EXCHANGE STUDENT Q AND A PART 2

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What’s your living circumstances like?

Major question, sort of, so I will try to cover it here.

Housing:

First hint of the day: don’t buy your toiletries at konbinis the moment you land. you get more value-for-money options from the local supermarkets and shops. if you absolutely have to and you arrived a few days early, hunt for Yodobashi first. first floor, beauty section, tonnes of options.

As you can see from a few posts ago, I managed to moved into, what’s lovingly known as, an aparto. If you were thinking you were going to stay on campus, like I did, you’re wrong. Before you arrive, they will ask you a few questions as to what you prefer in terms of housing and so on, and you get put into whatever they can handle (it’s not guaranteed). Some of those apartments come with a wiimax (pocket wifi) that is largely slow and unreliable in these parts (out in the sticks) and others come with ethernet-ed internet. While either circumstances are good, despite the unreliability, i still love my wiimax.

Each room is set up differently, and each room might have have different things. I am staying in Garden Heights Hirata. My room comes with a fridge, a microwave, a vacuum cleaner, a gas stove, a study desk with a desk lamp, an RCAC with it’s own remote, a light remote (coolest thing ever), a bed and bedsheets with like 3 layers worth of blankets and a pillow. The laundry room is communal and in a separate little building. The pillow is tiny, and i am used to contour pillows, so this was a little bit of a pain for me. however, most pillows here, while somewhat contoured, are really awful to use, so i ended up reverting to the original pillow.

The bathroom is like most hotels here minus the, disappointingly, infamous ass-warming bidet seat. you have a switch on the tap to go between basin and shower head. note: there is no toilet brush or any cleaning materials. hint: go find a 100yen shop asap when you arrive. One’s near the Saito Nishi monorail, in the “garden mall” next to the monorail, another is somewhere far away.

As you’re living in a rented apartment, you are also expected to abide by the social rules. no loud noises, separate your rubbish and throw them away accordingly (dates are written down on a piece of paper that you will receive), no late night laundries and greet your neighbours… only because this is a fantastic way to meet people.

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Location:

it’s about a 10-15 mins climb uphill to the uni (all options include a climb uphill to uni, go build you stamina now!), with a takoyaki stand that never opens near me, 2 konbinis that are equidistant from me, 3 supermarkets about 10 minutes away, a bus stop just right outside, a homeware shop nearby, a sushi shop, an italian restaurant and a shokudo just 5 mins or less away.

If you’re a foodie though, there’s plenty of options just 20 mins walk away or a short bus ride’s worth. don’t fret. streets worth of food, make sure you spend your time wisely.

Minoh, the area you’re staying in, is still, largely, a “new town”. most of the families and people living here are under 40, with some young kids and regular jobs. most of them don’t seem to be home before 9, but regardless, the neighborhood is very quiet, clean and peaceful. It’s also interesting to see the stay at home housewives.

There’s a couple of small shrines here but nothing that will suit the tourist in you, particularly for the New Year’s Celebrations.

Further location advice: as mentioned before, about 45 minutes to the station that takes you to kyoto, about an hour and a bit to the JR stations that will take you everywhere else. about 2 hours from kobe, depending on which trains you take.

Also, transportation = expensive.

Food:

Most people ask me if I was cooking here at all. Osaka IS the “kitchen of Japan”, I chose not to cook while I am here this time. 7 weeks here and I want to buy pots and pans and rice cooker and what not? I will be poor before I even start cooking, so no. So, I eat from Konbini, the supermarkets and their half priced bentos, various eateries around and away from here and so on. In this way, I also felt like I met more people, I have learnt new ways of cooking things and “met” new choices of food. The only issue I met is when I didn’t feel like eating until about say, 11pm and also when i start getting… fussy.

In Canberra, I sort of pick a cuisine or whatever, and I just eat. Here, I go on a “nah, I might see something better later” or “I don’t feel like this today” idiotic sort of mood and get real fussy. In either situations, I often find myself starving (In a place full of food, mind you), way over any meal times ¬†and sometimes when everything is either closing or closed.

The nearby Konbinis is poorly stocked, which further limits my choices, and then life gets tough and I cup-noodle it up :(

Current Mood: (tired) tired

Exchange student Q and A part 1

I haven’t been able to update coz I am a lazy ass and the internet is like a dying animal. However, I think it’s basically due time for me to do an update for both memories and for the couple of people asking me questions. 1) this will answer their questions and keep my memories but also 2) I foresee similar questions coming in the future. I am going to break this up into multiple parts and hopefully cover most of the questions this way.

Looking into the Valley in Aomatani area, Minoh, Osaka

Firstly, a little intro about how I got to this stage (for those who weren’t clear):

I am currently a University of Canberra Nursing Undergrad and a Australian National University student of Diploma of languages. Due to the very obscene way UC eradicated their language department and suggested that languages have no place in my degree, I had to go by the diploma route to enjoy learning Japanese without the whole degree load on my back. I am currently on the Osaka University JShip program that is offered to ANU students (so by all accounts, I am an ANU student for this purpose).

This program is offered during the WINTER season- meaning this lasts from mid december to the first week of february or thereabouts. During this time, there are at least 2.5 weeks worth of public holidays, pretty much immediately after you are inducted with a couple of classes. There are also about 2 cultural exchange programs: A compulsory day’s work shop with their English major students at the local Museum of Ethnicity, and an optional 1 night trip up somewhere else. For us, this year, it was Hida-Takayama.

What is the application process like?

Pretty straight forward. What you see being requested is pretty much what you need to do and will be receiving.

What sort of support did ANU provide? (non-financial)

It would be inaccurate to say none, however most of the support is from my teachers themselves and pretty much from the side and off the records. They were very supportive and encouraging, giving me a wide margin of understanding and asking questions on my behalf to Osaka University. In the foreseeable future, though, it appears that the College of Asia Pacific would be handling most of the affairs (to my understanding) – but this would not change how much the teachers will encourage you, although in terms of setting things up between you and the university, this might change.

What sort of financial support is available?

I can only talk about what’s available for me, it differs from case to case and, especially after the white papers, year to year. This year, we were offered the Asiabound grant. It differs from university to university, and within ANU, its based on recommendation and merit, I believe, and also the number of students going. In our case, as there’s pretty much more grant than students, we all got that. We can also apply for the Digital Media Grant and the Ethel Tory Scholarship (to cover affairs). As we are only going for less than 6 months, there were not many other options open to us, other than the above.

As a permanent resident, I also have no access to youth allowance or anything centrelink related. I believe you can apply for grants/special allowances/etc when you go overseas, but this is beyond my scope of knowledge.

That said, please prepare at least 1000 AUD before you go. The funds took their own sweet time to come and I was nearly dying of depression, despondence and homesickness by the time it did arrived I nearly went on a retail therapy and blew it all off anyway.

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Is the course difficult?/how should I prepare for the course?

I am not going to give too much away here as I believe some of it is beneficial to you. However, I will give you some tips:

– Don’t stop learning just because your last exams’ are over.

– this IS an intensive course, therefore, it might seem all fun and dandy the first 2-3 days that you’re here, and then it builds up. come prepared, mentally and physically. By that, I mean, everyday is not tourist day (lolololol).

– No matter how fantastic you think you are, how much you inhaled your textbooks and phrasebooks or how much of a straight A student you are, if you have never been here before (and even if you have been) be prepared to feel like your Japanese is crap. This has nothing to do with the course per-se, but more to do with the above point – come prepared mentally.

You will talk to locals, and they will talk to you at shinkansen speed. it’s ok to ask them to yukkuri, but it’s also ok to look stupid, blink and smile and ask them to speak in English. Don’t get too hung up over not understanding them.

(insert relevant textbook questions)

So, I had the same question before coming and asked a senpai to copy his textbook for me (legend was, they only used 1/4 of that text) to save money. Turned out they changed the textbook this year.

This time, it is 2 textbooks. A Kanji textbook written by themselves, and another textbook dealing with day to day real life situations. We are using slightly less than half the Kanji textbook (it’s still 25 chapters), on a daily basis, where else the other text is used twice a week.

The other textbook, which I shall just call the conversational textbook, involves conversational skills and also listening skills, and comes with a CD. We get dictation from that CD twice a week, and the reader speak at the speed beyond light. It’s amazing why they even bother recording a person. might just put it on the railway tracks and we wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.

However, it also comes with a script and sometimes our sensei will read it to us in his seckshi voice. or make some handsome/beauty pair read it.

There’s also a third text, that’s not really a text. it’s based on a movie and it’s script.

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(insert relevant “what’s Osaka like”/”Where’s the uni in relevance to point x” questions part 1, because this will be horribly drawn out)

For those who have been to Tokyo and Kyoto only, for those who has never heard much about Osaka but everywhere else, Osaka can seem like somewhat of an enigma. It does have plenty, for shopping, eating and even sight seeing. However, it’s also like Singapore: you run out of a variety of things to see real quick, especially if you can walk miles easily and use wikitravel/lonely planet to plan.

That said, I have gone to Umeda/shinsaibashi/Namba/Nipponbashi so many times now, it’s scary. I will still say I see new things everyday – and they are not even things that are cultural/monumental/historical in any way. I would say, plan before you come, so that you do at least see Osaka before you see anywhere else.

Points to remember:

– Osaka is also known as the “kitchen of Japan”. Eat, and eat a lot. find the oddest place, walk into the ugliest looking pub. challenge yourself AND EAT. Also, be aware that of all things you will find yourself spending on, food shouldn’t be one of them. Cheap good food can be found everywhere, especially on campus. If you’re spending >1000 yen per meal and wondered why I ever said this, there is something wrong there.

– For convenience, there’s the Icoca card (similar to the tap on cards for whatever transportation system you use, like MyWay and so on). It doesn’t give you a discount. For a large amount of travelling in one day, there’s a multiple travel thing card. Not sure the costs, go google it.

– Don’t buy everything in your first week there: you still have about 6 more weeks to go man. slow down, sometimes there’s a sale, or sometimes, there’s something better.

– Osaka is also home to: A universal studio, an amusement park, some glassy walkway in the sky, a pokemon centre, a rilakkuma shop, a studio ghibli shop, a gunpla shop, a ultraman and kamen rider shop, a shonen jump shop, a yodobashi near the pokemon centre and fried Japanese food (also known as kushi yaki I think).

For pokemon lovers and people who owns 3ds and wants streetpasses, on sundays, there’s a giant crowd in Pokemon centre. if you’re not a fan of crowd, you get claustrophobic, you get panic attacks in crowds, please don’t go. Otherwise, sundays is when they hold challenge events for registered players (and unregistered ones just fight standing up outside the area anyways). You find 5 year olds challenging adults, and parents who chaperone their kids there for the challenges, and the parents challenging other parents and kids and what not. It’s both funny, amazing and culturally awesome at the same time!

– The university and where you stay is about a 40 minute bus ride to the train station that takes about 40 mins or less to take you to the centre of town, which makes it about 1.5 hrs just to get there. Basically, to travel around on a regular basis is time consuming and can be very exhausting. Keep that in mind especially when you have daily homework and kanji tests due that it’s possibly not wise to go downtown regularly. It also costs something like 12-15 dollars round trip.

*interesting fact* Where we stay in Minoh, Osaka, is also the end line for a Hankyu service that can bring you all the way to Kyoto for the same amount of trouble and slightly equal amount of time, for almost the same price. go figure.

Having been here only one other time, Osaka feels a little different to Kyoto and Tokyo to me. The people seems more relaxed, loud, different. We quickly made friends with people in a Okonomiyaki eatery, who invited us out and shouted us to lunch/dinner. The other day, I found something incredible: a middle aged lady walking out to tend to her veggie patch, in full daylight, in her pajamas. Up to that point, most people I have seen were perfectly, immaculately dressed and coiffed.

More than that, the staff and students at Osaka University is eager to help you, even with the oddest questions. We got invited to a couple of parties to help introduce us to people as well as the culture. We got paired up with buddies before arriving, and some of our buddies has invited us (and our friends) to “drinking parties” and so on. The general feel is very casual and welcoming – yet very respectful as well.

and no one stares at you if you buy a dakimakura.

Much like the rest of Japan, though, there is a large number of people everywhere. Which leads to a neat trick: How to tell if something is popular/good – look for the longest queue.

Current Mood: (tired) tired
Current Music: Pokemon music

Osaka: The first week and a bit

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I have been terribly following the start of the exams period, which started with Japanese, ended with Pharmacology and then it was a mad coupe of weeks of working (or attempting to) a few days in a row prior to my flight to Japan.

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Contrary to my expectations, I have been in Osaka for nearly a week and a half now, and had 2 days of classes (technically 3, but we watched a movie for the first class and nothing else LOL) and I haven’t died yet, SO I SUPPOSE IT’S A GOOD SIGN!

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However, I am sitting here stressing over… something completely different now.

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This is going to sound hilarious if you have never been to Japan before. Japan sort their rubbish into.. 3 different things? 4? perhaps 5 depends on where you live I suppose. In my apartments, It’s quite possible to separate it into 5 as it seems someone has actually taken the effort to separate the cans from the bottles as well. In essence, though, it is divided into 3 general categories: Burnables (combustibles), Unburnable+Large sized Garbage and Cans + bottles. Each has their own collection dates twice a month.

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Thing is, while it makes sense in my head, I was afraid of sorting them wrongly. And as such… so far… I have been classifying everything as burnable and, since I am terrified of being found out as being an idiot, I haven’t dared to throw anything away at first (for, like the two days). Come day 3, I was terrified of the impending possible huge amount of garbage, so I carted them to uni to chuck them. At least, if I chuck them at university, I theorised that since I am not the only gaijin there, no one would know it’s me LOLOLOL! By the way, this is an effort in and of itself since, well, uni is about 20 mins uphill for me since I am so unfit, slow and easily distracted “OOOHHH KITTY!!! HERE KITTY!!”

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Turns out, I am not the only one who brings it to uni HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

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However, uni is closed for 2 weeks. As it is, I am a little squeamish of putting the rubbish in my bag so no one notices I am carting rubbish to uni. 2 weeks worth of rubbish is…. unimaginable. Plus, with my recent purchases/mail, I also have the added problem of trying to throw boxes away.

I did some googling and found some… “interesting” blog. Some people ended up cutting their boxes up into small manageable pieces and took them out to throw in 2s. With that “motivation”, for the first time tonight, I cut some up and took them to the Konbini.

I am sure, somewhere in the next 20 years, I will look back on this and die laughing and cringing. LOLOLOLOL

Current Mood: (ecstatic) ecstatic
Current Music: Claris - Memory