Mid-Semester Break (Part 1): Copland Hot Springs

Hello!

I have finally adjusted to life here at Otago and have been enjoying every moment of it! The last couple of weeks before mid-semester break was the most stressed I’ve been here because of mid-terms. However, it still did not compare to the stress I feel at Linfield. This was mostly because my mid-terms here were spread out and the beaches here are just a short 10-minute drive from campus which makes for the perfect study break.

Luckily, the mid-semester break occurred right after my mid-terms. Most people took advantage of this break and went on trips to Australia or some of the other Pacific islands such as Fiji or Tonga. Instead of doing this, I decided to do a trip with the tramping club. Tramping is a term they use here in New Zealand to describe backpacking. This mid-semester break, the tramping club planned a five-day trip to the Copland Hot Springs. The trip included transportation, breakfast for all mornings, dinner for most nights, and accommodation at two hostels. All of this only cost about NZ$180. In total, there were about fifty of us. I would highly suggest going on a trip with the tramping club here since it is a mix of both kiwis and international students and you definitely get your money’s worth.

Because the Copland Hot Springs is located on the west coast of the South Island, the drive there made us cross over Haast Pass, one of the most beautiful areas in New Zealand. While driving over the Pass, we stopped at the Blue Pools where some of the braver people jumped in the water and various scenic points.

Blue Pools Walk
Blue Pools Walk

The first night we camped at Lake Paringa where we were separated into groups for group dinners. My team leader, Kevin, made us Pasta Carbonara. Though we tried not to be biased, everyone in my group believed that we had the best dinner out of everyone at the campsite and from then on, we referred to our group as “Team Carbonara”. The morning after, we awoke under the fly nets to dew on the grass and a wonderful view of the lake. I think one of my most favorite things about camping has been arriving at the campsite when it’s too dark to see anything and then waking up to the morning light and seeing just how beautiful it is.

Camping at Lake Paringa
Camping at Lake Paringa

From Lake Paringa, we then set off to the start of the Copland Track. The Copland Track is about 11 miles one way. This was my first tramping experience and within the first five minutes, my shoulders were already sore from my backpack. We started the track singing to popular tunes until we realized that we were all out breath by the end of “Bohemian Rapsody”. Despite the pain and the 5 hours of walking, the views we saw were worth all of it. What’s more, at the end of the hike we were greeted by the steaming hot pools and a sunset over the mountains.

A few miles into the track!!
A few miles into the track!!
Copland Hot Springs

After the hot springs, we were lucky to stay in a hostel near Mahinapua Beach and lake!!

Mahinapua Beach
Mahinapua Beach

The tramping trip also included a stop at Franz Josef Glacier and Arthur’s Pass :))

Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef Glacier
Arthur's Pass
Arthur’s Pass

The first part of my mid-semester break was simply breathtaking (literally) and the people on my trip made it worthwhile 🙂

Best,

Mehana 🙂

Episode 3: Host Families

Like many other programs, while studying abroad in Vienna, you live with host families. These host families can range from single mothers or fathers to families with children or you could even be living with grandparents! Some families even have other host students like Thomas’s. But either way, living with a host family is an amazing experience.

“I have really enjoyed getting to know my host mother. At my host family I am not the only international student, I have other students living with me. One from England, Japan and Latvia.” – Thomas Foy

For example, my host mom is self employed after retiring, with two kids and three grandkids. She is absolutely amazing! While living with a host family I have had many opportunities to grow as a person, and its only one month into the trip! Many of us see our host families everyday and therefore have the ability to speak with in german which helps  It is really an amazing experience. My host mom is big into fashion and all things Vienna. Sometimes she’ll give me tips on where to go and what to do. She typically gives me less touristy options and more Viennese options which has helped me acclimate to the city.

Each host family gives you breakfast, which lets be honest, is amazing! The breakfast isn’t your typical American breakfast of milk and cereal. You usually have bread with all sorts of toppings including marmalade, meat, cheese, tomatoes and even cucumbers! While living with my host mom I have had a different type of bread every day! Ana’s host family gives her a little piece of home every morning with an Oregon coffee mug. Along with breakfast you get one home-cooked dinner a week. Most host families take this time to share Viennese meals with you. For example, Thomas’s host mom makes a homemade Apfelstrudel  (Apple Strudel) during his dinners. And if you enjoy sweet dumplings then a Germknödel is just for you! These are dumplings usually filled with a fruit marmalade and taste AMAZING.

“My host family is very social and have introduced me to a lot of local events in Vienna. They are very sweet, always making sure I have everything I need and I also get to practice my German with them!” – Ana Alfaro

Overall living with a host family is wonderful and great for living in such a big city. The locations of each host family varies throughout the city. Thomas lives in the city center, while Vanessa lives near the Donau River. Michaela and I both live in the sixth district however, she is right across from the Naschmarkt and I am right next to a very popular shopping street. The locations provide everyone with so many great opportunities to explore the city. Even the location of the Institute is amazing. It is located right across from the Opera which is right in the center of the city. The institute is about a five minute ubahn ride away from everything! We’re basically located in Vienna’s 5th Avenue.

“My host mom is very active. she works from home but goes out during the day on her bike and takes her dog along with her everywhere. I also love hanging out with my host dog, her name is Adda.” – Michaela Adams

Everyone should experience living with a host family and I am so grateful to be experiencing it now. With only being a little bit over a month into this trip, I have grown so much as a person while living with my host mother. I can’t wait to see what the next three months have in store!

Auf Wiedersehen!

Melissa Rockow

From English aiding to the driest desert in the world

September started in celebration. It’s Chile’s national pride month, with the actual independence day being the 18th. But here, it’s not only about the day; Chilean independence is present for the entire month and it is shown by hanging flags in front of every house and business, going out with friends on the weekends and eating an incredible amount of asado.

Aside from el dieciocho, Mel and I have started aiding English classes at both the Universidad del Bío-Bío and La Virgen del Carmen elementary school in a neighboring community. Both age groups have been so eager to learn more about the United States and our lives back home, but some of the questions they’ve posed have made me think more about where I come from.

Mel and I at recess with the 6th grade class
Mel and I at recess with the 6th grade class
With the 3rd graders
With the 3rd graders

One student at the university said he feels like the US is more advanced than Latin America when it comes to things like security, education and healthcare. But has he not seen any news about school shootings, or social policy rollbacks? Some elementary school students asked me about my feelings about the Trump administration. Are all 3rd graders this aware of international politics? My host brother and his friends have asked me if I consider Chile to be a third world country, but do they think poverty is nonexistent in the US?

What I’ve gathered from these conversations is that many people here seem to be under the impression that the United States is not only the land of the free but also the land of the rich and the ingenuitive. Comparing the way I perceive my own home country with the way other people of the world do is something I’ve never been able to do before, and it has made me think more about the global reputation the US has established for itself.

Interacting with people from different walks of life has been unlike anything I’ve ever done. You guys have to remember, I’m from a 3,000-person town in central Idaho, so before this experience I hadn’t been exposed to this many people from other countries.

Mel and I traveled north to the driest desert in the world the first weekend of September: San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. There we perused the streets of the little pueblo, hiked to the peak of La Valle de la Luna (which rivals the Grand Canyon, by the way), and swam in the saltwater in Las Lagunas Escondidas. We met people from Brazil, Argentina, France, Germany, Belgium, England, Ireland and Scotland. We ate empanadas and listened to reggaetón by the campfire at our hostel. Although we were only there for the weekend, I saw so many things I never thought I’d get the opportunity to see.

San Pedro de Atacama town center
San Pedro de Atacama town center
Mel and I overlooking the valley
Mel and I overlooking the valley
Mel photographing the salt lagoons
Mel photographing the salt lagoons
The bluest water I have ever seen!
The bluest water I have ever seen!

September has started with adventure and altering perspective, and I can’t wait to continue exploring this continent and meeting its people. Next stop– Buenos Aires, Argentina!

Hasta luego,

Camille

September 30th, 2018- 一か月後 (One Month Later)

Big Buddha

Konnichiwa! By the time I have finished writing this post, it would have been a month since arriving in Japan. A lot of things have happened so far, and it has been an interesting experience. This post will highlight our the start of our homestay, reunions, and trip shenanigans. じゃあ、はじめましょ!(Let’s get started)!

Monday 9/03- This was the first day of our classes. This semester, I am taking four classes as part of my Japanese minor. They are: Japanese pre-intermediate , Japanese Studies I: Culture and Society, and Japanese Studies II: Politics and Economics. (Japanese studies II is a combined class of politics and economics. The politics class only lasted three weeks, and we just took our final exam last week.) Unlike the classes at Linfield, some of these classes have two or three sessions in one day with a break in between. For example, my Japanese class on Mondays and Fridays are from 10:45-12:15, 1:15-2:45, and 3:00-4:30. I am still trying to get used to the multiple sessions because it makes the day seem longer, and sometimes I get sleepy in class. However, we all take the same classes at the same time. And the nice thing is that the class is small, giving that individualized interaction with our professors. Our Japanese Culture Studies professor especially is very enthusiastic about the subject she is teaching.

Saturday 9/08- We met our host families for the first time at the International Center. My host family is the Miwa Family which includes a mother, father, and a high school daughter. They also have three small poodles which I have yet to meet. They were a really nice family, and we got to talk a little about our interests. Their daughter especially loves American music artists such as Taylor Swift and Sia.

Tuesday 9/11- Our politics class took a field trip to the Yokohama Prison. I was not allowed to take pictures of the prison, but I will tell you the experience. The prison facility was located in the middle of a suburban area with other public facilities such as an elementary school. Compared to a typical American prison, it was huge and spacious. Plus it had a garden and sculptures inside. What this institution does is that they tried to help inmates reform by making them work many jobs such as cooking, woodworking, etc. There was even a gift shop next to the prison where you can buy items made by all the inmates in Japan. This has changed my whole perspective on the penal system as a whole. I thought that the prison was scary based on what I see in the media, but I felt a sense of peace and hope during the tour.

KGU Welcom Party group photo
KGU Welcome Party with all International and current KGU students.

Friday 9/14- There was a Welcome Party for all the International Students at KGU. I saw a lot of students from different countries such as China, Korea, Vietnam, and Taiwan. I also saw some KGU students who were former exchange students at Linfield last year, so it felt like a mini reunion. The best part had to be the food! There was pizza from Costco, and it was American style pizza. Since coming to Japan, I missed eating pizza and luckily this was my rare opportunity to have pizza. Overall, it was turned out to be a great party!

Ueno Zoo panda
Sleeping panda at Ueno Zoo
Vanessa Kelly and Alyssa photo
Vanessa (another Linfield student) and I in front of Mikuji, a fortune station #808represent!
Sensoji Temple in Asakusa at
Sensoji Temple in Asakusa at night

Saturday 9/15- It was my first time going to Tokyo! I went to Ueno Zoo and Asakusa with two former Linfield exchange students from AGU named Zeno and Emi. Located in downtown Japan, Ueno zoo is the oldest zoo in Japan. We got to see many animals including the popular Giant Panda exhibit. Since it is very popular and a baby panda was born recently, you can expect the lines to be pretty long. Unfortunately all the pandas were sleeping, and I don’t think I saw the new baby panda. However, the gift shop was full of panda merchandise! Since I really like pandas, I would have bought almost all the merchandise if I had the ability. After our trip to the zoo, we went to Asakusa where we got to see the Sensoji Temple. The temple is one of the most famous in Japan. It is know for the Kaminarimon entrance gate which has a large red lantern. Since we went at night, it looked really pretty to see the entire temple illuminated. We also went through the oldest shopping street called Nakamise Dori with cute little shops that have snacks, and omiyage (souvenirs). After that, we went to a Japanese bar known as an Izakaya where I had my first alcoholic drink in my entire life (whoops, sorry!). In Japan, the legal age for drinking is 20, and I am already 20. I was a bit hesitant at first since I have never drank before, but I had one of the weaker drinks and I was fine. I hope to get used to drinking in Japan, but won’t do as much because I have heard that over-drinking especially in a different country can cause you to do stupid things, and have severe consequences.

Saturday 9/22-Sunday 9/23- This was the weekend where are Japanese culture studies professor took us on a study tour to Kamakura and Hakone. On Saturday we went to Kamakura, a city just south of Tokyo known for its many temples and Shinto shrines. We went to three temples/shrine that day. The first temple was Zeniarai Benten Shrine. This shrine is popular for people to wash their money which means the money in the shrine’s spring will double. I washed a US dollar bill along with a 5 yen coin. The next temple was called Hase Temple. This temple was known for many things. There is a wooden Buddhist statue called the “Eleven-headed Kannon” and it is one of the largest in Japan. There are also many jizo statues located around the temple and a jizo-do hall with hundreds of these statues of the Jizo God. It was dedicated to children who have passed away, the unborn, and miscarriages. Lastly, there was a cave called the Benten Cave where the goddess Benten is worshipped. Sixteen followers of the goddess are also engraved as well. There were many other great things at the temple as well. The last temple was the Kotokuin, famous for the Great Buddha that stands on the grounds. The statue is also known for surviving a mass tsunami where it used to be inside a temple hall, but the hall got destroyed. After the visit to all the shrines, we went to Odawara and had dinner and stayed overnight at a guesthouse on the KGU Odawara campus. The next day, we left for Hakone known for its onsen. Unfortunately, we did not have time to go in onsen because our study tour was during the three-day weekend of the autumnal equinox. Therefore, it was very crowded. However, we did other great things. First, we went to the open-air museum where there were many art sculptures including those by Picasso. I actually got” lost in the art”, and because of that I missed the opportunity to go in the foot bath with the others. However, I got to admit that if there was a place to get lost, it would have to be here. After that, we had lunch at the Gyoza Center nearby. Lastly, we went to Mt. Owakudani to see the sulphur pits and Lake Ashinoko in Togendai. We actually rode the gondolas to get to the places. This was an interesting weekend despite me getting a sore leg from all that walking, but we got to bond with our professor over jovial conversations.

Saturday 9/29- Sunday 9/30- This past weekend my homestay officially started. The first thing we did was see my host sister’s gospel concert in the newly renovated Kannai Hall. My host sister is part of the Yokohama Community Singers aka, “1000 Peoples Gospel.” They were joined by another choir called “The Soulmatics.” They sang all kinds of gospel songs including English songs; overall the atmosphere of the concert was energetic. The next day, I went to my host sister’s school festival at Kamakura Jogakuin junior and senior high school. It was an all-girls high school and it is very different from my all-girls high school. I got to meet some of the students and participate in cultural events such as tea ceremony, and even went through a Beethoven haunted house! I wish I could have participated in more activities but the rest of the day was canceled due to typhoon. But, I had a lot of fun bonding with my host family during the first couple of days and I am looking forward to the rest of my homestay. I even got to meet their three dogs named Peach, Joy, and Leo. Peach and Joy are energetic especially and would want to play with you when you come into the house!

Student performing tea ceremony
Student performing tea ceremony
Meeting students at school festival
Meeting more students at school festival!
Me with my host sister and another student
Me with my host sister and another student
Tea Ceremony at host sister's school festival
Participating in tea ceremony at my host sister’s school festival.

So far, I have been in Japan for a month and time is really going by fast. I ask myself: Have you been making the most of your time? Yes. Do you think you can push yourself and try to do more? I hope so! To be honest, 90 days in a semester abroad does not seem like a lot of time, so I have to do as much as I can and take every opportunity!

Wearing kimono at school festival
Wearing kimono at school festival

じゃあね (Bye bye!)

-アリッサ クワもト

 

 

Sept. 7th, 2018- 日本へようこそ!(Welcome to Japan)

Yokohama Bay Bridge

This the welcome sign you see after you have landed in Narita Airportはじめまして!(How do you do? Glad to meet you!). Sorry for the late post, but I have been getting used to this roller coaster ride of studying abroad which is normal for anyone living in a new country.  Prior to leaving, I was worried my flight would get canceled/delayed due to a category 4 hurricane approaching my hometown of Hawaii. Luckily, the storm dissipated in time for my departure. The flight wasn’t too bad since the duration lasted only 7 hours. On August 28th, my journey started when I arrived in Narita Airport. As soon as I went through immigration customs and baggage claim, I arrived the main gate and met two other current Linfield students and some KGU students known as “buddies.” One of my buddies was actually an exchange student last year at Linfield named Naoki, aka Kiki. Soon after, we were transported to our dorms where we got a tour. The next few days were filled with orientation, meeting the KGU International Center assistants, and a few trips. Here are a few highlights of some of the days during our arrival week:

Thursday 8/30- I learned how to use the rail system for the first time going to downtown Yokohama. In Japan, almost everyone uses the rail system as a mode of transportation to work and school. Riding it will take some getting used to since I felt a little dizzy from standing while the train is moving. The trains can also get crowded at times especially during rush hour, and you must offer your seat to elderly or people with infants to be polite. In downtown Yokohama, some of us went to get International sim cards for the smartphones. After that we had lunch at a place called Ichiran Ramen. It is an unique restaurant because you order from a vending machine and then you eat at your own private booth. I enjoyed this “antisocial” experience where I can just focus on the taste of the delicious ramen all by myself. Then we did a little shopping at mall called JoinUS. We went to a café where one of the program assistants, Matsuoka Sensei, treated us all to drinks. This shows how sincere and kind people can be in Japan.

Tonkatsu Ramen
Tonkatsu ramen from Ichiran Ramen

Friday 8/31- The next day we took a placement test for our Japanese language classes. After that we had  a bento lunch with our Japanese lecturers. It was nice getting to know our lecturers before classes started, and were all fascinated by our interests and our background. It is similar at Linfield when we get the 1:1 student-teacher ratio, and they want to remember us.

Yokohama City
Yokohama City as seen from Cosmo Clock Ferris Wheel

Saturday 9/01- We met with our KGU buddies and went to various places around Yokohama. First we walked around Yokohama Baseball Stadium, and through Chinatown. After that, we went into separate groups and did our own activities. For lunch, my buddies and I went to this Hawaiian restaurant called Sun Aloha Minato Mirai for a little taste of home. The one thing I like about Japan is that it has a great relationship with Hawaii, so I hope to find some bits of Hawaii here. Then, we went to the famous Cup of Noodle Museum where it was all about the famous ramen cup and its creator, Momofuku Ando. I learned that Momofuku Ando was a great innovator by using creative thinking and curiosity to create a successful product. The day ended by going to CosmoWorld amusement park where I rode the famous Cosmo Clock ferris wheel and a cool water ride.

Cup of Noodle Wall
Had Momofuku Ando not created Cup of Noodle, then broke college students would not have been able to survive.

Sunday 9/02- The next we spent time with our buddies again by going to Enoshima, a small island located off the Shonan coast of Kanagawa Prefecture. From there, we went to the Enoshima aquarium where we saw lots of fish and marine life. There was even penguins and otters! After we that we had a lunch break, and it was off to the Enoshima Shrine. It was really nice, but it turned out be a long hike for me. I should have worn more comfortable clothes especially since the weather in Japan is very humid during this time of the year.

Enoshima Shrine
Enoshima Shrine

So far I have been having an interesting experience in Japan. My only issue is the language barrier. Japanese can be a difficult language especially when people are talking really fast. Sometimes, I feel intimidated when I listen to them speak, and I don’t know what to say because I know so little. And not a lot of people speak English except for a few that speak broken English. I wished I had reviewed more during the summer. Hopefully, I will improve and become fluent before the end of this program. Until next time, じゃまた!(See you later)!

Group photo at Enoshima Aquarium
Our group at Enoshima Aquarium

ーAlyssa Kuwamoto (アリッサ クワモト)

 

Magnetic Island

As school just passed our half way point, I am in awe at the fact my time studying at JCU is half way over. Even though Uni gets harder and harder every week with more assessments, that doesn’t stop us Americans from exploring Australia.

This past weekend a small group of us  went to Magnetic Island, or as the Aussies call it, Maggie Island (Aussies pretty much shorten every word they can). Maggie Island is a small island off the coast of Townsville. It is a short 20 minute ferry ride away.

Views from the ferry terminal at Nelly Bay
Views from the ferry terminal at Nelly Bay

We spent the night in a hostel in Nelly Bay called Base Backpackers. Magnetic Island is a beautiful green and colorful island full of Koalas, horse back riding, hikes, scuba diving and snorkeling. This island is a hub for many different backpackers and travelers all over the world.

Base Backpackers Hostel
Base Backpackers Hostel

When we arrived at our hostel, we were taken back by what it had to offer. There were bean bags everywhere for sun bathing, in addition to, a pool, multiple beaches, a bar, a restaurant, and a volleyball court. To my surprise, there were so many travelers from different parts of the world. We met people from Germany, France and even the U.K. Initially, I figured Maggie would be a place for Aussies to take a Holiday or just a small weekend getaway, but no, it’s a massive tourist sight for everyone.

We rented paddle boards and snorkeling gear. We saw fish and even some string rays up to 5 ft in size. We also accidentally discovered a nude beach! We walked along the beach on low tide and discovered a more hidden beach and were strongly surprised when we saw naked people walking around. There’s a first time for everything! Sunday morning my friend and I woke up at 6am to watch the sunrise.

Sunday Sunrise
Sunday Sunrise

Views from the rocks looking out to the water at the nude beach

Views from the rocks looking out to the water at the nude beach

 

Maggie Island was an amazing experience and I would go back there within a heart beat!

Cheers Mate!

Makenna

 

Episode 2: Dorfgastein ->Wien (Week One)

We made it to Wien!

Welcome back! To finish off episode 1 we spent the rest of the week in Dorfgastein doing “leisurely walks” aka hikes up mountains and waterfalls. On day 4 we hiked up the tallest waterfall in Europe, the Krimmler Wasserfälle (Krimml Waterfall) is 1,247 feet and is extremely beautiful.

The whole group with our hiking guide
The whole group with our hiking guide

On the 18th of August we made our way to Wien, making a pitstop in the beautiful city of Salzburg. Salzburg is the home of the infamous composer, Mozart. while on a tour we got to see both his birth place and his living quarters. 

The place where Mozart was born.
The place where Mozart was born.

 We also learned that Salzburg got its name from the large amount of barges that were traveling on the Salzach river, caring Salt.  Over Salzburg is a beautiful sight to see with the Salzach River running through the middle.

The Salzach River, Salzburg.
The Salzach River, Salzburg.

Later that day we took the train to Wien were we finally met our host families!! Yay! Meeting my host mom was something that made me quite nervous at first. Yes it can be very awkward also. However after settling down and learning all the ins and outs of living with your host family, everything seems to fall into place and all the nerves you had before seem small.

With great luck, Austria was experiencing the hottest summer yet and my host mom took me to her favorite swimming spot. What’s a better bonding experience than swimming?

After spending the weekend settling in we began our first week in Wien. On August 20 we had orientation and a walking tour of Wien. Then we started our first class at the Institute, with another walking tour. That week we had roughly 4 walking tours, which at first seemed overwhelming but each tour showed us a different part of the city. Wien is roughly 2 million people and consists of 23 districts and without those tours, we may not have seen those places on our own.

During the summer, swimming is very popular and therefore, we swam ALOT. We also rented a small paddle boat on the Donau river. Which in Wien, is spilt into three sections, the Donau, the New Donau and the Old Donau. We spent most of our time in the new Donau.

Overall the end of Dorfgastein, Salzburg and our first week in Wien was amazing. As we continue our journey, we learn new things everyday. We have found new places and areas everyday. And we have had fun everyday.

Stay tuned to hear about our trip to Budapest, Hungary. (:

Thanks for reading!

Melissa Rockow

Ponchos are the newest fashion statement in outdoor clothing. (:
Ponchos are the newest fashion statement in outdoor clothing. (:
Part 2 of the the 3 part waterfall.
Part 2 of the the 3 part waterfall.
Vanessa standing on a bridge crossing the river.
Vanessa standing on a bridge crossing the river.
Flat land! We finally made it to the bottom!
Flat land! We finally made it to the bottom!
The end of the waterfall.
The end of the waterfall.