My name is Tony Z. Jia and I’m a senior double majoring in Chemistry
and Business, Economics, and Management at Caltech. For the next month
or so, I’ll be blogging about my experiences in Japan. I would first
like to thank the Caltech Fellowships and Study Abroad office, which
has graciously offered me the Dr. Amasa Bishop summer study abroad
prize. Anyways, I will be going to the Yamasa Institute in Okazaki,
Aichi, Japan for a Japanese language and culture program. This program
has a classroom component where we will learn basic language and
culture. There is also a practical component, where we will sit in on
or learn various Japanese cultural customs, such as the tea ceremony or
sumo wrestling. I’ll also be going on various trips, both with the
program and independently. Thus through blogging, I hope that all the
readers will be able to get a glimpse into the life of a Caltech
student in Japan. I’ll also be attempting to post pictures onto
Panoramio every few days (Panoramio allows you to place a picture at a
specific location on a map, so you all can see where all of this is
taking place). It’s here: https://www.panoramio.com/user/2916748/tags/Japan under photos tagged Japan.
Okazaki is located in Aichi prefecture, about 40 km southeast of
Nagoya. The city is home to Okazaki Castle, as well as hatcho miso, and
the Institute for Molecular Science. Being the center of Japan, Okazaki
is located on the Tokaido Main Line, which provides quick and easy
access to other large cities, such as Osaka and Tokyo. In the middle of
Okazaki, the Yamasa Institute has provided Japanese Language
instruction for many years. The advantages of living in a small city in
the middle of Japan include lower living costs, little congestion, a
good central location, as well as strong local culture. One of the main
reasons why I chose this program include the fact that Okazaki and
Nagoya have very strong local cultures despite being prosperous with
high tech industries. Other large cities such as Osaka and Kyoto are
currently being more modernized very quickly and losing their original
culture and customs in the process, so I wanted to experience Japanese
culture in the heart of Japan.
While I’m in Japan, I’m planning on going on some side trips on
weekends both with the program and without the program. Tentatively,
the program will be taking students to Gujo Hachiman, a small town
located in Gifu prefecture with an ancient castle and various
underground tunnels. We will also be going to the Nakasendo, one of the
first highways that connected Tokyo with Osaka in the ancient days. In
addition, there will be a 2-day overnight trip to Matsumoto, Nagano.
Matsumoto is a small city in the middle of the mountains, also with a
rich history and culture. There will also be small side trips to a
Tatami factory, Okazaki Castle, Hatcho Miso, and the Toyota Motor
Factory. Independently, I will most likely be spending a day in Nagoya,
which is one of the three economic centers of Japan. Also, if I can
find the time, I will attempt to spend 2.5 days in Osaka/Kyoto/Kobe.
Because we get some weekends off, I will try to leave early on a Friday
afternoon (classes end early on Fridays) and spend the rest of the
weekend in Osaka/Kyoto. Osaka is the second largest city in Japan, and
has seen its culture quickly modernize in the current era. On the other
hand, Kyoto is about 20 minutes away from Osaka, and is home to some of
the most famous shrines and temples in Japan, as well as the former
Imperial Palace. You won’t find two cities with more differences that
are so close to each other anywhere else in Japan. However, this isn’t
finalized yet, and I’ll most likely end up deciding when to go a couple
days in advance.
Let me give you all a rundown of how this trip is going to work. I’m
flying from O’Hare to Seoul Incheon tonight; then a connecting flight
to Nagoya. After the program is over, I’m flying back to Seoul Incheon
from Nagoya. They have me for an overnight stopover in Seoul. Stopovers
are usually also a huge hassle, because you have to clear customs to
enter the country. I actually don’t know anything about Korea or Seoul,
as this trip was designed to learn more about Japan, but we’ll see.
It’s only one night, so it should be ok. Anyways, after that it’s back
to Los Angeles International the next morning, and back to school. I’ve
only got 2 days to recover from jetlag before classes start—that’s
going to be a lot of fun.
Anyways, here’s a crude map (Google Earth and Paint).
I’ll post some more pictures, including pictures from Seoul Incheon and Chubu Centrair airports next time. Expect a post over the weekend or early next week.
Pictures Link: https://www.panoramio.com/user/2916748/tags/Japan
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!