O Week, the First Week of Class, and Life in the Rainforest!

G’day from Australia!

To preface my story, I left chilly winter weather in Eastern Oregon for the hot, humid summer weather here in Far North Queensland. While I was prepared for it to be warm, I was shocked by the wave of heat when I stepped off the plane a week and a half ago in Cairns. When I first arrived, I took a shuttle from the Cairns airport to my apartment for the semester at Cairns Student Lodge. I arrived several days before the beginning of Orientation Week (O Week), so I had some time to explore the city and make friends. On my first day, I spent some time unpacking and adjusting to my new living situation. I was surprised to find out that the animals here make noise throughout the night, but I suppose that’s just a perk of living in the rainforest! The following day, I decided to bus 45 minutes to Cairns city with a friend. Prior to arriving here, I knew Cairns was a tourist city, but I didn’t expect the business to be booming so much! When I exited the bus, I walked under a tree full of flying foxes (fruit bats), which was amazing! Then, my friend and I walked along the Esplanade, which could be described as a sort of central hub for the city. The Esplanade has a beachfront walkway, a free public pool, and a picnic area open for anyone to use! It is an amazing place to spend a relaxing day with friends. We then ate Australian style pizza (which is surprisingly different than American pizza), and climbed back on the bus to go back to campus! 

A rainforest view of Christina's apartment.
I can see the rainforest from my apartment!
The Cairns city esplanade: a large metal sculpture in front of the ocean, which serves as the gateway to the great barrier reef.
The Cairns City Esplanade serves as the official gateway to the Great Barrier Reef.
A tree is full of flying foxes, or fruit bats.
It may not look like much, but this tree is full of flying foxes (fruit bats)!

On Monday, O Week activities began! I had mandatory International Orientation in the morning, which served as an introduction to living in Australia. We were given information about safety, classes, communication, transportation, and where to seek help. Overall, the event was enjoyable because I was able to meet other international students, make new friends, and get familiar with the campus. 

Market Day, an event where local businesses and clubs promote student involvement, was on Wednesday. All of the James Cook University students enjoy Market Day because there are giveaways, free products, and fun activities. I entered competitions for free Great Barrier Reef trips, rafting trips, and excursions while I was at Market Day. Following Market Day, I went to a pool party hosted by my apartment complex!

Christina standing next to the letters "j" "c" and "u"

On Thursday, I went to a speed friending event and a tour of Cairns city. For the tour, we hopped on a party bus, went to the beach, and drove around the city. This was the first time I had been to the beach, and suffice to say, I never wanted to leave! However, it was not recommended that we swim at the beach because there are deadly jellyfish (stingers) and crocodiles in the water at the moment. Oh well, maybe in a few months!

A photo of the ocean, beach, and hillside.
The view from the beach was absolutely stunning!

The biggest event of O Week, the annual Toga Party, was on Friday! Everyone hopped on a bus to a club for an entertaining night on the town. The night was filled with fun, dancing, and free pizza.

Monday was the first day of class, which was both nerve-wracking and exciting! I had Myth Ritual and Religion (an anthropology class) in the morning and Indigenous Australians in the afternoon. The class structure is slightly different here, as students have lecture classes and workshop classes. My first class has podcast lectures and notes online, which students are expected to access prior to the workshop (discussion activity) class. However, my Indigenous Australians class has face-to-face lectures on Mondays, and workshop classes on Wednesdays. It was strange to get used to initially, but I am adjusting! The homework in Australia is also different than in America. Instead of having multiple assignments in a week, we only have 3-5 large assignments that are a significant portion of the final grade. For example, it is typical to have 3 quizzes (30% of your grade), one final exam or paper (40% of your grade), and workshop participation (30% of your grade). One other difference from America–I only have class two days per week!

Overall, I am incredibly impressed with this beautiful country, state and city. If you are considering studying abroad in Australia, do it! Just don’t forget your sunscreen, bug spray, and the desire for adventure!

Cheers!

Christina

Finale of Road Trip and an Impromptu Best Friend Appreciation Post

Okay everyone I have to be up in three hours and you need some information so let’s go!


2 students driving on the way to Yamanash in the car. Marina was passed out in the back seat.
Us extremely tired on the way to Yamanashi, and the last photo of us in the car.

To finalize my road trip let’s start with Yamanashi. Getting to Yamanashi from Tottori was really crazy because it was supposed to be a 7-8 hour drive that quickly turned into late night, sleep deprived chaos. This all began with Emi’s car navigation malfunctioning and taking us the wrong way for four hours. The way the road trip has been informally structured is that two people will sleep at a time so everyone is rested (that’s not exactly followed all the time). Emi and Marina figured this out and switched to phone navigation, but when we switched drivers with an hour and a half left to go we didn’t communicate and turned the phone navigation off and fell asleep (mind you we’re still on two hours of sleep). We woke up in Kawasaki, 20 minutes away from Emi’s house and 2 hours away from our hostel.

A bowl of food in the foreground, and two girls eating behind it.
Make sure you come hungry because there’s so much food for each person you can barely finish it.

We then had to turn around and drive all the way back to Yamanashi where we almost got hit by a truck (long story) and were put in potentially dangerous, vehicle-involving near incidents along the way. Aside from this, I have been reading a spiritual self-help book that Emi brought, and all of us have been practicing living in the Now. Now meaning our every moment, and living life where if we decide that we are going to be lazy (for example) you are fully lazy and not lazy but also thinking about what you should be doing. Do something or don’t; and if you can’t do it then, don’t bother thinking about it because it’s interrupting your current ability to enjoy everything you are doing in the moment. It has kind of been the theme of this trip which I really appreciate and am glad to have brought into my life.

Picture of mountain with trees and a building in the foreground.
Same view from my previous post about Yamanashi but this time Fuji-san is not shy.

If you remember from one of my first posts, we took Alecia to the same place I went last time where you can see Fuji. Unlike last time where it was cloudy, this time the sky was quite clear and it was easy to see Fuji-san at the temple and everywhere we went. Afterwards we went to an onsen to see Fuji outside and relax which we managed to do for three hours (super relaxing, I am addicted to onsens as in I’m going tomorrow). Then we went to eat houto, a flat, udon like noodle with lots of veggies, where we all got food babies and then drove home to Emi’s house. I finally got to meet Emi’s family which was so fun and explained so much about who Emi is as a person, and met her dog ichi-go (15, whose name both means strawberry and the discounted price they got him at lol) and prepared to take Alecia to the airport at 4 a.m.

Now on to Alecia.

Image of two girls holding s'mores in front of an open computer.
The first night Alecia came to Japan we ate s’mores in Emi’s apartment

To start, I forgot a lot of the good Linfield has done for me. Sometimes it’s hard to study abroad because your head is so full of what you don’t have at home rather than what you have. Amongst the Linfield community there are about five people I see taking with me throughout the rest of my life and one of those is Alecia. Alecia and I are both the same and total opposites. We have the same morals and beliefs but different approaches, and even when we’re agreeing we still manage to argue. But as a whole Alecia makes me a better person, reminds me of who I am, and always pushes me to change for me and no one else. She has quickly become one of my greatest supporters and vice versa, and having her in Japan made me realize the importance of having someone like Alecia around. I’ve realized that while I have had an amazing time and met truly some of my best friends for life, it is so important to have the people you love around you.

Two girls standing in Shibuya Crossing with people crossing the street behind them.
I personally think Shibuya crossing is overrated, but the best part of this photo is Alecia running into someone directly after haha.

It was interesting bringing both of my worlds together and seeing how they fit, understanding the chaos of my best friend and how that matches with my own. Alecia being here reminded me of the importance of taking pictures (even though she hates them) because you want to save precious memories, the thrill of seeing a country for the first time, the nervousness of traveling alone — I had to FaceTime her at the station while she was in Ikebukuro trying to find her way to her hostel and talk her down from crying, and she then returned the favor when I broke down in a Starbucks because of how overwhelmed I felt by life. I have learned that while I don’t cry in front of a lot of people, I can cry in front of Alecia. She brings stability to unstable situations, and although she doubts herself I think she’s perfect at being in foreign countries.

As I am writing this, as it is now tomorrow, Alecia is currently waiting for the counters to open at the airport. She goes off on her own study abroad journey today. Saying goodbye was really hard for Emi, Marina and I, but we left each other with the understanding that we will see each other in Alaska, as it’s now Alecia’s turn to show us her home.

Four friends smiling and gathered around a table.
The four of us at Takoyaki. Zeno was really nice and bought it for us. This was also right before Zeno went backpacking in South America 🙂

While Alecia was here we had many interesting conversations about how she felt to be in Asia. Alecia and I share a similar relationship with identity, as I grew up feeling like I didn’t fit into either the stereotypical lives of “fully” black or “fully” white families, and Alecia is ethnically Asian but grew up within a predominately white community and therefore feels like she’s not Asian enough. This changed my perception of my own ability to walk through Asia, as the treatment the two of us received was very different: she would be spoken to in Japanese and me English immediately, and the look on people’s faces when she responded in English was very insightful to immediate perceptions (not to sound accusatory but it is just interesting to see how Alecia adapted to that).


Actual adventures with Alecia:

Three friends standing under a large, red lantern.
Marina, Alecia, and I at Senso-ji.

I break down Alecia’s visit in three different parts, one for each week. First we have our adventures with Emi and Marina at Emi’s apartment. This mini-insight in how we would live together was so much fun because we laid out futons on the floor in the living room so we were always together, and this was the general break down:

  1. wake up from 10-12 ***Alecia was jet lagged so she would always wake up at 7 or 8 and then go back to sleep and Marina was looking for an apartment or had plans with friends so she would wake up at 10 and be out by 11***
  2. make “breakfast” usually something healthy around 12
  3. have second breakfast directly after — usually ramen
  4. take a nap because eating was exhausting and we deserve it
  5. wake up and leave by 4pm to go do some fun adventure
    1. Alecia had a list of places she wanted to visit in Tokyo so we went there:
      1. we first went to Akihabara which was pretty short because even though I was the only one that has been there, it’s not very interesting if you don’t like anime or maid cafes. ***I bought a Star Wars sticker and we saw some creepy guy talking to a maid on the street who was advertising her store**
      2. repeat steps 1-5 but 5.1.1 is now Harajuku. We just walked through because it’s a lot of shopping and we saw the Lolita culture (hyper feminine outfits) and then took Alecia to Meiji-jingu to pray at the shrine.

        Akihabara!
        We took photos right before this and Emi clicked on the wrong eye size so I look like an alien
      3. that night we met up with Zeno and Rei and went and got dinner and then got Takoyaki in Shibuya before almost missing the last train and having to sprint our way through Shibuya in order to make it (very chaotic, very fun in my opinion, Alecia thinks differently hehe).
      4. the next day we went and got dinner in Shin-Okubo (KoreaTown). After walking around a bit and seeing some shops, we went and ate our weight in food and talked a bit about what Korea might be like for Alecia. I tried to answer her questions as best I could, but at the end of the day you can’t ever be prepared to be in another country for a long period of time.
      5. not to always talk about Onsens, but we went to Yokohama to go to a really cool onsen where they have lot of different rooms of varying heat where you can fall asleep for hours and just purge your body of any stress or toxins. Alecia loved it except the 87 degree Celsius room where she claims she was going to pass out. The spa also had little capsules where you can just nap and a reading area. It’s basically a fun place to take naps in different places (which is extremely under appreciated).

        this room was so hot!
        This was the area where people are clothed so you can bring your phones. The rooms are different temperatures and you basically just choose what temp you want to nap in (my favorite thing ever)
      6. TeamLab! Go there! totally worth it but also make sure you have hours to explore. It’s really dark inside and you have no map and the art changes so you have to keep going back to different to rooms to get the true experience. My favorite part was when you got to color an animal or flower and they scan it into the room so your art becomes part of the artwork. I was also jealous of the kids section where they could jump on trampolines and effect the universe by jumping on a star and destroying it and then following the atoms and molecules.  20/10 GO THERE!
Two girls in a room with very red balloons.
TeamLab babyyy

The second part of Alecia’s trip is the time that she spent with Minami, a girl who studied abroad at Linfield our sophomore year. I didn’t spend time with her during that time because I had plans that week so I’ll let her tell you of her adventures, but I had to say goodbye to friends. The semester ended and all my friends that were staying for six months had to go home. It was really sad because the best way to have new hope for the world is to talk to the people in the dorm and remind yourself that there are some truly intelligent, empathetic, genuine human beings all over the world. Goodbyes are bittersweet because some people you know that realistically you will never see them again, and it’s really hard to think about. Anyway, I spent time with some truly amazing people, played dungeons and dragons, and learned how to make fettuccine sauce from scratch.

Girl striking a fun pose on a side street in Shinjuku.
This is a side street in Shinjuku. Not many foreigners come through here and you can see very small local restaurants (usually they only seat 6 people at a time).

The third part is the road trip up until Alecia left. The day before we went on the road trip, Alecia came out to dinner with my friends from the dorm. It was fun to see all of them getting along and my friend Serena turned to me and went “you guys are the same person!” because Alecia brought up toxic masculinity hehe. Everyone loved her and not that I need it but it’s nice to know that the people you care also care about each other :). Road trip wise, you already got that information, but I will say it was the best trip of my life so far. I don’t know if I’m going to be living in Japan in the future, but I do think that Japan has created some extremely amazing experiences for me to have, and for that I am thankful.

Thank you so much for following along so far, I know I can be a little abstract at times.

I bid you adieu until the aliens attack,

Isis

****I have gotten 2 hours and 45 minutes of sleep within the past two days, forgive me****

ROAD TRIP (SECOND PART)

AAAAANNND WE’RE BACK BABY!

This time we’re heading toward Osaka.

First, we went to an onsen in Osaka to have a bath because we decided to sleep in the car (because when Emi and Marina were in Washington we decided to sleep in my moms car that was parked in her driveway on our way back from Canada as a joke and now it’s a tradition). The onsen was really fun and I did this weird stem thing for my back in one of the pools and I felt like I electrocuted my whole body — like couldn’t feel my whole right side, kind of crazy. Apparently it’s supposed to help you physically, but I think it ruined me psychologically. I will get back to you on that in the long run. After almost killing Alecia and Marina in the steam room (because they don’t do well with heat), we went to a salt room and exfoliated our whole bodies and then jumped in the cold pool to make our skin smooth. I am only going this in depth because I feel the need to mention that three years ago when I first met these girls, I did not see us having a casual conversation while being naked.

This whole side adventure is all on the way to Nara, a prefecture that has deer that you can feed. I was really excited to do this as well as Emi and Marina, but Alecia feeds deer all the time since she lives in Alaska (odd Snow White flex but okay) and was less impressed by the idea — until she was highly entertained by the deer biting us if we didn’t feed them fast enough. She was also kind enough to teach us how to feed them so they didn’t nip our fingers, and I would like to say another first in my life is reprimanding a deer for biting me.

Example: *deer bites my sweatshirt* Me: “Hey! Stop that! That is rude and won’t get you food! Life doesn’t work that way!” ***DEER LISTENS AND STOPS***

Like what the heck? What kind animals! They even bow to you if you bow to them — it’s an interesting cultural conditioning.  🙂

道の駅 is a place where we stayed, the name literally translates to “road station” but they are basically rest stops where people can sleep in their cars if they are too tired to drive or truck drivers for example (or us — poor college students that prefer spending money on food than lodgings). Logically, sleeping in the car was a bad idea; the car was too small and my blanket was too little, my legs were too long, and we all were freezing. But the adventure was fun and entertaining as a whole 12/10 don’t regret.

Three female students standing in an orange tunnel.
Us on the nice, easy part of Inari-ji.

After Nara we drove to Kyoto! The first thing we did was hike up to the top of the Inari-San. The hike wasn’t hard and was about an hour, it was funny because there wasn’t any view of the city from the top that we could see (there was an observation deck at the top but it was closed because we decided to do a night hike). During the day there are shops open so you can eat snacks while you walk, but I preferred the night walk because of the quiet and the wind through the trees. It was very peaceful, but kind of scary if you don’t like the forest, or wild monkeys and boars.


Maiko-san is a similar word for geisha. There’s a street in Kyoto, that is predominantly for Maiko-san, but it is still hard to see them. They are only seen while they are working, and are looking to maintain their privacy so they don’t come out very often. The girls speak differently (in a very old Kyoto dialect) act differently, and live in a dorm with other girls who are also Maiko-san. The girls either choose to go into this rigid life, or they are born into a family of Maiko-san and follow their family’s footsteps. We didn’t see anything while we were in Kyoto, but I thought it was interesting that this tradition managed to stay healthy and maintained while Japan globalized.

Four girls stand on a path bordered by tall bamboo trees.
Us at the bamboo forest! Honestly it took longer to find parking than to actual walk through — still beautiful though.

The next day we went to see Kinkaku-ji, a bamboo forest and another temple,  Byodo-in, and had matcha in a restaurant that’s been open for 500 years. Kinkaku-ji and the bamboo forest were very brief stops, both are famous but as a whole very tourist trap-y in my opinion. The fun thing about Kinkaku-ji is that I went there when I was 13 years old on my first exchange to Japan! Matcha was supposedly created here in this prefecture and this shop has been run by the same family, in the same shop, with no separate locations, for 16 generations. The 13th generation was a tea ambassador to the United States, and presented a tea ceremony in the USA.

Author jumping in front of building.
I have made a habit to jump at every location we visit on the trip. Here is me at Byodo-in.

Also, in Japan there are nation wide symbols to represent various different things in maps, highway signs, etc. The symbol for tea is this shops emblem that they have used since the start of their business. The day we went to Kinkaku-ji and Byodo-in, by chance we met up with Yusa, a student that went to Linfield my freshman year. He lives in Osaka but texted the Japanese student group chat that he wanted to hang out with someone that day and we were nearby! We met him at Byodo-in and since he has a reputation for knowing everything he taught us about the meaning of Byodo-in (it’s a physical representation of heaven for the Gods) and he also brought us to the matcha place (they still make their matcha today). Afterwards we gave him a ride home to Osaka (by the way, Osaka was ever on the list to visit because Emi said there was nothing to do haha but this would be our second time going in three days) because it was on the way to our next stop, Tottori. In Osaka, Yusa took us to his favorite restaurants where we had okinomiyaki, yakisoba, takoyaki, some fried thing I forgot the name of, then we went to a shrine (that’s famous for being covered in lots of moss??) and they had lots of cats around!

Girl jumping above snow, blue sunny sky behind her.
Me jumping at the Tottori Sand (snow) Dunes.

After that we dropped Yusa home and drove on the highways to Tottori. Tottori is famous for having sand dunes which we were excited to joke about being in Dubai in photos, but it ended up snowing really hard so now it’s all covered in snow. It’s really cold here because this area is in a valley (-2 degrees Celsius), so summers are hot and winters are very cold, and the dunes are very pretty and on the ocean. We stayed up until 3:30 a.m. driving and woke up at 6 to see the sunrise. Alecia drove in the snow because she and I have the most experience, but I don’t have an international drivers license so my job is to stay awake with the driver and play music while everyone else rests so they can be good to drive later. In the morning I got to push Emi’s car out of the snow briefly which was fun, but I also felt like my dad for some reason (I haven’t really looked into why I felt that way, and I’m too tired to try but yeah). I’m also writing this on 2 hours of sleep waiting for the cafes to open.

Everyone else got a nap in first before we saw the dunes officially, when we did it was SO beautiful. The sand dunes are really important in Tottori so if you write anything in the sand or take some with you, you will be fined 50,000 USD (which is not worth it in my opinion). Emi and I were in Aikido when we were at Linfield so we did rolls down the mountain until Emi was too dizzy for more. We also (as usual) made sure to lay down in the snow and rest before going to a bakery and getting breakfast. The bakery we went to was so delicious and everything there was 100 ye (about a dollar) so everyone spent way too much money on way too much food, but we girls are not quitters so that food was gone within the hour.  After eating we took off to Yamanashi Prefecture (one I have previously talked about in another blog) that is also my favorite prefecture, to show Alecia another onsen and houto before sending her off to Korea.

That’s it for today!

I’m Isis Hatcher and you’re watching Disney Channel!

ROAD TRIP (FIRST HALF)

Hi everyone!

So today I’m going to talk about my trip to Hiroshima! Let’s start by saying I am not a morning person. By far my least favorite thing to do is to get less than 10 hours of sleep (I happen to do that every night), and for this trip I woke up at 6:20 a.m. and had to make it to my friend’s house where she would be first driver (I got 4). 

Japanese highways are super expensive, a two hour drive on the highways usually cost $60 round trip, and so the four of us budgeted to spend about $100 on highways each (keep that in mind if you ever decide to roadtrip). 

Some fun facts for the trip down!

– We almost ran out of gas twice which shouldn’t be possible but we are really good at going above and beyond so…

– We coasted 1.5 kilometers to the gas station on basically no gas.

– We had several dance parties and listened to some really good Japanese music — both Okinawan and main island Japanese music.

– One artist that’s really famous got arrested for meth possession on Valentine’s Day. 

– I like to hold my breath when I go through tunnels which is fun until Japanese tunnels are 250-3000 meters long which is a wild ride on my body. 

– Tunnels are long bc most go through the mountains

– In the morning Emi lost her contacts and found them underneath her the whole time. 

– Our hostel was super cute. We stayed in the mixed dorm which was cheaper than the all-female dorm. There was a boy who was four years old, the son of the people who owned the hostel, and his name was Haru-kun. He was very cute and showed us his legos. He also called me 変なおねちん and then when I said that was mean Emi asked him to apologize to which he said “even if I apologize she’d still be sad” lolll

– They had a very cute dog named オット (Otto) 

Two girls in front of the pillars of peace at Hiroshima.
Emi and Marina in front of the pillars of peace. The word peace is written in every language.

Hiroshima information:

  • Hiroshima was very emotional. There’s a way to balance the information they deliver in the museum. You first see the last standing building from the blast. Then you have the ability to see the place where they’ve memorialized the victims. There’s one specifically for the children that died. 
  • In the 40s, children after the age of 12 were enlisted to work for the military while at school. The children that died were working to move materials at a demolition site. The museum there is very sad, it’s hard to not cry as they provide you with first hand accounts and some very detailed, unedited footage and photos of people before and after the blast. It also serves as a way for people to understand that we need to live without nuclear weapons and promotes activism towards building a world like that.
  •  I thought it was interesting how many people brought up in class or at the memorial that Obama came to visit Hiroshima. There was a general feeling of positive reception with him coming, and I think it was criticized because he was the only foreign dignitary to visit Hiroshima. As a whole it was a very good experience, and after we got 広島焼 (Hiroshima-yaki), which is similar to okinomiyaki but is made with soba noodles. It was very, very good and thoroughly recommend it.

    Two photos of two groups of girls, including the author, lying on the floor and smiling up at the camera.
    In honor of what I just said, here’s a picture of some of the people I love the most taken freshman and junior year.

If you get this far, tell someone you love them. If there’s anything this trip taught me, it’s that you don’t want to waste your time. If you care, talk about it. If you love, tell them. And if you want something to change do something. There is so much ego involved in our lives that prevents us from seeing people as equals; people worth living. And if we could all think a little more critically when thinking about how WE think, the world would be an infinitely better place.

See you next time for part 2 babes,

“Always have courage and be kind.”

— Cinderella the (better) live action movie

-Isis

Alive and Thriving?

Welcome, everyone!

(Warning: This might be kinda long.)

My name is Alecia Barlow, and I cordially invite you all to join me (virtually) throughout my adventures in Japan and South Korea. This spring semester, I am set to study abroad in South Korea; however, starting early February, I galivanted around Japan for three weeks on a quest to visit friends and explore as much as possible (more about that coming up). I’m currently in South Korea, and I feel as if I should briefly address the elephants in the room before I carry on with my blog.

  1. Yes, I do know that the coronavirus (aka COVID-19) is spreading throughout East Asia and is becoming quite a hot topic. I am and have been taking the necessary precautions to keep myself and others around me healthy, but I also don’t want to let fear get in the way of me experiencing new things. I’m realistic about my situation, but I’m also not going to let fear control my life.
  2. Yes, I do know that Kim Jong Un exists and is a possible threat. First of all, I think that’s the least of the world’s worries right now, and I can promise you that I won’t cross over into North Korea—though I might be tempted to go to the DMZ (demilitarized zone) ;).

I will most likely talk more about these topics later on in my study abroad experience, but for now I’d like to talk about other fun things that have happened.

SO. Japan…WOW.

PART ONE

(also I apologize for the quality of some of these photos because I can’t seem to keep my hand steady for some reason)

What a time and a half. I arrived in Japan around 6:45 p.m. their time, and my friends Isis Hatcher and Emi Kishi picked me up from the airport. Emi went to Linfield as a Japanese exchange student and Isis is a Linfield student doing an exchange at Aoyama Gakuin University for the year. Naturally, the first thing I had to eat in Japan was…conveyor belt sushi. Try the cheesy salmon nigiri—it’s delicious. And, yes, I’m lactose intolerant, but sometimes I like to test the limits of my body. What can I say? Cheese is cheese.

For the next couple of days, Isis, Emi and Marina (another Japanese student who did an exchange at Linfield), and I stayed at Emi’s uncle’s apartment in Kanagawa. We explored some of the surrounding areas and ate good food like Ichiran (basically ramen but fast-food style), cheese dog, and more ramen (lol I love ramen).

Me, Isis, and Emi at an Ichiran counter with bowls of ramen in front of us.
Ramen is life.
My friend Emi eating a cheese dog on the side of the street
I ate one bite because I wasn’t trying to die from cheese that day.

We visited a shrine, experienced Shibuya Crossing, and went out to eat at an izakaya with our friends Rei and Zeno who are also Japanese students who did an exchange at Linfield!

Me jumping and striking a pose in front of a wooden torii gate.
Me jumping in front of a wooden torii gate. Sorry to the girl whose photoshoot I probably ruined…oops.
The entrance to the shrine. Magnificent building with lanterns decorating the front.
The entrance to the shrine.
A large crowd of people waiting on the sidewalk to cross at Shibuya Crossing
Shibuya Crossing.
Me, Isis, Emi, Zeno, and Rei posing for the camera in a room in an izakaya
Good food and drink with friends!

We also explored Akihabara which is famous for otaku culture, and I got to experience an onsen for the first time!

A mural of cartoons on a wall in Akihabara
Oh, look! A wild Isis and a cool mural.

We went to this place called Team Lab Borderless Museum, and it was super cool and trippy. I almost ran into a few walls.

Flowers are projected onto every surface of the room creating a borderless feel
Flowers are projected onto every surface of the room creating a borderless feel.

Then I went to go visit my friend Minami Yamamoto (another Japanese exchange student who had gone to Linfield). We went to Disney Sea with Risa (another Japanese exchange student who studied at Linfield — oh, the connections you’ll make at Linfield!), the ocean, Yokohama, and Kamakura. We got to see a big Buddha statue in Kamakura, and we ate dozens of fresh strawberries at a strawberry park in Yokohama.

Me, Minami, and Risa posing in front of an Aladdin themed fountain
Apparently, this is a popular photo spot, so naturally, we had to take a photo! ALSO, curry popcorn is officially the best kind of popcorn. I had three bags of it. Too good.
Pretty yellow lanterns hang over the main walkway in Yokohama's Chinatown
Yokohama’s Chinatown!

 

 

 

 

 

 

A gigantic statue of buddha with a blue sky behind it and some fruit by its legs
Wow, that’s a big Buddha.

After my time with Minami was over, I went back to Shibuya area and hung out with Marina and Isis. We traveled to Asakusa and went to yet another shrine!

Me, Marina, and Isis in front of the entrance gate to the shrine. The entrance has a big lantern featured in the middle of the doorway colored red and gold.
Another shrine, another silly pose
Melon pan being held up in front of a road full of shops and food places
I LOVE MELON PAN!

 

 

 

 

 

 

PART TWO

So, now it was time for the road trip. Four girls, one tiny car, driving around Japan for five days.

First, we went to Hiroshima, saw the last standing building after the bomb hit and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. It was very hard and emotional to walk through the museum and memorials surrounding it, and I encourage more people to educate themselves on the devastating effects of the U.S.’ actions both in Japan and other places around the world.

Ruins of the last standing building from pre-atomic bomb Hiroshima
The last standing building from pre-atomic bomb Hiroshima

Next up was the Fushimi Inari Shrine where we got to see the famous Torii gates. It was nighttime when we got there so the photos aren’t the best, but it’s all about the company right? Then, we experienced the majesty of the Kinkaku-ji Golden Temple, bamboo forest, and Byodoin.

Isis, Emi, and Marina doing a silly pose in front of orange and black arches
The famous torii gates featuring three goofballs.
A golden temple with a nice lake in front and a tree on a mini island in the water
The Kinkaku-ji Golden Temple!
A view from the ground looking up in the middle of the bamboo forest
Bamboo forest!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Byodoin, a red temple during the sunset
Byodoin—Featured on the 10 yen coin!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then, we went to the Tottori Sand Dunes…except they were covered in snow!

Snow covered sand dunes with a peak of the ocean
Where’s the sand? This Alaskan came to see sand dunes, but I guess I’ll never escape the snow…

And last but not least…Mt. Fuji! (and another onsen with Mt. Fuji as the view)

A beautiful sunny day with a red/green temple and Mt. Fuji in full view
What a beauty.
Me, Isis, Marina, and Emi posing in front of Mt. Fuji and a red/green temple
What a way to end our road trip!

And that was the end of the road trip! I was so sleep deprived the whole entire time, but it was totally worth it. 10/10 would recommend.

Ok, I know this is already really long, but I only have a little bit more to say. Please stay with me lol.

PART THREE??

So, now I’m in South Korea at Yonsei’s dorms. I’m conducting a self-quarantine, so that means I see and interact with no one in-person for two weeks and can’t leave my room. All I can do is just keep up with the news and keep an ear out for updates from the university or other international students through a group chat I’m in. Am I afraid that my semester might be canceled? Yeah, of course. But, I’ve decided to just take things day by day because that’s all I can do. I will live in the now and try to make the most out of the time I have here.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me. My parents, IPO, my friends—you all rock. Even when I can’t leave my room, have to be dependent on some random stranger for delivering me food, and have uncertainty as a big part of my life, my panic goes away because I remember all of the people who are cheering me on at home and believe in me. Thank you.

Yours truly,

Alecia

Chinese New Year, the Coronavirus and Coming Home

Daniel and I wearing masks to protect ourselves from the coronavirus
“Masks are super in this year”

I have been in the United States for just over two weeks now, and boy has it been a wild ride.

In this blog you will find details about a global health crisis, a plot twist that includes an emergency return to the United States, and an ice sculpture of a train.

Last we left off, I was in Beijing, China starting my second semester at the China Studies Institute program at Beijing University. Everything was going great and we were out of class for a week for Chinese New Year, also known as Spring Festival. My friend Daniel and I were planning to travel to China’s northernmost province, Heilongjiang. Our trip would start in Harbin for the city’s ice and snow festival and then we would make our way South, stopping briefly at Shenyang before returning to Beijing.

We never could’ve predicted what would happen.

So before we even left for Chinese New Year break, there were talks about this Coronavirus. Nothing super serious yet, and there was no widespread panic. Some people who were from Wuhan were canceling their plans to return home for Chinese New Year, but most people were continuing on with their travel plans as if the Coronavirus was no big deal.

So my friend Daniel and I decided, since we were traveling away from the outbreak, (literally as far away as we could get from it), we would continue with our plans as well.

At the Beijing train station, me wearing my mask.
Mask on and ready for some fun!
The view from the train across the frozen fields and electric poles.
The view out the window of the high-speed train

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things you should know about Chinese New Year in China:  it is one of the largest human migrations of today. Chinese people only get two vacations, the National Holiday Break and Chinese New Year Break. Billions of people travel home to see their families and celebrate the new year. There is no single comparable holiday in the United States. Chinese New Year is more so like a combination of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years, with a huge emphasis on family and tradition.

Daniel and I were some of the billions traveling during this time, and we made it to Harbin after 8 hours on the high-speed train. An Alaskan girl at heart, I had been so deprived of snow for so long that when I finally arrived in Harbin, the snow-y paradise, I couldn’t stop smiling and jumping around like a maniac. It was cold as Alaska, so very comfortable for me!

Posing with the snow sculptures
“Life imitates art” part 1
Snow slide across flat snow fields as far as you can see.
Snow slide in Harbin, China

We visited some attractions in Harbin, and here are some of the photos from that!

In front of an ice sculpture of a train
As promised, an ice sculpture of a train
Ice sculpture of a train
Choo Choo!
Visiting the ice sculpture competition
Visiting the ice sculpture competition in Harbin
In front of an ice castle
In front of an ice castle
Posing with an ice sculpture
“Life imitates art” part 2
Ice sculpture at night with blue, pink and yellow lights shining from inside.
Ice sculpture at night
Posing with a rat ice sculpture since it is the Year of the Rat in the Chinese zodiac.
Posing with a rat ice sculpture because 2020 is the Year of the Rat in the Chinese zodiac
Ice festival at night with lots of blue and gold lights.
Ice festival at night
Ice and Snow World
Ice and Snow World

 

However, after a couple days in Harbin, things started to go downhill. The Coronavirus had started to gain momentum, and the virus, with so many people traveling in such a small period, was spreading rapidly. I would wake up every morning to messages from my program director and teachers, cautioning us students against going outside and being among large crowds. It snowballed from there. Transportation was cancelled, Wuhan was quarantined, official announcements of school and work schedules being postponed, the government stepped in to manage the situation, but everyone was stuck, confined to their homes, some not able leave their homes to even see their family.

It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. The biggest cultural event of the year was being completely disrupted. All of the events, temple celebrations, reunions, performances, –basically any attractions of any kind that could draw crowds, were canceled. People were barely leaving their homes. The few that did, wore masks and gloves. Restaurants were closed or only available for take out and delivery. We were heat-checked entering buildings, and some even denied entry if you were not wearing a mask.  The country had come to a complete standstill.

Beijing University had postponed the start of their Spring semester, as they did not want students from other provinces returning back to Beijing while the Coronavirus was still on the move. The CSI program I was enrolled in decided to offer online classes to reduce the risk of any kind of contagion resulting from in-person contact. With the transition to online classes and the recommendation of self-imposed quarantine, the situation was deemed dire enough to cause many students from my program to return home, by the requests of their parents, schools, or just by their personal judgement.

I really did not want to leave. I was committed to staying in China, quarantined in an off-campus apartment, taking online classes, basically waiting this epidemic out. However, so many students returned to the United States that it was no longer possible to continue my program. Daniel and I were on our train to Shenyang when we realized we had to return to Beijing. After getting off our train, (which was empty because so many people had canceled their travel plans due to the virus), we purchases tickets the same day and took another train to Beijing. Once arriving in the city, we were able to get our luggage from my dorm room with the help of my classmates and teachers. Since I had been traveling during Chinese New Year, I was unable to even enter the campus because there was a risk that I might be infected, so my classmates had to pack up all of my belongings and bring them to the gates of university.

I flew out of Beijing the next day, and after five flights, I was finally back home in Kenai, Alaska.

You never really think something like a global health crisis will be the thing that disrupts your study abroad experience. Maybe you lose your passport, or luggage, or maybe you’re so homesick you need to come home. These things happen, but a virus? It never crossed my mind.

I was really upset about having to leave China.  I still felt as though I had so much more to learn. The most frustrating thing about it all was it was not even my decision to leave. Everything felt so out-of-my control.

But even though I am still deeply saddened that my abroad experience was cut short, I am very thankful that I was able to depart the country while I still could. I am also very fortunate that Linfield’s spring semester did not start until Feb. 10th, giving me time to see my mother in Alaska, which I haven’t been back to in over a year. I had time to register for housing and classes, unlike some of my classmates from other universities who had to immediately jump into their Spring semester, which had already been in session for two weeks.

I also want to highlight in this blog the amazing response rate and help of the Linfield International Programs Office in particular, but also of the Linfield Financial Aid Office, Academic Advising and Housing, which were so great in helping me prepare myself for a return to Linfield. I felt completely supported the entire time by these offices, who were so patient with me and made sure that I was safe and taken care of the entire time. Shout out to the power of a small college!

I have no regrets about my time in China. It truly was the most amazing experience of my life. I grew and I changed, which has been apparent to me as I rejoin the Linfield community, but what I want to highlight as the thing that really makes me feel like study abroad was the best thing in the world for me, was about how it challenged me. It was the most challenging thing I have ever had to do. I had to be independent, responsible, and work my butt off. I had to make myself a home. There were times when I felt so uncomfortable. There were times when I felt so afraid, so stupid, so confused. But everything about feeling these ways, it’s all part of the process. It’s all part of what I love about the experience of being abroad. It’s a challenge and I am so much stronger, know myself better, and happier knowing that I have the capability to do anything.

I truly do not have any regrets. I did everything I wanted to do, and many things I never knew I would have the chance to do. Now I know I can do anything.  We are capable of so much more than we think we are. Studying abroad taught me that. Now whenever I think about whether or not I can do something, I don’t spend time questioning whether it’s possible, because I know I can do it.

 

Meadow of the Sons of Nós

A Chairde (greeting that one of my professors always uses. It means friends.),

I have been busy with classes and planning a couple of upcoming trips. Two of the classes I am currently taking require mandatory field trips. The Archaeology and Irish Identity: Celts, Christians, and Vikings class had a field trip to Clonmacnoise last Saturday. The Irish name for Clonmacnoise is  Cluain Mhic Nóis.  The meaning of this name is Meadow of the Sons of Nós. Clonmacnoise is located in Co. Offaly and about 1 hour from Galway.

Round stone tower at Clonmacnoise
Round Tower at Clonmacnoise

Honestly, I was kind of dreading taking this trip because it had been windy and rainy the whole week. We also had a warning of another storm. So I was not excited about walking in the rain. Did I mention this trip was outside and we had to walk the whole time? Anyways, I got soaked and I was cold the whole time. The wind did not help at all.

Ancient monastic site of stone ruins at Clonmacnoise
Clonmacnoise

On the bright side, Clonmacnoise has an ancient monastic site… this means that they had the high crosses! Since arriving in Ireland, one of the top things to do on my list included visiting locations that had high crosses to take pictures. When I had the chance to do so, I took a bunch of pictures. I also took a lot of pictures of doors and entrances. Although the weather was gloomy, it really made the green pop out. It also gave the whole scene a calm and peaceful feeling.

When our professor was giving us the tour, she mentioned that Pope John Paul II came to Clonmacnoise during his 1979 Irish visit. One of the reasons the Pope chose to come to this site was because Clonmacnoise was the true definition of Ireland and it’s religion. After visiting Clonmacnoise, I can see why the Pope felt that way.

High Cross and Round Tower made of rock at Clonmacnoise.
One of the many pictures I took of the high crosses.
High Celtic stone Cross at Clonmacnoise
High Cross (this one was my favorite one).
Doorway to one of the rock buildings at Clonmacnoise
Cute doorway at the site
Door looking out to the high cross
A beautiful view from the inside
Ruins of a Romanesque Doorway at Clonmacnoise
Ruins of a door.

This weekend I will be going to the Aran Islands and then the following weekend, I will go to London with a group of friends. Can’t wait to fill you in with my next adventures!

-Jess

Travel Day and Day One in Dunners

Kia Ora everyone!

Wow, what a whirlwind travel day and first day in Dunedin for us Linfield students. I met McKenna and Grace at the Portland Airport with plenty of time before our 3:30 pm flight to get coffee, discuss our plans for the semester, and the travel plans of our fellow Linfield students, Connor, Zoe, and Jewel, who we would be meeting in Auckland. None of us expected what would happen in the next 24 hours.

McKenna, Me, and Grace on our flight to Auckland
McKenna, Me, and Grace on our flight to Auckland

Our first flight of three was to Vancouver and was short and bumpy, but we made it with enough time to sit down for maybe twenty minutes before boarding for our fourteen-hour flight to Auckland. In the meantime, Connor and Zoe had been enjoying their seven-hour layover in San Fransisco and would be landing in Auckland soon after we were scheduled to. Jewel, leaving from LA, was scheduled to land in Auckland an hour after us. The flight from Vancouver to Auckland was long and lacking in sleep but the three of us somehow had seats next to each other. Zoe and Connor got a minor upgrade so they could sit next to each other, as well as some free snacks for Connor’s non-existant 21st birthday which was skipped because they flew over the international dateline. We all ended up landing in Auckland within twenty minutes of each other including Jewel. We had a tight layover to be able to get to our next flight which would be with Connor and Zoe, but Jewel was scheduled for a later flight because she wasn’t expected to land at the same time as us. Grace, McKenna, and I found Jewel just before customs, but Connor and Zoe seemed to be five minutes ahead of us throughout the entire airport.

We picked up our checked bags and tried to get through customs and bio-security as quickly as possible. With only 45 minutes before our next flight, we were still in the international terminal waiting in line to recheck our bags, not knowing that we needed to check them in the domestic terminal. After the 15 minute outdoor jog with checked bags in tow to the domestic terminal we got in the wrong line, yet again, and had to cross the terminal to check our bags. We made it through security as they were calling the final boarding call for our flight, which luckily was right next to the security checkpoint. Zoe and Connor, who had been at the gate for almost an hour before the flight was scheduled to take off seemed very relieved to see us as we boarded the plane. We were a little confused about how they got so far ahead of us because it seemed as if we weren’t too far behind them at the start of our Auckland airport adventure.

The historic UO Clocktower
The historic UO Clocktower

After Grace told Connor about our adventures running through the airport and between terminals with our bags we figured out how they got there on time. Connor and Zoe never picked up their checked bags in Auckland because they were told in Medford they were checked all the way through. This made things faster through both biosecurity and not having to recheck their bags, but now that we are in Dunedin they only have the extra set of clothes they packed in their carry-ons. After all of this, we were picked up our keys to our flats and were dropped off at our flats by our shuttle driver. Except for Zoe, who was dropped off at the wrong flat and had to treck back to the Uni-Flats with all of her stuff (but not her checked bag because that is in Auckland), to find out where she actually lives. Through all of this Zoe, Connor, and I still decided to go to International Student Orientation, even though we were all physically and emotionally exhausted. Somehow we all managed to survive our first day in country, I didn’t even take a nap, although I was definitely in bed and asleep by 9 pm. The sunny weather and humid air will take some getting used to for this Alaskan but I can’t wait for what this semester will bring.

Wish us luck!

Becca

 

 

Auf Wiedersehen Wien

My final weeks in Vienna were probably some of the most bittersweet moments. With finals being close and classes being almost over, we took this opportunity to do more cultural things in Vienna (which, there is ALWAYS many to choose from.)

front of the Austrian parliment
SPÖ Chairwomen Rendi Wagner speaks alongside the rest of parliament.

There was this hearing at parliament and we were lucky enough to sit in and listen to the Austrian parliament. Though our German wasn’t exactly good enough to understand the politicians, it was fun to see all the politicians that we’ve been learning about for months in real life.

Front view of the stage in the Vienna State Opera House displaying art.
Art on display before the show

The next thing we did was an absolute must in Vienna – the Vienna State Opera! The four of us got all dressed up for the event and even though the show was all in Russian, they provided each seat with a screen where it would translate the show into your desired language. It was great to finally see the inside of a building I passed hundreds of times on my way to class.

Our farewell party at the institute was a fun way to say our goodbyes to institute staff, professors, language assistants, and other students at the institute. We took lots of photos and it was hard to say goodbye to the institute and the people who helped us with so much in our semester abroad.

Our group of 4 student posing for a photo with Hermann Weissgarber, our director.
Legendary sorority squat photo
Our group of 4 students posing with staff from the Austro-american Institute where we took our classes.
left to right: Gretel, Delaine, Kara, me, Anna, Hermann, Wolfgang, and Dane
Our student group of 4 posing with one of our professors, Heinz Kröll.
Our professor Heinz Kröll; this was his last year teaching (or so he says)
Amazing piece of chocolate cake on a plate with ice cream at an Austrian cafe, along with cups of coffee.
Amazing chocolate cake at Cafe Central!

With finals being over, we took the final days in Vienna to do some of the touristy stuff we had left for last. Delanie and I finally waited in line to get into the famous Cafe Central and I can definitely say it was worth it!

On our final day in Vienna, we went ice skating at Rathausplatz. It was my first time ever ice skating, but luckily Delanie and Dane were good at supporting me while I got used to the ice. Melissa, a participant from the Austria program in the year before also joined us. It was great to exchange experiences and talk about the things we missed from back home.

3 of our student group posing on a ice skating ring
Trying to keep my balance while we took a photo
4 of our student group posing on ice skates on a ice ring
Finally got the perfect picture after help from the ledge

Studying abroad in Austria has been one of the best experiences of my life. Linfield could’ve not partnered with a better institution, AAIE is amazing and the people that work there really care about giving students the best experience possible.

close up photo of my host family'x dog
My host dog, Pitu

My host family was amazing and I will forever have that connection abroad.

Vienna itself is a city full of culture, history, and art. If you are considering studying abroad here, do it! You won’t regret it.

Until next time, Vienna.

Rosario