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Study Away Students Blogging Abroad

National Diet Building, Imperial Palace, Sensoji Buddhist Temple, and Asakusa Tour


Get ready for a long post!

Every weekend that I have a culture class trip, I am surprised by what we are shown. As you’ll see from the photographs and video, Asakusa is very much where old meets new. The political hub of Tokyo is right next to an Edo period castle and the Imperial Palace. We weren’t able to go to where the main buildings are, but we saw the gates, and the moat surrounding the vast area housing the Imperial Palace. As it is said in the video, there used to be two large moats surrounding this castle, but the one furthest from the center was filled in. As you can see, I was pretty psyched to see all of this up close, as was the group! If you go to MSU, you can earn credit by attending the lecture beforehand, and writing a paper on your experience in English.


If I need to be perfectly honest, watching the video play back and post these photos brings some tears to my eyes because I’m constantly reminded how much my hard work at university has paid off. Every time I see something new, or something that I have only heard about or seen pictures of before, I get really overwhelmed with gratitude. Especially for the Gilman Scholarship which I am so grateful to have received.

This area was a really popular place for joggers, and there was even a marathon taking place as we walked through the beautiful scenery. I really enjoyed a break from the bustling city life I experience during the week with my classes, and liked just strolling along looking at all the interestingly shaped trees and of course capturing some 木漏れ日(komorebi). Or the light that filters through trees. Everything we discussed in the lecture, and the pre-departure meeting, we got to see and experience hands on!






Seeing the wide open spaces within a city was refreshing, and the air smelled really nice amongst the trees. There were many people enjoying the lovely warm air that day.

From this statue, we took the metro train and traveled Sensoji Shrine. It’s a Buddhist shrine, and I had studied Buddhism and Japanese religion in the states so I was very excited! I did my videos in two parts because the shrine was too beautiful and I wanted to show you guys everything! (Note: I posted the wrong shrine in the opening title of the video. It’s actually Sensoji Shrine)


























The smells were of incense and smoke, food and excitement. The sounds were old music, and coins clanging as they were dropped into the donation area and prayed over. I caught many people in sincere worship, and it was an interesting thing to see and secretly capture. Can you see when I find them in the video? One couple was sincerely holding incense and praying, and another, praying and wishing over a donation.

Of course no trip to a temple is complete without a fortune! I got a bad fortune, but I kept it as a souvenir! Is that bad luck? Of course, but my new friend I’ve made through KCP tied hers up in traditional Japanese fashion so it would be blown away. I enjoyed walking around and asking things in Japanese for practice. It’s insane how fast you pick up Japanese, not just at KCP, but just constantly being surrounded by it, makes a world of difference! I highly recommend attending KCP if you are willing to work hard and improve your Japanese Language proficiency.

Lastly, we spent a calm evening by the water, and viewed Tokyo Skytree, Asahi Beer Building, and the fire spirit building! I hope you watch the video and feel the same feelings of peace that I felt. It felt very surreal.

I want these videos show you just how beautiful this place really is, and inspires you to visit one day! I want to go back and sit, enjoy the sounds, and have some food next time.

Thanks for listening! And as always, if you have any questions, stop by the study away office at MSU and tell them Brittany sent you, or leave them in the comments!



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KCP Japanese Language School! Trip to Meiji Jingu Shrine and Takeshita Dori.

Hello! It’s nice to meet everyone! My name is Brittany and I am going to KCP International Language School through Missouri State University for Japanese Language and Culture Credit. I have an Individualized Major in Japanese Language and TESOL. I will be in Tokyo, Japan from October 6th – June 20th 2015. I hope I can share my adventures with you!

To start things off, our first culture trip was to Meiji Jingu Shrine and Harajuku’s Takeshita Dori street! Let me share some photos from each location!


There were many traditional weddings taking place that day.

Entrance to the shrine.IMG_1465

Wine offerings.IMG_1460

Peaceful streams and forests.IMG_1457 IMG_1453

Torii Gate.IMG_1485

Ema Votive Tablets. Write your wishes to the gods!IMG_1486 IMG_1492 IMG_1495 IMG_1497



Takeshita Dori!
IMG_1521 IMG_1525

Purikura (Picture Club; photo booths)IMG_1529

Crepes.IMG_1531 IMG_1535

Colorful Graffiti!


We went to Meiji Jingu Shrine. It’s one thing to study this in your classroom in America and see photos. Its a totally different thing to actually be there. We stepped off the train and walked to Harajuku. The Shrine is just a short walk from there. Everyone had their cameras out before we even saw it.

This shrine is a peaceful oasis in the midst of a booming, modern fashion district. While at the shrine, the dull roar of the city melted away as we walked on the long gravely path to the shrine’s entrance. I remembered what I had studied in America, how this shrine houses the largest wooden Torii gate in Japan. Seeing it in person was outstanding. It was so beautiful. We all walked to the left, bowed, and then began our walk to the shrine. I’ll let the video do most of the talking here, as I can’t even describe how beautiful it was. Keep an eye out for things you’ll learn in Dr. Berkwitz’s Chinese and Japanese Religion class. I was able to appreciate the shrine more because of what I learned in his class.

Remember that album in the 90’s from Gwen Stephani? “Harajuku girls you’ve got some wicked style….”. I was just a wee lass when that had come out, but ever since then, I’ve been curious as to what she was talking about. Saturday October 11, 2014 I found out. Our school took a culture class trip to Harajuku and Takeshita Dori street (sounds like kindergarten, but we are all 19-30 ish). I nearly cried when I saw it. You see photos of it in magazines, and videos of the endless outfits and fashion, seeing it in person however is an entirely different story. I don’t think I put my camera away the entire time we were there. I’m such a girl.

The whole street was colored with the rainbow, and peppered with girls and guys dressed in clothes that expressed themselves. I felt like, in a country that prides itself in how conservative it is, and how orderly and clean things are, this area is an oasis for young people searching for their voice. Imagine a mall that’s outside in your home country. For me, in America, we have closed malls for the most part. Big buildings, with lots of shops and kiosks. Takeshita Dori has open shops, shop girls yelling about their latest clothes, and discounts, and food. Head inside a small door, you could find yourself in a big shop. Head into a basement full of purikura machines, and you’ll find young couples, girlfriends, sometimes boyfriends cramming themselves into purikura booths to make memories. And you’ll most definitely always see somebody dressed in a way you want to dress.

Before we went to Harajuku, I told my new friends that even if I didn’t have money and we didn’t do anything else, we HAD to do purikura together. Its a rite of passage! I feel like no friendship is real until you take photobooth photos together! 2 of the 3 girls had never done it before, one of those three being me. So we paid our 400 yen, took some goofy photos, and then drew silly photos and put stickers on them. We all got copies, and I felt so happy I could cry. When you work really hard for something, and your dream finally comes true, it’s very overwhelming.

I hope you feel the happy energy from my video, and it makes you smile! I want everyone to have this experience sometime in their lives.

Thoughts? Let me know!


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London Town!

Hello my name is Meghan Grabowski.  I am studying abroad in London this semester through the Missouri London CAPA program. I have been in London for a couple of weeks now and I must say I am really enjoying it! I have never really been out of the country before so I was prepared to feel totally culture shocked.  Honestly though the transition has been pretty easy.  London is definitely a good place to start for your first time out of the country.  No language barrier. That is not the only thing that made the transition so easy though.  I have been placed with a  great group of people.  I feel like I have known some of them forever.


They are an adventurous bunch, which is what I wanted/needed.  One of the first nights we traveled down to the Monument and then went to Tower Bridge and walked along the Thames.  We have walked through Regents Park and walked up Primrose Hill twice, as well as having a picnic.  We also went to the Tate Modern.  This is a modern art museum which is not my cup of tea, but if you are into that sort of thing, my roomates liked it.  Most recently we went to the Thames River Festival and saw a parade.  I feel like I have done a lot yet nothing at all.  There is so much to do and see in London it is incredible. Even in your neighborhood.

I am currently living in a flat in Camden with two girls.  They boys in our program are in the room above us.  It is nice having everyone so close.  The Camden markets are really cool.  There are so many things.  I know things is a broad term but there is honestly just so many trinkets and objects.  Even some yummy looking food.  I can’t wait to seriously go and shop there.

I have only had two of my classes so far.  My other two start tomorrow and I am anxious to see how they go.  Especially International Economics.  My Shakespeare class is pretty interesting though.  I am also in Roman Britain and the teacher is pretty cool.  We will see how the classes progress and if they are still interesting.  Well I suppose that is all for now.  Here is to more adventures!!!

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Life’s a Beach

Hola! While my Springfield friends rejoice in the 60 degree weather, I thought I’d rub the fact that I am in Puerto Rico in just a little more with some pictures of the beach. I have visited five different beaches so far, and I usually get to go once a week. For the beaches in San Juan (where I live), I have to ride either a bus or a train and a bus to get arrive which can take about an hour. As you can see, though, it’s worth the wait!


Playa Escondida
Playa Escondida otra vez
Not a Beach!
Playa Escondida
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Firsts of Many

Buenos dias! Yesterday marked four weeks of me living in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and in honor of my first month here coming to an end, I thought I’d share some of the other (many) firsts I’ve experienced here.

First time flying.

First time on a plane.
First time on a Puerto Rican beach.

Taking the train for the first time.

First view of Old San Juan.

My first waterfall!

I’m sure that I’ll experience many more firsts in the coming months (and hopefully some seconds and thirds and fourths). But for that to happen, I have to get out and away from this computer screen and go find those experiences, so for now, adios!

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My finals are now finished and the paperwork done, I now have to say goodbye to Botswana.When I first came to Botswana and UB, I had my own thoughts on what I would find and experience, I thought that I would come learn about the wildlife there, hopefully see a leopard and get to learn about the culture.

But What I instead found was that other than the wildlife, was that I had the chance to experience and become part of the culture, I learned about the dances and the life people led outside the city about the cattle posts and about how close people are to their family.

China, me, and Moabe

I made friends from all around the world from other parts of my country, from parts of Africa, and from places as far as Germany and Sweden. It was a gratifying experience, one that made me expand my view of the world.

Some of the things I learned was how close they hold family to them in Botswana, it is seen in how they manage to care for their families while they are in college, how older siblings will provide money so their younger ones can go to school. It was seen in how my local friends were always their for their siblings to provide support if needed. The respect people in Botswana show for their family, parents and elders is a much humbling experience and is one that I believe could be expanded in my own country.

I have also learned more about myself here, about making new friends, excepting different ideas that do not always go with how you were taught or believe. About adapting to differences and making them part of you.

For all the advice that I can give on what to bring and my experiences here what I can say is that you will learn more from being here from seeing what it is like to live in a culture so unique and different from your own than what I could ever teach you.


MY friends at the Kgotla, whitney, elissa, binta, ida, and beckyChina, me, and Moabe

Go siame everyone, and fair travels ^^

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Chobe National Park, Okovango Delta, and Victoria Falls (pt 2)

So on my last part I mentioned largely Chobe National Park. The Delta trip was also interesting but largely we saw lots and lots of Elephants, seriously if you want to see elephant go to the delta, we saw old ones and young ones though not many with large tusks.

Other animals we saw were the water buffalo, hippopotamus and of course crocodiles.

So on a brighter note here are some pictures from the remains of my trip.














There are so many more amazing pictures I could show you from this trip, but I will move on to Victoria Falls. We went to the Zambia side of this park. And the falls were amazing! Right outside the park there is also an amazing craft fair where you can buy different African crafts for really cheap, bring things to trade on this trip they were asking us for anything shoes, pens, lighters they will barter for it and they preferred American cash (mainly because it is much higher to their Kwacha)


Overall it was an amazing trip worth going to if you want to see the wildlife of Botswana

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Chobe National Park, Okavango Delta,and Victoria Falls Trip! (Part 1)

So During the Fall Semester you get a short break (1 week). During this time of the year the parks are still dry and so have great viewing of animals and young ones and it was during this time that we decided to take a week long trip into Chobe (mostly).  It was an amazing trip one of my favorites here, yah you can to cape town or Mozambique but you don’t know what your missing if you miss out on this trip!


Locations: Maun, Kasane, and Zambia

Activities: Camping every night,food provided as well as tents, game drives 2X a day (dawn and dusk), 1 Boat tour, and then a day at Victoria Falls

It was an amazing camping trip we had so much fun not only during the drives but also just hanging out afterward, listening to the elephants and hippos in the night, wondering how close the lions were and chasing off the pesky honey badgers.  During some of the drives we sang songs we all knew some of the others sang Disney songs in Swedish.

Here are some of the things we saw :

Birds: ( roughly 27 different species that I could identify with help)- Some of which were the Cattle Egret, Red Billed Cormorant, Lilac Breasted Rollers, Hooded Vulture, Ostrich, Fishing Eagle, Cory Buster, Great Eagle Owl, European Bee Eater, and the Ground Hornbill

African Darter (Snake Bird)

Mammals (26 recognized species), this included 4 of the big 5 (Lion, Leopard, Giraffe,and  Water Buffalo) as well as other rarer animals like the stable antelope, wild dog and klipspringer. We also saw plenty of impala, elephant, Zebra, Hippopotamus, Warthog, and Kudu

Fishing Eagle and Elephant ^^
Wildebeest and Impala










Male Kudu



We saw a lot of Elephants on this trip, you will see signs everywhere declaring Kasane as the ‘Land of the Giants’ and they are not kidding the elephants are everywhere and there are even crossing signs for them

The Kudu, impala and wildebeest largely ignored us but we did get to watch a wild dog chase down pray that riled quiet a few in the large herd.

Part of my favorite part of this trip was the predators we saw, we saw 3 different prides of lion (2 larger ones) and 3 different leopards, one even had a kill under a tree.









The lion pride managed to catch a young zebra and as we watched one of the mother elephants got worried about how close the lions were to her calf so she trumpeted at them! She then got in front of her calf and the others came round, the younger lions moved away while a few of them just ignored the worried elephants.


Will Post more Pictures and talk about the trip later, for now please enjoy these and I will talk to everyone later!


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La Réunion: Studying Abroad on a Tropical Island Blog # 1

I can’t believe that I have already reached the half-way point of my stay here on La Réunion, a tiny island in the Indian Ocean a good distance off the coast of Madagascar. There are many pros and cons of living on a tropical island. Pros: beaches, mountains, hiking, waterfalls, and volcanoes. Cons: the islanders have their own ways of doing things, and there is nothing you can do about it; you have to adapt.

First of all, time exists on a different plane on La Réunion. If you are given a time to be somewhere, as a general rule, you show up ten or fifteen minutes late. It’s okay; everyone does it. The islanders definitely take the French “Fifteen Minute Rule” to heart. Also, you have to abandon the notion (commonly held by many Americans) of a store or shop that is open 24/7. In fact, many places don’t open until eight, nine, or even ten in the morning. Then, they close a few hours for lunch, and then reopen for a few hours in the afternoon, and then close for the rest of the night. Also, they are not open as many hours on weekends as they are on weekdays. Buses stop running around seven or eight at night. The lesson to be learned from this is that you can’t take things for granted. Don’t expect a place to be open; don’t expect a bus to be running or be on time; because, it probably won’t be. It is important to not be too adamant about your plans. You have to be flexible, because, trust me, your plans will be changed.

As a foreign student, the single hardest thing to get used to on the island is the university. For someone who has enjoyed the structure and organization of an American university for the past three years, it has been very frustrating to deal with the disorganization that plagues Université de la Réunion. As a foreign student, you can expect to spend your first month here at the university trying to organize your class schedule. All classes don’t begin on the same week as they do in America. In fact, some classes start one, two, three, or even four weeks later than others. Also, beware that classes can change rooms and times at anytime. I found that religiously checking the department bulletin board for posted notices is the best way to keep track of changes. Don’t expect any other form of communication.

Learning French on the island is an emotional rollercoaster ride. Within a single course of a day, you will meet and talk to someone and be able to understand almost everything, and then you will meet someone else and barely be able to understand anything. Just when you believe that you are finally getting the hang of it, reality sinks in, and your confidence is shattered. The Islanders speak Reunion Creole, and when they speak French, their Creole accents and use of Creole vocabulary can be quite strong and can make things difficult to understand.

But even though being a foreign student who is learning a different language can be quite frustrating, you just have to remember that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, or more appropriately, there is always a beach on the other side of the island.

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Places to go and Things to do in Gaborone

Hey Everyone!

It is now October and as such we are nearing Botswana’s amazingly hot summers, and so in our effort to find somewhere to hang out that is in the shade I have decided to write a blog on places to go in Gaborone both during the day and night.

Quick Tip: Make sure you have sunblock here or buy an umbrella, a lot of locals use them to protect you from some of the heat and if you are a lover of swimming bring a swim cap as it is required to swim in the pool here (which is amazing).


Just like back home you will eventually get tired of the cafeteria food. Which though good and fairly cheap (15P) can get a little monotonous since it mainly consists of rice/pap/pasta, chicken/beef, and a vegetable (squash, cabbage, salad) though how they are cooked does sometimes change.

There are 3 main malls here in Gaborone (which I may have mentioned previously) of the three they all have different types of food that you are welcome to try depending on your price range

Main mall: mainly has plenty of street vendors with hotdogs and 3 fairly decent sized restaurants which are the hungry lion, chicken licken, and Nandos, all of which sell a western style of food so if your missing the states a bit, there are close, there is also a KFC in main mall if you really want something from back home.

Riverwalk: Has tons of restaurants it has Indian food (Indian embassy), brazilian, italian (Primi Piatti), and some general resturants where you can get food like burgers, stake, chicken (Apache Spur, and Linga Longa). For places to just relax it also has a amazing coffee shop (Equatorial) which offers wi-fi and fairly cheap coffee. There is also an ice cream shop and a ethiopian resturant (which is one that I enjoy other than primi). This mall also has Nandos and 2 pizza places

Of these all I would suggest going to Primi sometime the food is awesome, it has free wi-fi, a nice interior and good drinks.

If you want more of a social atmosphere though I would also recommend Linga Longa which is like a bar/restaurant and is cheaper than primi.

Game City: Is one of the larger malls and so contains a bit more, it also has Nandos, as well as 2 coffee shops and a chinese restaurant.


If on the hot days you want to go out and enjoy the weather there are numerous things to do outside, by combi or taxi there is a nice garden nearby which also has a small coffee shop, there are parks and Gaborone Game reserve isn’t too far from campus (less than a 5 minute combee ride). Kgale hill is always a nice place to visit as well.

Night Activities:

If you are one to go clubbing or just want to get out and see other locals in a more relaxed setting there are 3 main clubs around Gaborone they are Bull and Bush, Zoom, and Lizard Lounge, there is also a more local one called Chihuahua (though I wouldn’t recommend it). As always in cities and especially foreign countries it is important to travel in groups if you decide to go out, Gabs is fairly safe in many standards but there are crazy people everywhere.

Bull and Bush- is one of the ones that costs to go in, it has good food during the early evening and a decent sized dance floor with a pool table in another room (if you are a girl, just know it is hard to play pool in this country the guys hog the tables). Generally it is 40P to get in and you can get there by cab, though it is one of the pricier clubs it is also one of the safer clubs

Lizard Lounge- is a much smaller club and if you are female you will almost always get in free it is two floored so if you just want to hang out you can go upstairs there is a decent sized dance floor as well with mirrors all around it, none of us have ever had in major problems at this club

Zoom- is one of the more local ones and is not recommended on the weekends (same with chihuahua) as it can get dangerous with the pick pockets, two girls have had their phones stolen here, so if you here about this club from the locals keep in mind that you need to be very careful and travel with a large group. Other than that it is a large club with two floors .

Chihuahua-  I have not been to this club (or zoom) but of the other internationals here who have they have gone once and say never again, it is in a not so great part of town so stick to the other three if that is what you enjoy doing ^^

Tip: If you do go clubbing or drinking be careful and make sure to be friends like anywhere in the world there are guys who are jerks and there are thieves so stick together and if you bring a nice phone leave it in your dorms when you go out.

Campus Events:

Throughout the year (or semester in my case) there are different activities on campus.

If you are religiously inclined they do a lot of big events through the church and every Wednesday they do discussions, religion is very important to many Batswana and so you will find many groups, clubs and activities all the time.

During the fall semester there is the Freshers Ball which is a large party held on campus generally there are 3 security teams available during this time, but in my experience I would suggest staying in during this particular event. It is large and as such many of the people off campus generally come in and security is not always tight near the dorms which in the long run is where you are going.  If you do decide to go, be in a large group don’t carry money if you don’t have to and do not have your phone on you.

During the spring semester there are inter varsity games which is you enjoy sports you can attend.


There are so many groups and clubs on campus some of which are:

Swimming Club (5P for the whole year and you can be a beginner with no experience meet every day but fridays)

Karate (of which I am a member 100P a month which includes 3 aerobics classes we meet every day and have competitions about every month) <—Awesome club! ^^

Aerobics Club- meets every day

Basketball, Softball, and Football teams are all here

Philosophy club and a bible study club is availble

For those who are more academically interested there are many societies such as:

Environmental Society, Economics Society, Wildlife Society –which all do different events and activities if you are curious just attend on of their introduction meetings to see what is going on

Tip: There isn’t an easy way to find clubs on campus, it took me a month to find out when the karate club met, the swim club and sports clubs will post many posters as will the academic societies for meeting times just keep an eye out around campus or ask a local (which is what I did)

Other than that look around and explore there are always different events going on and different things to do get involved make friends both local and other international students and be patient!

Side Note: Sorry for the lack of picture for this blog, one of the other things you will have to get used to is that the internet is not always fast or always working and sometimes certain things are blocked, though the wi-fi is fairly consistent near the library or off campus.

Go Siame!

(Once I am able I will be posting about my trip to Chobe, the Delta and Vic falls!)





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