abbers44 told me I had to give her advice about living and studying abroad in Japan, and I thought that would be a good way to procrastinate while feeling somewhat productive! So here goes. This will probably be a multi-part series, as I have always wanted to do one of these, and because I don't think I could fit everything into one post. Also, I feel like using this as an excuse to post some of my pictures I've only put up on facebook before~
日本に住み方 ー Living in Japan
Flying to Japan takes a long time. A really long time. At least two, probably three flights, a chance of pretty long layovers, and a very good chance the the long, 12ish hour flight will be on the most uncomfortable (because it is the least expensive) flight you can find. Don't worry, you'll probably be so excited it won't be that unbearable. And since you're going with a group, you'll have plenty of people to excitedly babble with during the trip.
That fact leads to my first bit of advice. Make friends on the plane! Try to grab a seat near other people from your program, and get to know them, talk about what you're going to do in Japan, why you're studying abroad, how much you are going to bomb the language placement tests, etc. Of my four closest American friends I had when studying abroad, I met two of them on the flight over, (and a third was apparently on the same flight, but we somehow never talked to her.)
I ended up sitting with a group of girls who were all going to the same university in Japan as me, and two of them in particular I was incredibly close with the entire semester. Let's call them JinJin and Shika. (Names changed for the protection of future job opportunities, since I'm going to keep this post public. :P) JinJin I had found out in advance would be on the same flight as me for the last two of three legs of the trip. Unfortunately, when I landed in Chicago, where I was hypothetically able to meet JinJin for the first time, it was so early, and I was so nervous of harassing strangers that we both sat in the terminal looking at each other but not speaking. In fact, we didn't speak until we landed in San Francisco. It was pretty hilarious, especially since at one point I actually pulled out my Japanese text book hoping the red-headed girl I thought was JinJin but I wasn't sure was would notice and realize who I was. JinJin and I have been friends ever since~
Shika I met on the long flight between SanFran and Osaka. I got on the plane and got to my seat, and shortly realized the the three girls sitting in front of me were talking about dorky Japanese things. Namely, dorky Japanese music. (I think you know what is coming at this point, Abbey.) I was only half listening to their conversation, when suddenly I hear someone say "Oh look, it's Akanishi Jin. He's on our plane!"
"WHAT? WHERE? DID SOMEONE SAY JIN?" I try very hard not to scream, and I mostly manage! I do ask -somewhat calmly, I like to think- if they just said Akanishi Jin and if this means they, too, are stupidly in love with Johnny's Entertainment and Jpop. They all start laughing, and explain that they were just teasing their friend , who is a dork and would freak out should Jin actually be on our plane. This was how I met Shika, said friend who is actually more of a News fan, not a KAT-TUN fan, as she explained ("that's okay, despite my friends' best efforts, I love Arashi best" I responded.) And we've also been friends ever since~
When you get to Japan, you'll look like the living dead, but chances are you'll be more excited than tired. Just be warned, if you're tempted to take a picture of yourself, you'll end up with a hilarious shot, but also one in which you look like an elephant just sat on you for 14 hours.
On the upside, there will probably be vending machines in the airport! Enjoy your first authentically Japanese experiment and get yourself a
Ponta Fanta. I still remember we all rushed over to the vending machines after making it through customs, and proceeded to boggle at the fact that there were, like, maybe 4 calories in a can of pop. It wasn't even diet. This is why Japanese people are all sticks. (That and their insane metabolism -more on this in the food section of this report.)
One last warning for the traveling section, you'll be incredibly tired when you arrive in Japan, but being so excited to finally be there you may not realize just how far gone you are. I remember that after the initial euphoria had worn off, when I finally had some time to myself in the dorms we were temporarily staying in before moving to our homestays or permanent rooms, I was suddenly insanely homesick. I think I may have attacked greensweaterlj on gtalk at this point, because suddenly I was crying and convincing myself the whole studying abroad thing had been a huge mistake. Luckily she was a fantastic surrogate mother, and I bucked up a bit and went off to sleep. The next morning I woke up and realized that, you know, after being awake for a 48-hour period that ended with you in a new country, sleeping really does cure just about everything, homesickness included.