’t quite mesh with the typical Japanese family atmosphere (I didn’t have a host-dad, and my host-mom actually worked from home a lot and didn’t like doing the whole ‘house wife’ thing). My second was very cookie-cutter Japanese. Working dad, stay-at-home mom, 2 kids.
Each situation is different, but each has their own rewards. I’ve heard of families taking their host-kids out on vacation with them, celebrating American holidays, driving them around if need be… some people like the feeling of having a home away from home. Some like to experience just what it means to live like the average Japanese person. Others are more independent and are fine just doing it on their own and staying in a dorm. Again, just depends on what you want to get out of your time in Japan :3
onna-spy asked: Hello! I saw your study abroad on Nanzan university while surfing tags and I thought they were very interesting! I'm considering going to Nanzan University as well.. and I'd really love to hear more about it. What are the advantages and disadvantages to living in Nagoya than instead Tokyo? Were you able to interact a lot with the Japanese students in the dorms?? & how hard was it to pass the entrance exam (because I have no prior study in Japanese)?
That’s awesome that you’re considering going to Nanzan! I may be speaking from a biased perspective, but as someone who lived in Nagoya and visited Tokyo, there had never been a question for me of which city I preferred. In terms of advantages and disadvantages, you sort of have to consider your priorities. What are you looking to get out of your trip to Japan?
Nagoya is a city for people who want complete immersion to language and culture. And by complete immersion, I mean very little catering to your foreigner self. People on Nagoya mostly don’t speak English and are not as used to foreigners; you’re interesting to them and will be stared at. It’s not a grand tourist location, but it has everything you would want in a Japanese city; awesome restaurants, a huge shopping district, karaoke, a great great metro system. It’s still fairly accessible to most locations you’d want to visit (i.e., Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto). There’s the world’s biggest planetarium to visit, and even a theme park nearby. Barring a few rare instances, people in Nagoya are friendly and open, and the city is beautiful and lively and clean.
On the other hand, it is a little tough to be the sore thumb in a city of Japanese people. If you want to be in a fairly metropolitan area with much more famous sites, then Nagoya probably isn’t the place for you. If you think getting through days with more Japanese than English is tough or intimidating, Nagoya probably isn’t the place for you (not that you couldn’t handle it, I say you totally could, even with no Japanese.)
Tokyo is thebigcity. The one most people think about when it comes to Japan. It has the Ghibli museum, it has Tokyo Disney, it has the goddamn Gundam Cafe. It has everything you would ever want from Japanese culture, with some famous sights to boot. And it’s HUGE, so you most likely will never get bored. Because of the massive amount of tourism that occurs there, foreigners don’t stick out in Tokyo; most won’t bat an eyelash at you. There’s fairly much more Western culture-y things there, because I honestly felt like I was in Philadelphia or New York at times, but hey, you get Harajuku.
That being said, you may get exposed to more of the horror stories that people hear about Japan, like overfull trains and people calling you a ‘gaijin’ (not that we didn’t get that in Nagoya, but it’s far more common in Tokyo). And it is HUGE; maneuverability is rough, both with distance and the sheer amount of people. Things are more expensive. And for the most part, you could probably get by with little Japanese, which could be a good or bad thing, depending on how much you wanna learn (barring your studies).
Both expose you to Japan. Both are cities, both are wonderful places, and both, most likely, will make you happy to be there. Almost every location in Japan has signs in English and ways to make everything accessible to you, so speaking from personal experience, I can assure you that you would thrive and survive in both.
In terms of Nanzan itself, I can’t speak for dorm life personally because I chose to do a home-stay instead, but from what I heard, there is plenty of interaction with Japanese students if you work for it. All dorm rooms are guaranteed a Japanese roommate, but you will have to make an effort to speak to Japanese students. Join a club, go to conversation hours! Really, the only plus to dorm life, in my opinion, is a guaranteed group of friends and easier access to campus.
The entrance exam itself isn’t terrible. It progresses with difficulty, so you just keep going until you have to stop. If you haven’t studied it at all, they simply put you in the beginner class and start you off with the basics~. so I wouldn’t worry about that.
I will say for Nanzan that it is a great great greeaaattt school. The english-learning building is brand new and lovely; the other classroom buildings are older, but kinda make the learning all the more authentic. There’s a lot of great classes to choose from, a delicious cafeteria/combini combo, and you get shoved right into the middle of a Japanese student body. Plenty of school events and festivals and most students love to see you about and chat with you. The location is green and pleasant and it’s super easy to get to by metro.
… okay, so I admit, I may be extremely biased, but I really do recommend Nagoya and Nanzan to everyone I know. It was a wonderful experience that I wish I could repeat again. But again, no matter what you decide, you’re going to Japan and you’re gonna love it either way.
mikeinsendai asked: Hello, just wanted to say your latest video inspired me to write my latest blog post :). I missed Japan a ton when I first came home, too. Do you have plans to go back? -Mike
Woah, that’s awesome~! Glad it could do some good aside from boosting my own narcissism.
Hah, likewise, I am missing Japan something terrible right now as I get used to living in America. And rural Pennsylvania, of all places, is starkly different to the cities of Japan.
I do, actually, have plans to go back to Japan! I’m not entirely sure in what form yet, however. JET is an option, as well as going straight to working in ECC or the like. Or perhaps I’ll apply for grad school. Either way, Japan is definitely in my future! :D
In terms of this blog, which was used to document my adventures in Japan, what am I planning on doing with it?
I’m going to keep it active. There are still plenty of pictures that I never posted on here that I would like to put up. There are going to be times when I need to vent or reminisce. Or perhaps put up my progress of studying Japanese by myself this summer. Either way, I’m far too fond of this blog to let it go. I’ll also definitely still gladly answer questions about anything in Japan, Nagoya, or Nanzan, especially since I have an advice vlog forthcoming. That being said.
To everyone who followed me, reblogged me, commented, messaged me. I’m glad you guys enjoyed the nonsense that I put up and found interest in it! It was very flattering and humbling. So again, thank you!
I haven’t even been back in the US a day and I’m already missing Japan something terrible. Can already tell that this summer is going to be a bit of a struggle.
As I type this, i’m sitting in my room. In my host family’s house, in Kasugai. A place that I’ve been living in since January. It’s been my home, my place to do homework, watch Japanese dramas, to learn what everyday life in Japan has been about. It’s been a place I’ve adapted to, just as Japan, as a country, has.
I’ve now been living in Japan for nine months. My entire junior year has been spent in a completely different country, learning Japanese, meeting new people, learning how to live in a city, how to fend for myself, how to travel, and the like. It’s been quite a ride, from the very first night I came, jet-lagged, delirious, exhausted, shell-shocked in a tiny hotel room with only ten channels, a hard bed, and obnoxious summer heat. To now.
Have I changed? Has this country impacted me in all the ways that people said it would? Yes. Absolutely. Subtly, perhaps not so, but all the same, this country has shaped and molded me just a little bit more, making me both nervous and excited to come home to the states.
Of course, so much of this would not have been possible without all the people I’ve met along the way. My host families, who showed me the ropes of living in Japan, helped me when I needed it most, fed me, laughed with me, and generally tolerated my odd habits and needs. My other study abroad students, who understood the problems of kanji better than anyone would. My teachers, who not only taught me what I needed to know, but helped me understand language in ways I never thought of before. My Japanese friends, who taught me just about everything else, including how to hunt down attractive boys.
Japan has been everything I wanted it to be and more. I have spoken with strangers on trains, I have seen temples plated in gold, sung “We Are!” among other Japanese people in a club, had class canceled due to a typhoon, met a famous ikebana teacher, ran to catch the last train of the night, felt a 3.9 magnitute earthquake, saw trains being canceled due to suicide, onsen, went to the YG Family Concert, built a reputation at a dance club, saw FEM for free, went to the naked man festival, dressed up as a ninja for a day, witnessed rare snow in Nagoya, tasted tomato-flavored, as well as sake-flavored, ice cream, planned a trip to Tokyo, went a baseball game, the One Piece Dome Tour, multiple nomihoudais, and even met a real geisha.
I’ve fallen in love with a city in a way I never knew possible. I have been a citizen of Japan, however brief, and while there have been difficulties, frustrating moments, I have still loved every single second of it. I have done what I came to do, I have checked the list of things to do, and I have just rounded off the best 9 months of my life.
The journey of trying as many drinks as possible in Japan has been a long and arduous one, but someone had to do it, right? I gladly took on such a responsibility, so that others after me did not have to suffer.
But no, seriously, trying 122 different drinks was a ton of fun. Thanks, Japan. I have tasted things I will long for… for years. And others that I wish I could forget forever. From mint milk to strawberry pepsi and chocolate coffee, it’s been a blast.