Finding a Family

(Quick starter note: So, I’m going to change the way I do things on this blog. Instead of trying to post things in order of which they happened aka recapping my time here, I want to break things down into sort of categories and reviews and recommendations. It will make for smaller and more manageable posts for me and concrete ideas/messages to impart on the reader. This post does not fit into this, but is extremely necessary for me. Please note: This post deals only with the people who left Japan/are leaving.)

I made/adopted a family while in Japan.

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It happened as a joke at first. A few friends and I were sitting around a table, making a fruit salad and talking shit and someone (it might have been me but Hell if I remember) said something like “If we were a family who would be who” or something similar. I jokingly said I’d be the mom. At first this kid Tyler was picked to be father until everyone agreed that was illfitting. Disante, whom I officially met two hours prior, was the oldest of those sitting around the table and was elected father. He took on this role immediately and gave his agreement in a deep, anime Father type grunt. Candy and Katie, the other two were elected daughters. Tyler was given the role of my estranged brother.

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We kind of ran with the idea.

I quickly got an older sister in the form of the wonderful and ever gorgeous Katelyn. Disante got a brother in the form of Jay. Disante and I adopted Bo Kyung as our middle child. Somewhere along the line Yuri became the oldest sister and was married to Landon. I think the last proper member was Kohe as our son.

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This post isn’t about the family in the sense that I want to give you a blow by blow of how it panned out. This family was a game, but all of these people became a family away from my family. A home away from home. The game gave way to friendships and fun times and things that felt like they might break and disappear on August 1st when most of the people that made Japan an amazing place to be went home.

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This post is to remind those people that I miss them and to inform you, the reader, that making friends is an important part of studying abroad. It will be filled with pictures that have less to do with Japan and more to do with people I have grown to love.

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I fell in love with Japan because of the people I was able to experience it with. That’s important, I think. Having fun with those people allowed me to really fall for Japan. Had I been on my own left to my own devices or surrounded by people I didn’t get along with, I’m not sure if I would have been able to so quickly enjoy Japan. I sure as heck wouldn’t have gone to as many places so quickly.

Great people make a great place and both together make great memories.

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I can’t talk about everyone so I’m going to focus on a core group. Those that aren’t mentioned–even if they weren’t part of the ‘family’–are still missed and greatly appreciated.

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Katieanne Randloph is the other half of my soul coin and before this trip had become a constant part of my life and family. This trip served in showing me that I could TOTALLY live with her 24/7 and not get sick of her and still have shit to talk about all the time. And it was 24/7. I think there was just 5-6 days that we didn’t sleep together in my room. By the end of the trip, she had basically totally moved in. We spent every minute together. I love her more now than I did before. After the mad dash that was getting her to the airport, I stood outside security until I couldn’t see her anymore and cried. I then proceeded to cry all the way back to the dorm. I still miss her.

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Candy was the first person me and Katie become friends with. She arrived with us and spent the first few days with us constantly. She seemed quiet at first, but turned out to be one of the most entertaining, crazy, and funny people on the entire trip. She is one of the most sincere and honest people I think I’ve ever met. She wore herself on her sleeve proudly and when something kinda sad happened to me, she wrote me the sweetest note and I still am so… thankful for the gesture and kind (FUNNY) words. I miss her dinosaur face and zombie face and her laugh a lot. She had a great laugh.

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Disante of the Johnson variety became the second most common fixture in my room next to Katie. He outlasted 2 of the 3 fishes as well. He was at once on of the most graceful and well spoken people I’ve ever met as well as one of the most clumsy (boy couldn’t hold his own phone…) and silly. His voice impressions were amazing and his listening skills were top notch. The amount me and Katie spoke to him about BS is astounding. The fact that he still wanted to be our friend after it all–unbelievable. He loved movies which was perfect because we watched a lot of those. He was just a lot of fun. And funny. Really funny man. He also wrote a letter that made me cry in a Tomato Cafe Jr. Damn you, Disante.

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Katelyn was… By the end of the trip it felt as if I had known her my whole life. Her, Katie and I could talk about just about anything and send each other into fits of laughter. We bonded over Game of Thrones, relationship/boy troubles, hair, Japananese–hell, she helped with a ton of my homework assignments. She was talented with nail polish, she always looked gorgeous and had stunning, looong legs. By the end of the trip I was giving her relaxing head rubs and playing with her hair and she was the third most common feature in my room.

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After the first week, I don’t think there was a single day that Katie, Disante, and Katelyn didn’t appear in my room.

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There were tons of others. Yuri is one of the most beautiful and impressive people I’ve ever met while at the same time being fun and silly and just an absolute blast to be around. Bo Kyung was one of the cutest people ever. Kohe was the biggest 180 (week 1 – quiet loner. Week 5 – one of the silliest people ever). Tyler was hysterical. Jay was willing to wear a sailor moon Cosplay for a dance which was amazing.

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There are too many. I am thankful for everyone and especially thankful for those that became very close friends. I am thankful that my first month in Japan was as amazing as it was and thankful that it was this group of people I ended up coming to.

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I thought once everyone left, maybe Japan/Fukuoka would lose its magic and I’d find out that everything had been dependent on those people. That isn’t the case. They showed me how fun Japan could be and now that I know that I am actively taking part in enjoying Fukuoka for myself and potentially help others see how amazing it is.

Long live the family and memories!

Until next time, みなさん!image

Because things can’t be easy for long – Visa Problems (and Resolutions) –

Two nights ago I received my acceptance email from Kansai Gaidai. I woke up around 2am and just so happened to check my email for some reason and saw it. I was thrilled (in the sleepiest way possible) and went back to sleep with a lopsided grin on my face and the sleep-fuzzy idea that everything was finally coming together and I was actually going to Japan for 6 months.

By the time I woke up to walk my dogs with my brother at 5am, that was no longer true:

I might not be able to get my student visa before leaving the States.

SAY WHAT?!!

Yes, you read that right. Kansai Gaidai (as per their email yesterday morning) stated that if they applied for my Certificate of Eligibility now, it would not come through until just before I leave, not giving me enough time to get my student visa. Instead, they recommend I come into Japan on a tourist visa then get it changed to a student visa while there. There was a confusing bit about whether I would have to go to South Korea to actually get it changed but I’m not sure.

I’d love to go to South Korea! But not to get a visa straightened out!

I called the nearest Japanese Consulate to my house and asked them what that would entail and what it meant. They strongly recommend I do not enter with a tourist visa. First and foremost, my flights in and out of Japan (which I have already purchased) exceed the 90 limit for a tourist visa. Secondly, Japan doesn’t look kindly upon people who come in with the wrong visa type then try change it. They might not approve it.

Overall, pretty sucky, right?

The Consulate told me to ask Kansai Gaidai if there was anyway to expedite the CoE. I emailed them yesterday afternoon and never received a reply (nearly 24 hours later!) which was disheartening.

It would have been  more disheartening had I not taken matters into my own hands.

After I sent the email, I spent a good amount of time panicking about the whole situation and trying to figure out what I’d do if they told me they couldn’t expedite the dang thing. I jumped to extreme measures in my head and decided (rather than canceling a portion of my trip: Summer – can’t do! My best friend is coming! Fall – I’d lose more than half the trip!) I would cancel my arrangements with the Wahaha language school and then at the end of the Summer program fly back to the US for three weeks then fly back late August for the Fall semester. This would enable me to go on the summer trip on a tourist visa then come back to the States, get my student visa processed then go back.

Neither of my mothers thought this was a good idea. At all. The new ticket I would have to add in between my original one would cost the same as my three weeks at Wahaha but with no actual benefit besides sitting on a plane.

Luckily, my non-biological mother had a stroke of brilliance. She asked, whilst we sat at dinner discussing this predicament, if I had contacted the other schools I had applied to about how long it would take them to get me the CoE.

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The clouds parted and I saw the genius in her words. Seinan Gakuin University always knew I would be in Japan from June 28th because they ran the Summer program! They had even mentioned when I applied to both that they would take special steps with my visa stuff since I’d need it sooner. I quickly ran off and emailed them.

At around 3am I woke up and checked my email. Seinan said they were all good on their side. I just needed to fill out the application form and get it to the asap and we’d be set.

So, ladies and gents of the interwebs, I am now going to Seinan Gakuin University for a Summer Program, followed by Wahaha Language program for three weeks, then returning to Seinan Gakuin for the Fall Semester.

Who saw that coming?

Not me.

This means I spend my whole 6 months in Fukuoka (besides my short trip to Tokyo, a short trip to someplace I don’t remember as part of the Summer program, and a short trip to Kyoto during the Semester).

Holy shiitake mushrooms, guys!!

A problem and resolution in a 24 hour period?!!!!

It was intense. I came close to crying. Sitting here on the other side of it, I am immensely relieved and all sorts of giddy. I am going to Japan for 6 interrupted months.

Every hurdle that has come my way makes the happiness and excitement I feel right now even sweeter. This process hasn’t been easy and there have been several times when my mother has turned to me and said “I don’t know… It feels like the world just doesn’t want you to go.” There were times when I felt like that too.

But I am going.

So there.

My life is crazy.

(Please note: As with a lot of pictures, the above aren’t mind and were found via google!)

I am actually going to Japan – An Update

Hello interwebs! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? A very long time!

I went on an unannounced hiatus because everything got very busy very quickly. The six weeks of the Renaissance festival in February was the first big time suck which led into the super busy part of the semester which eventually lead to finals. And here we are! School is over, I’m going to be working full time and my trip is pretty much finalized and set. Holy cow, right?

So, let’s get to the juicy bits: The actual status of the trip and what it looks like!

Super quick summary:

In my previous post (oh so long ago!), there was no definite plan for the trip. I was stuck between Seinan Gakuin University in Fukuoka and Akita International University and my school’s program at Kansai Gaidai University was totally off the table.

Through on odd chain of events, a bunch of people dropped out of the wait list and (even though I had removed myself previously), Tania from our International Program’s office called me and offered a spot at Kansai Gaidai for Fall 2014. I jumped on it cause school will give me money this way. SGU and AIU were still in the running IF I received the Boren but since I recently found out I did NOT receive the Boren (my feelings in response deserve their own post) they are off the table and Kansai Gaidai is it!

I have applied to EVERYTHING at this point. This includes applications to KGU, SGU, AIU for Fall 2014 semesters as well as the application to SGU for their summer program and tons of scholarships (none of which I have received so far *sigh*).

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Me and my SGU Summe Program App

I’ve been accepted into SGU’s summer program (yay!) and though I haven’t been officially accepted into KGU that is more of a formality since my school nominated me through their partnership. I’ve paid for the summer program and my air fare!

As it stands now (which is pretty solid), the trip looks like this:

June 30th-August 1st: Seinan Gakuin University’s Summer Program in Fukuoka.

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  • Intensive Language program – 3 hours of Japanese a day!
  • Dorm living
  • MY BEST FRIEND WILL BE WITH ME OMFG I AM SO HAPPYahem… I mean… My best friend will also be joining me on this part of the trip.
  • July 25th-July 27th we will be going to Tokyo!

August 1st-August 22nd: Wahaha Language School in Fukuoka

  • Language course!
  • Homestay!
  • Kind of a filler and I might end up not doing this if I can find cheap living accommodations for 3 weeks instead.

August 23-December 24th: Kansai Gaidai University for Fall 2014 semester

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  • 4 Classes that are so far unknown.
  • Homestay

I’m definitely going to try to fit in some other lighter traveling in between all this, but it all depends on funds which are tight since none of my scholarships have come through. At this point I’m waiting to hear back from 1 more. Here is to hoping!

Future posts will address a few things in detail such as planning the Tokyo trip, going to Japan with my best friend, what applying has been like/what I’ve learned.

See you then!

How Quickly Things Change: Boren!Undone

So this past Thursday was my campus interview for my Boren scholarship.

For those of you who don’t know or who might be applying to Boren from a school that doesn’t have a representative: When your school has a rep as mine does, you have a campus deadline for when you submit your application. FAU’s campus deadline was the 7th of January. Once you do that, your campus rep gets to look at your application and everything thing then picks two faculty members to also look over your application (the essays in particular) and then they interview you. The purpose of the interview is for the rep and two faculty members to ask questions and address points in your application/essays that are unclear or weak and give you tips on how to beef it up. At the end of this, your campus representative gives you the ability to access your application again so you may edit your essays based on their feedback.

So yeah. Mine was on Thursday.

One of the faculty members who was supposed to be there didn’t show up. Funnily enough he is one of my professors this term and I had reminded him about the interview on Wednesday. He got his Friday and Thursday confused though. So my interview happened with just my rep and the other faculty member she chose (an English teacher who I have-weirdly enough-never had before). It went well in the sense that I got lots of good advice on how to strengthen my essays. Not so well in the sense that my first essay was a lot weaker than I thought. The good news is now I can make it stronger!

This means though, my Boren application is not done, despite my previous post saying so! Honestly though, it will take me 20 minutes to finish it. I started on Thursday night changing some stuff then had to do a bit of research so now I just need to finish it up then I’ll resend it to my rep so she can look over it again.

The professor who missed my interview emailed me and said he’d still look over all my stuff and we could meet some other time to give me feed back. He also used to go over Boren applications in DC so he is familiar with the scholarship and knows what to look for! He will be a great help!

On another note, whilst I sat at school waiting for my interview, I submitted the online application forms for Seinan Gakuin University’s summer program AND the semester program. So thats all started! I have a HUGE to-do list that will be addressed in another post!

Till then, have a great weekend!

Update: Boren!Down, Akita!Started, Seinan!Starting

Jeez, this post has taken forever to get written. By that I mean, most of the stuff in the above title happened two weeks ago (during the first week of the new semester). Why has it taken so long? Well, actually getting some of it done while dealing with school took time then last week I was down and out with the flu. The first part of this week was spent playing catchup since I missed 3 days of class last week.

Any way! Onto the show!

Boren Scholarship

Done and done! Wooooo! I turned it in on the seventh of January sans two of my reference letters (from Professors who don’t check their emails at all over winter break).

It ended up being a little bit more complicated than I anticipated. As mentioned in my previous post, I needed letters of support from Japan. The morning of the 6th (the first day of class AND the day before everything is due) I get an email from Akita International University saying the won’t write me a letter unless I complete and submit their online application and get my school to sign the confirmation portion at the end then scan that into them. I also got an email from Seinan Gakuin University with the letter attached no questions asked. Phew for SGU–Continuing to give me less hoops to jump through!

So on top of trying to finish up and edit my essays and get ready for class/going to class, I had to complete the application and submit it then run to the International Office and pay $170 so they would sign my form then scan it for me. Luckily, it all went smoothly and I got everything to Akita on time so come the morning of the 7th, I had the letter of support sitting  in my inbox waiting to be printed and delivered!

The letters of reference from school faculty also ended up being tricky. My sensei eventually checked her email and got the letter to me the Monday after the application was due (I spoke to my advisor and she okayed turning these in late) which was great. Sadly, the other professor I had asked was still not replying to ANY of my MULTIPLE emails so I quickly spoke to another professor who agreed to do it for me. I collected that letter today and dropped it off to the International Office.

So everything is officially taken care of!

All that is left is my campus interview tomorrow at 3:15pm and then if everything looks good, my school will send in all my documents to the actual Boren office on the 5th of February. At which point I start waiting for April to come round and for the results to come out!

Akita International University

So, as stated above, (despite the fact that application period isn’t until February) I have submitted the online portion of the AIU application. This still leaves all that other stuff like transcripts, recommendation letters, photo ID, and all that jazz to be sent in. That will be happening a shortly and will be elaborated on in a post for another day.

Seinan Gakuin University

As the lovely gentlemen I have been in contact with from Seinan told me when he sent me my letter, I have not submitted the application yet! This has mainly come down to time and other stuff taking precedence. This (hopefully!) will happen tomorrow as I have a huge amount of free time available in between my morning class and my 3:15pm interview. So yeah–Everything needs to be done for this one.

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MY BEST FRIEND KATIE!!! and me to her right.

On a GREAT NEWS NOTE: My best friend got the go-ahead from SGU so she can apply to their summer trip! (Background info: SGU’s summer trip requires 1 semester of Japanese study prior to attend this trip. Her school doesn’t have a Japanese program or class so she started online classes in the hopes that this would suffice. It will and she has been approved to apply!) SO YEAH YAY AND HUZZAH TO ME! I am two steps closer to going to Japan with my best friend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Going to Japan is amazing and I am looking forward to it but having five weeks with my best friend in a place we both love and have spoken about for YEARS? Priceless.

Getting My Boren Application Done: Things are Going Well!

Heeeey!

Its been awhile, hasn’t it?

Mainly because I had finals then my best friend came down for a week and a half (we went and saw the Hobbit in Imax twice!) and then that Christmas thing happened which all had me delightfully busy (well, after finals were over)!

Now I’m elbows deep in my Boren Scholarship application which is due to my University on January 7th! I have to say–This is the most labor intensive application I have EVER done…EVER.

Here is my checklist so far:

1. Online Application

  • Personal Information Section [Done!]
  • Study Abroad Program  Section [Done!]
  • Budget Section [Done!]
  • Two Essays

2. Supplementary Materials

  • Two Mandatory Letters of Reference from School Staff + 1 Optional Additional [Waiting!]
  • Transcript from My University [Received!]
  • Language Self-assessment [Done but needs to be printed!]
  • Optional Language Proficiency Form [Going to be done!]
  • Letter of Support from My School: Must state I will still be considered a student of FAU and they support my study abroad options. [School has been notified they need to do this]
  • Letters of Support from Seinan Gakuin and Akita International: Must state that I am applying and they actually have a study abroad program that will provide support for me whilst I’m in Japan. [I have informed both schools!]

Right now, I just need to finish my two essays and get my reference letters from the two professors I asked. I asked my boss at work to do the third optional letter for me–I work at a travel agency so its sort of relevant and he has known me much longer than either of these professors and knows a very different side of me. Essays are going well but I’m a bit worried that my professors aren’t checking their emails and will only remember the letters like… two days before its due… Which would suck royally. Anyway, I’m not going to be negative about it but I am going to email a different professor just incase one of these two lets it slip. Extras are good.

Besides that, things in general are looking up! The day after my last post bemoaning the fact that I couldn’t go on my school’s summer trip and how I needed to find something else to do to keep me in Japan over 6 months, I got an email from Seinan Gakuin University (the one in Fukuoka where my school’s trip was going to be) that they have a summer trip! Over the exact same dates as my schools trip!! For $2,000 dollars less than what FAU’s trip was going to cost me! Granted, this meant no traveling to Kyoto or Tokyo but that is totally fine! Best of all, their cancellation policy is much more humane than FAU’s. I can cancel before April 21st without any penalty! Which gives me plenty of time to find out the results from Boren! Huzzah!

So yay Seinan!!!

Also, I can now officially apply to Seinan Gakuin for the semester program and will be able to apply to Akita in mid January. I’m mentally considering Kansai Gaidai out of the running. I’m still on the waitlist but the chance of me getting it are slim to none. Because of this, I’ve decided not to complicate things and will not mention KG on my Boren application. In the actual applicaiton you can only list two options and the cost for those to options but I was given permission to mention KG in one of the essays. I’ve decided, if I get Boren and somehow magically get KG, I’m just not gonna go. I’ll do Akita or Seinan. KG’s big apeal was Kyoto and the $5,000 dollars I’d save by going through my school–with the Boren, that $5,000 becomes kind of void (Boren would pay me $5,000 less) and if I don’t get Boren and get into KG–well, still good.

Any way! Last bit of good news? It seems my best friend miiiight be able to go on the four week summer trip with me! Yay! That is still in the works but hopefully, we can call it ‘official’ soon!

I’m off to tackle essays!