Settling Down in Osaka

It’s been a lit­tle more than a week since arriv­ing in Osaka, Japan, and I’ve finally set­tled down enough to write about my expe­ri­ences over the past ten or so days.

I left Seat­tle on March 31st and caught my flight to San Fran­cisco where I was sup­posed to catch a con­nect­ing flight to my final des­ti­na­tion in Osaka. Unfor­tu­nately, there was a weather delay and I ended up miss­ing my flight out of San Fran­cisco by about five min­utes. All of the flights from San Fran­cisco to Osaka were booked for the next two days so I had no choice but to be rerouted to Seoul later that day from where I was finally able to catch my flight to Osaka. I arrived at Osaka around 10pm but the prob­lem was the check in hours for my dorm were between 1 and 7pm, mean­ing I had no choice but to wait in the air­port until the next day. After very lit­tle sleep on my flight over, and even less sleep in the air­port, I was finally able to make it to my dorm a full day later than I expected. Iron­i­cally, a mere five min­utes ended up cost­ing me a full day.

After mak­ing it to my dorm, I was given the key to my room as well as a wel­come pack con­tain­ing a descrip­tion of a hand­ful of things I had to do imme­di­ately after arriv­ing. These tasks ended up being very com­pli­cated and involved reg­is­ter­ing with the city office and fill­ing out some paper­work. Thank­fully, I was able to make some friends in my dorm soon after arriv­ing and they helped me through the process. With­out them I prob­a­bly would not have been able to fig­ure any­thing out. I also did some shop­ping and pur­chased some neces­si­ties includ­ing food, some cook­ing uten­sils, as well as some gen­eral house­hold products.

After buy­ing every­thing I needed, I decided it was time to explore Osaka and a few friends and I made a trip to Osaka Cas­tle. The weather that day was fairly wet, but we decided we had to visit the cas­tle as soon as pos­si­ble while the cherry blos­soms were still in bloom. This ended up being a great deci­sion and see­ing Osaka Cas­tle sur­rounded by pink was truly a pleasure.

School has just started and there are still a few things I need to do to set­tle down com­pletely, but after that I will be able to focus on my stud­ies. Hope­fully, over the next five months I will be able to explore Osaka and Japan a lot more, and I’ll make sure to write about any inter­est­ing expe­ri­ences I have.

Thanks for reading.

Exchanges in France

Life in Mont­pel­lier, France has been amaz­ing these past two and a half months! I can’t believe I only have 2 months left! I think in com­ing here I thought things were going to be vastly dif­fer­ent than they are. I absolutely love it here though.

Uni­ver­sité Montpellier-Paul Valery is much dif­fer­ent than any other school I have ever been too. There is not a lot of help like we are used to in Amer­ica, but I have learned that that is just the French way. You def­i­nitely have to be much more inde­pen­dent to study in another coun­try where their aca­d­e­mic sys­tem is set up com­pletely dif­fer­ent. Find­ing classes was one of the hard­est things I have done in France so far. Though one really cool thing is you are allowed to spend two weeks try­ing out classes before actu­ally reg­is­ter­ing for classes and hav­ing to take them. Though a much less cool part is not get­ting your sched­ule for finals until 6 weeks before finals. So as of now I still do not know the exact dates for my finals that I will be tak­ing the end of May. The classes are also harder than I thought they would be but it’s really good for my french, see­ing as out­side of class I almost only speak in Eng­lish because I have made a lot of friends that are Amer­i­can and Aus­tralian. I do how­ever still see an amaz­ing improve­ment in my level of French and how much I under­stand more cul­tur­ally the French in general.

IMG_0598

The beau­ti­ful La Come­die in Montpellier :)

Another thing I have come to love here is the cof­fee. You def­i­nitely can­not get a latte any­where but the Cafe Crème is just as won­der­ful! There are cof­fee shops on every cor­ner, as well as bak­eries to buy amaz­ing baguettes! Find­ing a gym was harder than I thought it would be, I think work­ing out might not be as big a deal in France. I have also dis­cov­ered through obser­vance and ask­ing my pro­fes­sors, that the French do not dress for the weather, they dress for the sea­sons. Some of my profs will wear jack­ets when it’s 70 degrees out! But it’s because it was still tech­ni­cally win­ter. Over­all though I think this expe­ri­ence has really opened my eyes to how amaz­ing France and the peo­ple here are!

Trav­el­ing is prob­a­bly the best part about being in France though! I have so far been able to visit Paris, Barcelona, Nimes, Split Croa­tia, Orange, Loire Val­ley, Dublin Ire­land, Avi­gnon, Sete, and Couliour! I wish I could upload pic­tures but for some rea­son my blog isn’t allow­ing me to add anymore.

Next on my list is Col­mar, Frei­d­burg Ger­many, Stras­burg, Rome Italy, Venice Italy, Flo­rence Italy, and Greece!

Hope­fully soon my blog will let me add more pho­tos and I can share with you more evi­dence of this amaz­ing experience!

 

58 Hours

I left my home in Seat­tle at 5 A.M. on March 26, I reached my dorm in Freiburg on March 28 at ~ 3:00 P.M. That’s ~58 hours of trav­el­ing. There was an overnight delay of more than 24 hours in Las Vegas (Best thing ever!!!). But, I finally reached my dorm with barely 3 hours of sleep in the 58 hours that I trav­eled. I slept for 22 hours and woke up at 1 P.M. on March 29, today. I went out to get some­thing to eat but found out that almost every­thing is closed on Sun­days, espe­cially super­mar­kets. In addi­tion, there are no water foun­tains here, you have to pur­chase your own water. The worst part so far has been car­ry­ing around 3 bags and the best part has been to sleep.

 

After I landed in Frank­furt I had to fig­ure out how to get to Freiburg, around 270 km (168 miles). It was a bit dif­fi­cult as most peo­ple didn’t speak Eng­lish and the ones that did spoke very lit­tle and for­mal Eng­lish, but I man­aged to pur­chase a train ticket and find my way to Freiburg. Freiburg is a very small town in South­ern Ger­many and it is beau­ti­ful. It has enough infra­struc­ture and resources to be able to access almost any­thing and at the same time it is small enough to nav­i­gate. One thing I noticed is that every­one uses bikes here and the cars are parked half way on the side walk. Also, there are only for­mal road crossing/marked cross­ings with sig­nal light (for pedes­tri­ans) on major roads, every­where else there are no mak­ings or lights to cross, you just cross where there are no cars or bikes coming.

 IMGP14461
Regional Train — The seats are so com­fort­able and much more leg room than Sound Transit

My dorm is nice, it is much big­ger than the old UW Seat­tle dorms and also much brighter. It has nice hard­wood floor­ing and the bath­room floors are heated. There is a nice locale closet and a mini fridge. They have also given me some basic kitchen sup­plies. I have met some local stu­dents and I found out that you only go to col­lege for 3 years in Ger­many and you don’t have to pay a sin­gle penny. The libraries have many copies of each text­book so you don’t even have to pay for text­books. This is only for pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties, you still have to pay for pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties. The admis­sion process for pub­lic and pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties are the same as in the U.S. So far it has been really windy and the tem­per­a­ture is the same as Seat­tle, expect with­out the rain.

IMGP14611

Why Study Abroad?

March 23rd, 2015, Blog by Muhammed Saleh, Com­puter Sci­ence and Soft­ware Engi­neer­ing, Osaka Uni­ver­sity Exchange

On March 31st I will be catch­ing my flight to begin my semes­ter abroad at Osaka Uni­ver­sity in Japan. With my trip just a week away, I thought I would share what lead to me to pur­sue study abroad and why I chose to study at Osaka University.

In high school I began study­ing Japan­ese, and I devel­oped an inter­est in the lan­guage and cul­ture; how­ever, I quickly learned that lan­guage learn­ing in a class­room set­ting has its lim­i­ta­tions. I dreamed of becom­ing flu­ent in Japan­ese, but I knew I would never be able to do so with­out spend­ing some time study­ing the lan­guage in Japan. In order to achieve flu­ency in Japan­ese, study abroad was always some­thing I wanted to try, but it was also some­thing I never truly believed I would have time for. I feel like there’s a gen­eral mis­con­cep­tion that study abroad is a waste of time, and ini­tially I didn’t think I could fit it into my aca­d­e­mic sched­ule. Even­tu­ally, after years of doubt­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of study­ing abroad, I finally worked up the courage to pur­sue the oppor­tu­nity, and here I am!

Pick­ing what coun­try I wanted to study abroad in was easy, but there were a num­ber of options in terms of where in Japan I wanted to study. As a senior in the CSSE depart­ment, I knew I needed to find a study abroad pro­gram that would allow me to study com­puter sci­ence while abroad. This helped me nar­row my choices down to two schools: Tokyo Insti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy and Osaka Uni­ver­sity. The rea­son I even­tu­ally decided to attend Osaka Uni­ver­sity was because of the Fron­tier Lab pro­gram which allows inter­na­tional stu­dents to per­form research in a STEM lab­o­ra­tory. The Fron­tier Lab offered the per­fect oppor­tu­nity for me to make the most of my study abroad expe­ri­ence, and it made pick­ing Osaka Uni­ver­sity a no-brainer.

Over the next week I have a moun­tain tasks I need to com­plete in prepa­ra­tion for my trip. I’m sure five months abroad will go by faster than I would like, but it’s a very long time to be away, and I need to make sure I have taken care of every­thing before I go. I still can’t believe there’s only a week left. I am brim­ming with excite­ment and just a lit­tle bit of worry.

 

Thanks for reading!

Pre-departure

Blog by Savan Vekaria, Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion, Goethe Insti­tute Ger­man Lan­guage Program

Ger­many, why did I choose this for my first Study Abroad expe­ri­ence? The rea­son why I chose this spe­cific pro­gram was because it was a lan­guage inten­sive pro­gram. I want to and have wanted to learn Ger­man for a while now and this was the per­fect oppor­tu­nity to learn Ger­man and also expe­ri­ence the cul­ture at the same time.

 

I chose the Goethe Insti­tute Ger­man Lan­guage Pro­gram. The loca­tion did not mat­ter as long as it was within Ger­many. The loca­tion that I will be trav­el­ing to is Freiburg. Out of this expe­ri­ence I want to learn as much Ger­man as I can (aca­d­e­m­i­cally), want to learn more about the cul­ture of Ger­many and Europe in gen­eral (per­son­ally), and meet with stu­dents from dif­fer­ent coun­try who I very well could be work­ing with one day (pro­fes­sion­ally & personally).

 

My main anx­i­ety is mis­com­mu­ni­ca­tion, but only when I first arrive there because I hope to be pro­fi­cient enough too able to com­mu­ni­cate by the time I depart. My pack­ing expe­ri­ence was a bit unusual than nor­mal. The two main things that changed were buy­ing bags that met the air­line require­ments and pack­ing for school instead of a vaca­tion (mean­ing pack­ing pens, notepads, etc.).

A Weekend in Barcelona

The week­end of Jan­u­ary 30– Feb­ru­ary 1st was an amaz­ing week­end spent in Barcelona, Spain with two awe­some girls! We spent almost 3 hours after our last class Fri­day after­noon on a train from Mont­pel­lier, France to get to Barcelona, with some beau­ti­ful scenery to keep us busy. Once we arrived in Barcelona we looked for our AirBnB apart­ment that we rented from the sweet­est lit­tle Span­ish man. It was much harder than we orig­i­nally thought see­ing as none of us spoke very good span­ish, more like no span­ish.  Our apart­ment was per­fect and cozy just like we had hoped! On our way to our apart­ment we saw the Arco de Tri­umf which was absolutely gor­geous and full of the sub­tle beauty we rarely see in France. In France things are bright and col­or­ful and cov­ered in gold, this was not the case in Spain.

Arco de Triomf

Arco de Triomf

After this we made a deli­cious pasta din­ner and went to bed because we had a lot planned for the next day. We started the day off with a walk to La Ram­bla, which ended up only being about 15 min­utes from our apart­ment. After a lit­tle break­fast we walked down to the mar­ket, which was so full of peo­ple and so many dif­fer­ent types of stands it was incred­i­ble. We then walked down to the end of La Ram­bla where they have these amaz­ing tour buses that take you all over the city for only 27 euros, with only 10 min­utes in between buses. It was like the per­fect taxi!

Our first place we vis­ited was La Per­dr­era, one of Anto­nio Gaudi’s many beau­ti­ful archi­tec­tural works. It was amaz­ing and reminded me of some­thing out of Dr. Suess. This apart­ment build­ing was built in the early 1900s for a very wealthy fam­ily to live in and rent out the remain­ing floors.

Even the roof was given incred­i­ble detail to make sure every aspect would be like noth­ing ever seen before.

Le Perdrera

Le Per­dr­era

After this we went to Gaudi’s Park Guell and walked around the beau­ti­ful lands, even though they are still work­ing on fin­ish­ing some of his work. We then went home and changed into nice clothes for a nice evening out! We had a won­der­ful din­ner on the water­front before going to an ice bar and hav­ing a drink. We fin­ished the night off at a local club that had out­ra­geously expen­sive drinks!

The next morn­ing we were able to attend mass at a gor­geous Cata­lan church. None of us are catholic so we didn’t know much about what was going on, but it was still incred­i­ble to experience.

After this we headed to the train sta­tion and began our trip back to Mont­pel­lier. Barcelona was so amaz­ing and I def­i­nitely can’t wait to go again!

Getting to know France a little better!

I have now been liv­ing in Mont­pel­lier, France for three weeks and I think I’m start­ing to get things down now! Which feels won­der­ful I must say! Though I don’t think I will ever get used to play­ing chicken every day when walk­ing in the cross walk, try­ing not to get hit by the cars in the street who refuse to stop!!

Also the Euro is a lit­tle hard to get used to because I know have a huge pocket full of change because there are 1 and 2 euro coins. But they are really pretty :)

I didn’t know peanut but­ter was only an Amer­i­can thing, and after search­ing for a bit I was finally able to find some in the Amer­i­can sec­tion at the big super­mar­ket! Who would have thought peanut but­ter was such a commodity!IMG_1467

 

Another thing I wasn’t pre­pared for, that I think we might need to bring back to the U.S. is how scared lunch breaks and week­ends are here in France. Noth­ing is opened on Sun­days! And by noth­ing i mean NOTHING! No gro­cery stores, phar­ma­cies, malls, lit­er­ally noth­ing but maybe one or two restau­rants. Also most places here close for at least one hour dur­ing lunch, some­times even two! So don’t plan on going any­where between 12 and 2!

 

My First Week in Montpellier

10305325_10104188499779895_3077599117402858865_nThis week has been a really hard week but also a lot of fun! Let’s start by say­ing I miss my fam­ily ter­ri­bly and i prob­a­bly cried 6 or 7 times since I’ve been here and I have only been here for 6 days. Thank­fully I am finally get­ting to set­tle in, and the crois­sants def­i­nitely help!! I spent most of the first few days just get­ting the basic things I needed for my tiny dorm room. I needed hang­ers and gro­ceries as well as pots and pans. My room is extremely small but also cozy and thank­fully I have my own shower, which kind of looks like an air­plane bath­room that they just threw a shower into. I also was lucky to find two girls sim­i­lar to me, who aren’t big partiers and who are excited about trav­el­ing and learn­ing French. Mont­pel­lier is a gor­geous city with won­der­ful peo­ple and I am so glad I chose to do my study abroad expe­ri­ence here. The Tam in Mont­pel­lier is their tram sys­tem and is a huge help get­ting around. I love know­ing I have a way to get to wher­ever I want in this city. This week has been hard but I am look­ing for­ward to see­ing what else UPV has to offer. :)

Preparing for France:

Blog by Heidi Han­nah, Global Stud­ies Major, Exchange with Uni­ver­site Paul Valery

When I was 21 I chose to move to Nova Sco­tia by myself for two years. I thought this expe­ri­ence was the hard­est thing I would ever go through. I had to start over and make new friends and fig­ure out who I was, with­out any influ­ences. I learned so much about myself while in Nova Sco­tia which makes me even more excited for spend­ing 5 months in Mont­pel­lier, France. As time gets closer and closer to the day I leave, Jan­u­ary 15th, 2015, I find I’m get­ting more and more ner­vous. I know it is going to be extremely hard for me to leave my fiance for 5 months and start over mak­ing new friends in a new coun­try and a new lan­guage. With this in mind I am mak­ing sure my skype account is ready to go, but my focus is on soak­ing in every moment of this last week I can. This expe­ri­ence is some­thing I might never have the chance to do again and I want to make this count. I am really look­ing for­ward to watch­ing my french get bet­ter as the time goes as well.

The visa process was exhaust­ing and con­fus­ing, but now that that’s done all that is left is to pack!

Wish me luck :)

Heidi

 

Tips for Traveling Abroad!

Blog by Vanessa Teeter,  Media and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Major, NW Cádiz Program

 

Hi All!

Here is some infor­ma­tion that I found very use­ful over the past month of prepar­ing for my study abroad adventures!

 Finan­cial Aid/Private Loan

Finan­cial Aid

I have not had much luck with finan­cial aid but I do know for a fact that it is great to con­tinue fill­ing out FAFSA. You never know what you could become eli­gi­ble for!

If receiv­ing any fed­eral fund­ing do fill out a Revi­sion Request form, which can be found online (www.uwb.edu) of the finan­cial aid office. This form will basi­cally be ask­ing for your funds to be revised due to the study abroad expenses. This could lead to a pos­si­ble increase in tuition

Pri­vate Loan

I have a stu­dent loan with BECU. Make sure to check in with them before study­ing abroad, espe­cially if you will be using the pri­vate loan to pay for tuition.

It was extremely help­ful for me to under­stand my MyUw account, web check and how to make a payment-using web check, and many other things.

 Pay­ment methods/Money

Pay­ment Methods

Speak­ing of money….

  • I am going to be in Spain for six months and will need to have access to money! My chase card’s ATM fees are 3% of the amount with­drawn plus $5, because of this I researched options that had no ATM fees or inter­na­tional fees.
  • What I found with my other class­mates was a Charles Swab account and card that can work as a debit and credit card. This was a bless­ing because they have no min­i­mum bal­ance, inter­est doesn’t start until after the first year, and if any fees are charged to the account Schwabs will reimburse!
  • Over­all it is a bet­ter deal even though I will be using the card for mak­ing ATM cash with­drawals about once a month.
  • If you are stay­ing a while and will need to with­drawal money, do not for­get to bud­get and plan out how much money you will be spending.

 

Exchang­ing Money

I will be using Euros while I am abroad and also will be stay­ing in Madrid for two days, before the pro­gram begins.

  • Chase will order Euros for you, free of charge! This will take about three busi­ness days and the exchange rate is about 1.3. What you do is pull the money you want to exchange from your chase account.
  • I have heard fer­vently not to exchange USD once I get to Europe because of sneaky fees! So stay pre­pared and think ahead!

Car­ry­ing Money while Traveling

  • Invest in a neck wal­let (TJ Maxx about $7) and/or a wait wal­let (looks like a flat fanny pack) these are amaz­ing to have your cash, insur­ance card, pass­port and cards.
  • They are easy to con­ceal under your clothes and eas­ily acces­si­ble to you! Not only will you be less likely to leave some­thing impor­tant behind but you are less likely to become a tar­get. I know most peo­ple think that there is no chance of hav­ing any­thing stolen but you never want it to hap­pen, so be prepared!
  • I do love my purses and back­packs but it is best to keep the most impor­tant things safe and on your per­son while trav­el­ing in unknown areas.

 

Pack­ing– It’s not always fun but here is how I planned it out

Suit­case

    1. Check air­line restricts, weight and size
    2. Check ryan air restric­tions (within Europe) / cheap flights that have restricted bag sizes
  1. 3–4 weeks before departure
    1. Set apart basics
      1. This gave me the time to buy any­thing that I really needed and wouldn’t have real­ized otherwise
      2. Being a noto­ri­ous over packer, this helped me to sort through nec­es­sary things to bring and leave behind
      3. Help­ful tip: Keep the weather in mind, where else will you travel to, will you be there for a sea­sonal change?

     1–2 weeks before departure

    1. Once you have all your basics, pack!
    2. See how every­thing fits, you might have to take some things out, or be able to add more.

     1 week before departure

    1. Dou­ble check! Make sure you have every­thing you need, that the suit­case you’re check­ing is not over the air­lines weight limit (this will save you some money)

 

 Con­tact­ing people

            Home

Your friends and loved ones at home will of course want to be hear­ing about all your adventures!

Here are some apps: (all use wifi or data)

  • Whats app
  • Line
  • Skype
  • Face­book
  • Don’t for­get: Apple prod­ucts have free iMes­sag­ing and Facetime

            Abroad

If stay­ing abroad for more than a month you may need a phone/plan

Options

  1. Use your smartphone
    • Get it unlocked by con­tact­ing your ser­vice carrier
  2. Some car­ri­ers (I have heard T-mobile) offer good Inter­na­tional plans
    • Get a plan once you get to your destination
  1. For Spain I have heard of Movis­tar and Yoigo
  2. Option Rec­om­mended: Get a plan with unlim­ited data and cer­tain num­ber of call and texts

 

  1. Get a plan and cheap phone once you get there!
  • So far this is what I will be doing, bring­ing my iPhone 4 unlocked as backup
  • I have heard of great plans from com­pa­nies like movis­tar and Yoigo. Some only being 5Euros — 8Euros! A very good deal!
  • What I am doing is buy­ing the plan and using a phone left at the uni­ver­sity by pre­vi­ous student.
  • Great way to stay con­nected with peo­ple you meet

 

Back home Organization

When you get home you’ll want every­thing orga­nized and spot­less, leav­ing your only worry to be unpack­ing! Best thing that I dis was to clean up and orga­nize the areas where I am most because I know that when I get home, those are the first places that will get dirty.

 

Another help­ful tip is to leave a trusted per­son with a folder of impor­tant infor­ma­tion, pho­to­copies, etc. that way they can help you from home if any­thing comes up.

Last Tips

  • Travel in groups
    • Not only for safety but can help eachother out, and also there are also some travel group discounts!
      • Renfe train dis­count on tick­ets if sign up as a group!

Things to follow!

  • blablacar.com
    • Con­nects peo­ple who need to travel with dri­vers who have empty seats any­where in the UK
    • Also avail­able as an app for download!
  • Inter­na­tional Exchange Eras­mus Stu­dent Network
  • jetlagrooster.com
    • Helps cal­cu­late how much sleep you need in order to pre­vent being jet lagged
    • Also includes help­ful hints and tips!

For more post check out my per­sonal blog

Vanessa's Personal Blog

Vanessa’s Per­sonal Blog