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Sunday, September 26, 2010

10 Days Left

Minor update time.

So, I leave for japan in 10 days. Not all that far away :P My last day at work is this Wednesday, so I'll have plenty of time to pack and repack my stuff multiple times before I go up to KC. I'll be meeting some family there and staying the night at a hotel before my trip--Mostly so that I don't have to be awake quite as early to get to the airport on time on the 6th. I think I've got my stuff together for the most part; I'll be taking a really awesome duffel bag (that totally holds a shit-ton of stuff. I didn't expect it to be that big overall when it doesn't seem that way) and a smaller suitcase. Plus my carry-on backpack with one Japanese textbook, a change of clothes, and some other sundries. My bags are full, but not stuffed tight, and I've got some consumables in them (COFFEE and a small french press [coffee is stupidly expensive in Japan: A small house/drip coffee at a starbucks in Japan is like $4 or 5] because I intend to get my coffee fix by making it myself in the morning) so space will open up for my return trip and I can stuff them to the brim with souvenirs (I just misspelled that word like 4 times trying to figure out how to spell it. That's a weird word!) if my finances permit :D

I've got some small local things to bring as gifts too, should I need them. Social customs dictate that if you visit someone's house then it's proper to bring some small thing as appreciation for the invite. Typically they are foodstuffs or trinkets. So, I went to a place called Grandma Hoerner's which is out here near Manhattan. It sells all sorts of locally made things like jams, BBQ sauces, spice rubs and other nifty "Made in Kansas" things that will make perfect gifts. From what I've heard, BBQ sauce is something of a novelty/rarity in Japan overall, so that'll be a kinda cool thing to bring.

I've been alternating between freaking out and being insanely excited. Then I think about the people I'll be leaving behind (especially my boyfriend) and then I add "sad" to the list of things I'm feeling. It's definitely going to be bittersweet, but it's an experience I really want to have. Most people who know me know that I've always really wanted to study abroad in college. I can't turn down this opportunity when I'll never likely have another chance at it. It's weird: I've been through this process a bit before. I've planned and cancelled study abroad stuff a few times already for various reasons, but I've never been this far in the process. Hell, I'd never gotten far past the initial application phases before. Cool!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Visa!


I got my passport back with the Visa sticker in the mail today. Totally wasn't expecting it so quickly--It had just reached the consulate on Wednesday, and they had to mail it back to me once processed so I figured it'd be here sometime next week. With this I am finally all set to go to Japan in 2.5 weeks. Just have to finish packing after doing a few big loads of laundry.

I'm excited, but I'm really anxious too. I haven't flown in years, and can't recall actually having ever flown alone. That in itself makes me nervous; I have a connection to make at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport to get onto the international 14 hr flight to Japan. Once I get there, get my bags, go through Immigration and then Customs, I have to change terminals/areas to get to the meeting place where the KCP people will be waiting for me. I'm fairly confident in my survival Japanese, and there will be English-speaking attendants around, but I still think it might be a bit crazy. I have a tendency to stress myself out about unfamiliar events and big things (like going to Japan!) so whenever I think about this I freak out a bit. Don't get me wrong: I am SO excited for it and am really looking forward to it, but I'm also thinking "What could go wrong? What should I prepare for? What happens if I miss my flight?" and stuff. I'm trying to plan as many details as possible to help combat the anxiety; if I know what's going on, where to go, and how to get there then I can diminish the nervousness a bit. I can also occupy myself with packing, making a packing list, making copies of important things to keep in multiple locations (traveler's checks, passport, itenerary and stuff) and give to family so they have copies if something needs to be addressed while I'm abroad.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My Dorm! Part 2

So, my dorm information has been fully confirmed. The dorm stuff I linked before in a previous post is all correct; I will have roughly 1-1.5 hr commute one way, but at least the route is pretty straight forward. I'll have to walk or take the bus to the metro station, which is about 20-30 min walk due north of my dorm. Then I'll take the train across town to a station near the school. My train route only has one transfer, so I'm less likely to get lost (but the transfer is at one of the busy, larger, transfer stations in the area, so that sucks). After I get off at the final station, the main school building is about 5-10 min north of station.

The program director sent me a nice, concise little packet that has some general info on my dorm. The dorm has a dining hall that I can purchase meals from, and it's set up on a ticket system. I'll purchase a ticket for breakfast and/or dinner, and then give it to the dorm manager. The dining in the Japanese dorms seems to be different from the US ones, in that it's not a cafeteria set up. It's rather a set meal that varies day by day and is prepared according to the number of people who reserve the meal with that ticket. Seems like an efficient system that reduces waste :) The breakfast will be 250円 ($3) and dinner will be 500円 ($6). There's no lunch served; I'm responsible for that. I'm totally gonna have lunch at the Mister Donut across the street! Mmmm donuts. I actually like this set up better than the static meal plan I was expecting; this way I can choose whether or not to get meals and can save some money there if I want. If I choose to eat every meal then it'll still be the exact same price as the meal plan would have been. In all likelihood though, I'm totally unlikely to get up for all the breakfasts or be home in the dorm on time for all the dinners :) There is no curfew, which I actually didn't expect. The main door locks at 11:00 pm, but my key will open the side door to let me in. Awesome.

On a side note: I mailed out my Visa stuff yesterday, and so it's on its way to Chicago. It should be there tomorrow morning ish. With luck I'll have my passport with a Visa stamp back in hand next week!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Oooh, Documents

So, who wants to see my spiffy official documents from Japanese Immigration? I'll be mailing these and and some other stuff to my local consulate with my passport to get my Visa.
The first is my Certificate of Eligibility. I had to wait about 6 months for Japanese Immigration to get stuff processed and announced. This is THE most important thing I need to get my actual Visa stamp in my passport, and essentially says that Immigration has pre-qualified me to be allowed to
enter the country for my intended purpose. The second picture is my acceptance letter into the language school KCP International. I need this guy
to get my Visa as well.

It's pretty cool; they look all official and stuff ;) I'm mailing my stuff to the Chicago Japanese Consulate tomorrow, and should hopefully have my passport with Visa stamp in-hand by next week at the latest. I hope.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

My Dorm! Part 1

Well, I got a bit of preliminary information on my dorm and where it will be (I think). I had to ask the Visa guy in Japan for the address of where I'll be staying because it's require for my Visa application. I haven't officially been given the dorm assignment yet. I should be getting more info on it in the following weeks :)

CLICK ME! Clicking that will take you to google maps to show you just where-about in Tokyo the dorm actually is. It's on the far Eastern side of Tokyo. You can zoom in and out, and see a street-side view of the dorm.

The dorm homepage. Be patient; it has to run through google translate (since obviously it'll be in Japanese), but that's the home page for the dorm itself. It has a sample layout and a few photos. Spiffy. Pardon the awkward English on the page. It's actually a fairly decent translation overall, especially for an automated translation.

This is the link to a sample route between my dorm and the school itself. It looks like I'll have roughly an 1-1.5 hr commute one way. This happens to be the JR train line, which I may not be using. I'm not sure yet because I don't know what the train pass the school gives me will cover. This is all assuming, of course, that I don't get horribly horribly lost. Which I'm certain I will at least once or twice.

All in all, pretty spiffy. I'll have to wait a while longer to get much more detail about the living arrangement, but at least I have a rough idea of it now.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Crisis Averted

So, after some financial aid confusion, my Certificate of Eligibility is finally in the mail from Japan. It should be here in about 4 days (It's being shipped via EMS, which is nice). Thankfully even with this delay I should have enough time to submit all the Visa stuff even if there's some sort of processing delay. As long as I get my passport back from the consulate in time after I mail it to them, then it'll all be fine :) I should have a comfortable 2-3 weeks to get everything mailed off and returned to me.

Word to to the wise: If you're doing the KCP program you'll need to have 6 months of tuition paid in full to get your certificate generally. The coordinator is more than willing to work with you if you can provide the information of financial aid disbursement dates/amounts and will likely send it to you if you can prove that upon disbursement the amount will be paid in full. In general, though, plan to have the tuition paid off before you leave or make sure to get everything sorted out ahead of time so you're not running around all crazy-like like I just did.

My issue actually stemmed from some confusion with communication between all the universities and people involved. The amount was paid off, but wasn't communicated to the school in Japan that it was. So, I got word back from the representative in Japan about my certificate, but he told me he couldn't send it to me because my balance wasn't paid in full yet. Long story short, I had to contact both the proxy university from CCIS and K-State to figure out where the shenanigans had happened to get it sorted out. I've been frantically emailing people for the past week-ish, but it's finally all figured out. Mr. Tanaka (the rep in Japan) told me the certificate was sent out yesterday. I ended up having to forward a lot of the emails that I'd exchanged with the universities in the US to prove that the balance was paid and it was being figured out, or at least in the process of it--it'll probably take a week for the electronic confirmations to be sent around to everybody :P For anyone considering this program don't overlook the sheer hassle this can be and keep updated invoices and contact with your representatives. It's not difficult, and will save you one hell of a headache and a freakout.

Now, time to fill out the actual Visa application! For you people in Kansas and some of the surrounding area, your regional Japanese consulate will be in Chicago. Click that link to go to the consulate's Visa page. You can get the info you need to submit the application either in person or by mail (which is what I'll be doing. Chicago is something of a drive for me). At the very least you'll need:
  • The Certificate of Eligibility from Japanese Immigration
  • A front and back photocopy of the certificate
  • A letter of admission from the school in Japan (I think; not 100% sure, but KCP is sending it to me so there's no reason not to submit it with my Visa stuff just in case)
  • A passport-sized photo
  • The application form itself
  • And of course your passport.
If you're mailing it DON'T FORGET to send a self-addressed stamped envelope or something prepaid for the consulate to mail back your passport in. They won't mail it back otherwise.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

One Step Closer

So, I heard back yesterday from the representative guy in Japan who translated my Visa stuff for me: I got the Certificate of Eligibility that I can now use to get my Visa once the certificate reaches me here in the States (has to be mailed from Japan :P) Yay!

Also: I bought my plane ticket! Given that the time is quickly approaching, I was getting near the point where I would lose any real "early booking" discount and the prices would have jumped up a decent amount. Now that I have the certificate I need, the chances of being denied the actual Visa are near nonexistent, so it was in my best interest to buy a ticket now :)

To the flight info! I'll be flying out of MCI at 6:00 AM--which of course means I'll need to be there at like 4-something in order to make sure everything is set. I'll have a 2.5 hr layover in Texas at DFW airport (and that 2.5 hrs will probably be just BARELY enough time for me to get my bags, check in for the international portion of my flight, change terminals, and deal with customs/security). After that, I'll have a roughly 14 hr flight to Narita Airport in Japan (about 1.5-2 hrs outside of Tokyo) and I'll hit the ground there at 1:25 PM Japan time (I have no idea what that will be here in the states. I guestimate about 3:30 AM central time, but I'm not 100% sure on that)