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The Top of Tokyo Sky Tree: Meeting My Pen Pal For the First Time

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That girl on the left above is my pen pal. I wrote my first letter to her 4 years ago. My Japanese was horrible, I could only use Hiragana and Katakana, my Kanji was illegible, and I could only say, “Hi, my name is Brittany, I’m in college.” I never imagined I would actually meet her in real life.

Now, my language skills are still subpar, but every day I can understand more, my world is opening up, and I’m meeting new people all the time. My pen pal and I made plans to meet at the Skytree train station. I was so nervous that day. I was sweaty, stuttering, and forgot nearly all the Japanese I learnt already. Then, all of the sudden, “Excuse me…” AHHH! It was her! My pen pal! Finally I had met her after all these years. Now, I know that this isn’t the custom, but I gave her a big American style hug! She had brought a friend along and I am so happy that I could meet more people. They are the nicest people I’ve ever met and I hope that the language barrier becomes smaller and smaller as I learn more and more. There were many times where we would walk in silence, just enjoying the moment until we warmed up to each other. I was so happy when we started talking!

First we walked around the various shops and made small English mixed with Japanese conversation. Their English is really good! They also taught me many things about Japanese as well. Plans were made to go into the Moomin Cafe, we waited an hour or so to get in, but we were waiting for our turn to go to the top of the Skytree, so it all worked out perfectly.

The cafe was warm, and we were greeted kindly. They helped me order so the waitress would be more comfortable, and then we got to take photos with silly hats!

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Of course all the food was Moomin themed or shaped into Moomin Characters! It was so cute, and scrumptious! I highly recommend this cafe if you have any extra money. The dessert was pumpkin flavored and even though we were all really full, we ate every bit! Trying on the hat was fun, as was chatting about boyfriends, college, etc. even if I could only say things in broken Japanese. I’m pretty sure when they asked when my birthday was I said、「20月」which means 20th month! We all had a good laugh about that.

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I took so many photos and video, but I want to cherish it for myself, I hope you understand! So for now, just have these various iPhone snaps we took throughout the day, as well as my video about Tokyo Skytree. Thank you for listening, and I encourage everyone who lives in Tokyo to visit Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, or a tall building to see the view of Tokyo for themselves. It really puts into perspective the city you live in. You are part of a community as a foreigner, even if you don’t feel like it or see it all the time. It really hit me at the top of Tokyo Skytree that I was in Japan, meeting people that I feel like I’ve known forever. The tears were definitely under the surface and I constantly had to swallow the lump in my throat as I looked out over the horizon and watched the sun set. I think I said thank you a million times that day. I will never forget meeting her for the first time at Tokyo Skytree, and now this place will hold a happy memory for me every time I visit, or see it in the distance in Tokyo. Thanks to my new friends for a beautiful day, and a relaxing train ride home. I will never forget it.

Thanks for reading and listening. If you have any questions, as always, stop by the Study Away office and tell them Brittany from Japan sent you!

Be Brave,

ブリタニ

 

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KCP International School BBQ!

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Hey everyone!

In light of MSU’s International Education Week, I will try and post a few times on this blog to help show you an international student’s current point of view from Japan!

Recently my school held a school wide barbecue! That means faculty and students worked side by side to cook food, play games, and have a good time. It was a lot of fun.

We started off by meeting really early in the morning on a Friday, something many students may not have wanted to do, but it was so worth it. We all took the train to a park and BBQ’d at their specific area dedicated to cooking. Earlier in the week we had to work as a class (none of whom have English as their first language) and buy ingredients. It was a challenge, but fun! I really got to know the personalities of my classmates. I think that was part of the exercise too. It was my job to marinate the chicken for the American food portion of the menu, and bring tableware.

We burned some chicken, dropped some food on the ground, and maybe started a few fires, but it was fun!

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At the end of the day, we all turned into children and played in the park. I was exhausted when I got home, but it was worth it and I slept really well! I hope you guys enjoy the photo and videos. It was a really good bonding experience with my classmates, and staff. The teachers were all very energetic and spoke to us in Japanese. It is really good practice, and helps you form a bond with your teachers that translates well into the classroom dynamic! I helped grill the chicken, but we found out one of the members of our group helps her family cook. She was more than willing to step in and it was awesome to collaborate!

If you decide to come to KCP, you will definitely feel right at home! We all contributed food items from our own countries and participated in a cooking contest. Our class didn’t win, but we had lots of fun working together and participating in some games. I really encourage everyone to step outside of their comfort zone, you never know what you’ll experience! Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions about attending KCP feel free to swing by your advisors office or the Study Away offices. They are really helpful, and they are part of the reason why I am in Japan today!

Be Brave,

ブリタニ

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

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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!

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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)

 

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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!

 

-Brittany

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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!

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There were many traditional weddings taking place that day.
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Entrance to the shrine.IMG_1465

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Peaceful streams and forests.IMG_1457 IMG_1453

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

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Harajuku!
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Takeshita Dori!
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Colorful Graffiti!
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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!

-Brittany

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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!

 

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Not a Beach!
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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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Farewell

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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