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.

image

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.

imageimageimage

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

image

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.

imageimageimage

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.

imageimage

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.

imageimageimage

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.

imageimageimage

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.

imageimageimage

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

image

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.

imageimageimageimageimageimage

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.

image

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

So…. I’m leaving tomorrow–When’d that happen?!

Hey interwebs!

This is Maria, popping in to say hey, as she frantically tries to get all her music from her old MacBook to her new one so she actually has stuff to listen to in Japan.

BECAUSE SHE IS GOING TO JAPAN. TOMORROW.

(FYI: tomorrow is in T-minus 36 minutes!!!)

Holy crap, guys! I’m leaving in 8 hours!!!!!!!!! Most of that time will be spent sleeping so it’s really going to fly by!!!! This past week (month!) has been crazy busy but insanely amazing. Last Sunday my best friend drove down from Georgia and we spent a week together doing last minute errands and eating at Jaxson’s Ice Cream parlor and even squeezing in a trip to the movies to see “How to Train Your Dragon 2” which was awesome! photo 2 photo (2) photo (1)photo 1

The fact of the matter is… I’m leaving tomorrow. I’m packed–Finally (though I have been mostly packed for a few weeks now). photo 4 I’ve got my computer pretty much set up! I’m going to miss everyone. My aunt and uncle! My mothers! My coworkers! So many special people. Most especially the special ones that I spent tonight with that made it an amazing last evening in the states. I promised I’d try post something every day. Let’s see how this goes, okay guys? Wish me luck. (For all those interested: My best friend Katie’s blog can be read here.)

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.

katieAndMaria

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.

Three Paths – Three Chances

So.

Its been awhile, minasan. A lot has happened since my last, silly post, and now.

I suppose some catching up is needed. My school contacted me to let me know that I might still be able to go through them and go to Kansai Gaidai but I won’t know until April 1st ish. One of the people infront of me canceled so I’m in better standing. So—path open again as a possibility! Which give us the final three!!

Final three, what? You ask. Well, says I, I have three schools/programs I will apply to (also known as Paths to Japan!).

The first of which I am on a waitlist for which is the above mentioned Kansai Gaidai through school. The second is direct enrolling at Akita International University in Akita.

The third is Seinan Gakuin in Fukuoka—another direct enroll.

I’m sure you have questions. Why do I need three? Well, none of these above options are a given. Both Akita and Seinan have an application period around February-March with results announced in April. Aaaand both schools give preference to kids from partnership foreign universities, ie: exchange students. Which I’m not because I’d be direct enrolling. They take small numbers of direct enrolls so both of these are up in the air. We’ve already been over the issue with Kansai Gaidai.  I figure if I apply to both Akita and Seinan while waiting for Kansai, I have to get into one of them, right? Right??!!

All in all, I’m pretty happy with all three schools and if I got into any of them it would make me happy. There is though, a few different ways to look at these schools: Financially, Maria’s Choice, Maria’s Parent’s choice.

Financially:

  1. Kansai Gaidai: This is a bit of a given. If I get into this program, I get about five thousand dollars from my school/Bright Futures/Florida Pre Paid. That is a lot of money. The only worrying detail is that for some reason whilst reading reviews on Kansai Gaidai, the majority of students s aid they spent over $100s a week on food and incedentals and travel on average. Most were around $200!! That is scary.
  2. Aktia International University: It is cheaper than Kansai and Seinan but lacks Kansai’s school scholarships. This is also kind of a lie though. It depends on what dorm I pick. The cheapest dorm is cheaper than Kansai and Seinan but if I do the next level dorm, it is more expensive than Seinan’s homestay.
  3. Seinan Gakuin: I have  different price points for this one, depending on what housing I get, like Akita. Its homestay option is very affordable but its dorm option isn’t bad either at all. Seinan also lets you have a part time job while enrolled. Actually… Akita and Seinan pretty much tie in this category.

Maria’s Choice:

  1. Akita International University: I kind of love what I’ve learned about Akita. The campus looks beautiful. Its surrounded by nature! They have a very mixed international community of students. You dorm with Japanese students. Aaand feedback I’ve gotten about it through reading reviews and peoples blogs as been great! I even asked Texan In Tokyo blogger Grace about it and she highly recommended it. Its nice to hear really good things about some place.
  2. Seinan Gakuin: It has an affordable homestay program which I would love but the dorms aren’t a bad option either here—you have your own room and share the common areas with Japanese students and foreign students. Its by the ocean and my Sensei’s trip in summer is going to be centered around this university and her sister works there if I’m not mistaken. She also recommends it.
  3. Kansai Gaidai: I don’t know how it ended up at #3 since it was my top choice for so long. I think part of it was, because of the waitlist, I really branched out and looked at a lot of different programs and different areas. Kansai is still a strong contender but it worries me that the foreign students seem so separated from Japanese students. I did a lot of research into the experience that people had while at this school and it seems that, while you made a ton of friends with other foreign kids, making Japanese friends was a bit difficult. I’m sure different people had different experiences but the idea of separated buildings for foreign students and Japanese is a bit iffy and I really don’t like that the dorms are just for foreign students. Buuut, it does have a homestay program which fixes that.

Maria’s Parents’ Choice:

  1. Kansai Gaidai: The money things is really important to my mothers and they also like the fact that my school and Kansai have a working relationship. It makes them feel a bit secure. Also… it is far away from the ocean.
  2. Akita International University: They know this is my first choice and are happy with what they know about it so far and like that it has just dorms (neither parent is hot on the idea of a homestay). It is also an okay distance from the ocean.
  3. Seinan Gakuin: Seinan is in last place here because  my one mother is super paranoid about me being to close to the ocean (I’m sure you’ve been wondering why that has been mentioned in the previous two). She heard about the typhoon that hit Japan a few weeks ago south of Tokyo and the damage and deaths just freaked her out. She doesn’t understand that typhoon’s are basically just like hurricanes. And I live in Florida!! South Florida! Hurricanes are like… a yearly thing!! Regardless of this fact, she does not like that Seinan is so close to the ocean. She is an irrational worrywort but I love her anyway.

So! There you have it! My three paths and the different ways of looking at them and weighing the options. I’ll find out in April whether I will be on any of these paths but I’m willing to wait. In the mean time, I will be amassing scholarships and saving money! Huzzah!

The Application Process (Or: Step Two of the Journey)

photo (3)

*It might seem a little late in the game to have a post titled, Step Two, or about the application process but since not much else is happening at this exact moment–ah well.*

My first post on this blog was basically to say that I now have a blog that will chronicle my journey to study abroad in Japan. It also noted that I had submitted my study abroad application.

But, what was the application like? What did it consist of? What did I need to do?

That was the sort of thing I was interested in when I first started researching different study abroad programs/other peoples experiences (mainly in the form of blogs). A lot of what I found was several years old.

Here is what my Application was like:

studyabroadapp

Checklist for my university’s application.

If memory serves, it was a grand total of 19 pages. The first one was the checklist which basically said “Fill in this application and turn it in with the following things.”

This things were:

  • Application fee (which I did not have to include since it was just getting me on the wait list and not an actual program)
  • 1 Recent color photograph of myself with most of my face visible
  • An unofficial copy of my transcript
  • Photo copy of the picture page of my passport

My photo was the following:

Photo 2240

I turned in my application, soup to nuts, in under twenty-four hours from picking it up from the department. Thus, this picture was taken in my kitchen (best lighting in my house after 4pm) on my laptop (which I am holding awkwardly…in my kitchen) about two minutes after I got home from work that day. If you look closely you can see my stove top on the right side. Classy, huh?

My unofficial transcript was easy–I went online and printed it off my school account. The only other Japan-specific qualification that sort of tied into that was, to Study Abroad there, you need a 3.0 minimum gpa. Mine is a 3.86. If there is one thing I am confident in it is my beautiful transcript that is a product of blood, sweat, and more tears than a teenage slumber party watching a Walk to Remember.

Passport was easy… So yeah.

The application itself was made up of three sections. The first was basic information: Name, birthdate, sex, contact information, blah blah, year and major. The second part was basically “what program are you applying to and what courses do you want to take whilst there” with a bit of “how are you going to pay for this?” thrown in. I put down the two programs we offered for Japan at the time (Kansai Gaidai and Tokushima) and could not put down any courses (since both programs were wait-listed). As far as payment–not including scholarships–if I go through my school I can use Florida Pre Paid (which was one of the questions). It also asked if I had filed a FAFSA for that school year. I hadn’t. But, the minute I read that, I went and immediately completed it so I could check the ‘yes’ box (so that is 2013-2014 FAFSA and Application in under twenty four hours). The last section was the “please sign here” bits. Can we use photos of you? Please sign here. You are responsible for blah, blah, and blah. Please sign here. The school is not responsible for blah, blah, and blah. Please sign here.

Then I scanned it into them. Normally, you’d just hand it in to the office but I couldn’t get to school (I had work) so I had to scan it… page by page. But I did it and its done and when if I finally get a spot on a program, I’ll just need to pay the application fee and I’m done.

So there you go! My application process! Of course, I suspect once I’m on an actual program there will be tons more paper work to fill out and God knows how many scholarship applications I will be applying to! It sucks to think that even though I applied in August, I’m still only on step two of my journey.

IMG_1362

The path is never as smooth or straight as it might seem.

What was step one? Deciding I was going. In retrospect, despite how long it took me to make a definite decision about it, that was the easy part.

Introducing the Girl

Hello.

Part of the problem with introductions is that in general they always tend to suck. You can start with “Hello! My name is _____. I’m a ______ in college and I am majoring in _______ and _______! My hobbies are _______ and _______ and ________” and go from there but that is all rather boring and kind of silly sounding (Funnily enough, that is exactly what we spent this past Wednesday learning how to say in my Japanese class).

Or you can be witty and introduce yourself in third person “Her name was _______. Her goal was getting to Japan. By day she was a ________ in college, majoring in _________ and ________. By night she was a masked vigilante by the name of ___________ who used her __________ powers to  __________. When she wasn’t doing any of that she spent her time ________ and _________ and _________” but that can often sound a little pretentious or just plain silly.

Since I risk being silly either way, we’ll go with option two then call it a day. Sound good? Good.

*Impressive voiceover*

Her name was Maria. Her goal was getting to Japan. By day she was a Junior in college, majoring in History and English. By night she was a masked vigilante by the name of Lovely*Complex who used her over-active-pheromone powers to control man and woman alike. When she wasn’t doing any of that, she spent her time reading and writing and fangirling about Jdramas, British television, manga, and countless other silly things.

*cue intro music*

The above is all pretty accurate. Except for the masked vigilante bit. If there is anything super about me… it is defiently not overactive pheromones. More like “She talks faster than a speeding bullet and louder than a jet plane!”

So thats me. Or as much as you need to know for now. I was supposed to make an “About the Girl” page and a few others today but I worked most of the day then came home and watched two Japanese movies with my sister. Which was wonderful.

I was also planning on studying Japanese a bit today but I’ll say that it counts that while watching these two movies I was able to recognize a bunch of the vocab I’ve been learning up to this point.  We’ll pretend, anyway.

I suppose, that deserves to be mentioned. I have currently been studying Japanese on my own since about the beginning of June and started a Japanese course this past week in school. I’ll make a post about what I’ve been using on my own and also about how my class is. When I was researching how to go about learning and what not, I wanted feedback about resources so now its my turn to give feed back.

Any way.

We’ll call this a day/night.

PS: My vigilante name came from the above pictured movie/anime/manga–all of which I have read and watched. The super power came from my AP psychology class when we had to create a super hero/villain whose power had to pertain to what we had learned in class. My best friend and I created Lovely*Complex. She was actually an evil villain who used her power to get people to do what she wanted. Even drew a picture of her. Not sure where it disappeared to. So yeah. Fun fact of the day.