Today I went through orientation, where an administrator and a teacher explained to me the basics of how this course is going to go. I must say, it’s going to be a nice challenge for me, as they expect a lot out of all their students. In addition, everything will be in Japanese from day 1, without the Romanized words that many American Japanese courses use. So basically, the morning will have 3 hours of one-on-one language training through both computer programs, active listening and speaking, and other methods. The afternoon I will be going through cultural seminars at an adjacent “cultural school”. This is interspaced with various day trips, cultural exploration trips, and tours, as well as independent travel. I know that this will be an awesome experience, and if any of you all have a chance to do something like this, you should definitely give it a shot. Anyways, some pictures.
The Main Building
The building where I’ll be having the Language classes. It turns out that this building used to be a large rice pot factory. The entire surrounding area used to be factories, and is slowly being renovated into high-tech buildings.
Part of a garden of the house where I’ll be having culture seminars (I couldn’t get a good picture). It used to be the family home of the dude that gave money to start the Yamasa Institute.
Since Orientation ended early today, I went to the nearby town of Gamagori. It’s right next to the ocean, and just a 10 minute train ride away. Most of the pictures will be on Panoramio (Link Below), so the ones here are only a small sampling. The town is fairly small, but there is a forested island that is connected to the mainland by a walking bridge. It’s a really nice place, and seems to be some type of traditional Japanese shrine. Pictures below. The cool sea breeze and the smell of the ocean were in full force here. Unfortunately, all the electronic viewers are limited to the sense of vision, and won’t be able to feel or smell any of this trip. Overall, it was a nice side trip. I look forward to doing more of these whenever possible. Pictures below (More on Panoramio).
As a side note, after 2 minutes on a train out of Okazaki, there was an abundance of green space and farmlands, among other natural sights that you can’t find in a city. Pretty cool that where I’m at has both a medium-sized city feel (300,000 pop.) and the relaxed country atmosphere.
There are a few very interesting aspects of life here that I was surprised about. First of all, I have yet to see a towel dispenser or a general garbage disposal. This is because before throwing anything away, you must separate it into different bins: food, burnable, plastic, paper, bottles, PET bottles, etc. It’s fairly confusing, but people here are very serious about this.
Also, the weather is very interesting. It’s very very humid and very very hot. It was 95 the day before I got here, and it’s been around 90 the past few days. There’s also supposed to be a typhoon sometime in the next month. Last time I was in a typhoon was on top of a mountain in Hong Kong 3 years ago. Good times.
A lot of Roads have no Sidewalks, but at least the drivers are polite.
Finally, I’ve been looking around for interesting vending machines. I walked past one today that sold lotion. It wasn’t in bottles, you just put your hand under the dispenser after you paid. Unfortunately, I didn’t have my camera at the time, but if I find it again, I will take a picture.
Starting college can be a big transition. You’re moving to a new place, starting a new school and classes, and faced with making new friends in an unfamiliar environment. And, of course, there’s that whole “becoming an adult” thing. But, you’re also leaving a lot behind. Every new beginning means that an old chapter must come to an end. Leaving behind our friends at home may seem difficult, especially if they’re going to be a long distance away from you during the school year. Something I made sure to do was to spend a lot of time with them during the summer after high school. Of course, going to college doesn’t mean you’ll never see your friends again, or that you will no longer be friends with them. Good friendships will last if you put effort into them. It may seem hard initially. Coming into Caltech, it’s a sharp adjustment and many are caught up in the excitement of Orientation, Rotation, and starting classes. It may be hard to remember to check your phone frequently and to make time for phone calls and such. Rest assured that if you have other friends going to college, they’re probably going to go through similar things you will. In this transition period, it can feel like you’re going to immediately lose touch with people that mean a lot to you.
Let’s face it: the US loves being just a little different from everyone else. The obvious example? Units of measurement. As an international student from Canada, even I have no clue what’s going on half the time when my friends talk to me and use these weird nonsensical units. And I’ve literally lived on the border between Canada and the States for all my life. After a year here, I’ve finally got a sense of how the two systems of measurement compare and how you can more easily get your bearings with these weird units.
After a year spent in “soft-lockdown” at home in Atlanta, and as Caltech students prepared to finally return to campus, I was aboard an eight hour flight towards Edinburgh, Scotland. Since my junior year plans were interrupted by the virus who shall not be named, I’m spending my first term of senior year studying abroad through the Caltech - Edinburgh University International Exchange program. I’ve only been here just over a week yet have been exposed to so many new people, perspectives, foods, and classes.
When the announcement was first made that fall term was going to be online, I started talking to friends and looking for places to live. We were debating locations around the country: California, Florida, New York, etc.. there were plenty of options. Then it suddenly hit me, what is stopping us from going to Hawaii, covid numbers were better and a two week quarentine would ensure that numbers stayed down… I proposed this to my friend and we agreed it would be an amazing experience, but we didn’t want to get out hopes up. A month or so later we still haven’t decided where to live, Hawaii seemed too far and too difficult to plan. But we couldn’t get the idea out of our heads. We spent some time looking into plane tickets, places to stay, etc… and it actually didn’t seem so impossible after all. A couple weeks later and we were arriving here on the big island!