Archive for May, 2010

TRAVEL BLOG: Sam’s Final Entry from Japan

10 May

Hey, everyone!  So this is my last entry for the semester and I really appreciate those of you who have checked out my blog.  This last entry might sound a bit pessimistic, but it features a good message.  It deals with what I learned from this whole experience and what others can do if he/she finds him/herself in a similar situation.  I need to start by saying this program didn’t go the way I had hoped.  My host father became sick before I got here and, despite searching, my program couldn’t find another host family at such short notice.  As a result, I got placed into a dormitory, which hurt my daily Japanese usage.  Also, I got placed into a Japanese class one level lower than appropriate.  If that wasn’t enough, my Japanese conversation partner left for the United States and will return to Japan in early June (She left in February).  All this put me into a really frustrated mood and I started hanging out in my dorm room a lot, not wanting to communicate.  I told a friend about these problems and he told me something that really helped make me feel better: “Studying abroad is what you make of it.  Don’t let education disrupt your learning, especially during this once-in-a-lifetime experience.”  I started going out more often to stores, restaurants, after-school programs and other places where native speakers could be found.  I started watching my favorite movies dubbed in Japanese (or a Japanese movie), listening to Japanese music and reading Japanese magazines (I still can’t read everything due to unidentified kanji (Chinese characters).  As a result, I learned a lot of new vocabulary, my listening has improved dramatically and I encountered a lot of amazing experiences along the way.  I got a bad hand of cards during this semester, but I didn’t let that ruin everything.  Studying abroad isn’t just about studying (In fact, I might go far as to say that those who feel that way would be wasting their time studying abroad).  Studying abroad is really about experiencing the culture first hand and gaining an inside view of how another culture views the world.  Being abroad allows you to understand how if feels to live daily life as a foreigner and, in my case, a racial minority among a homogenous society.  I’m still learning new things even now.  To those people who are considering studying abroad, let me say this:  Don’t let a bad experience (or multiple, as I found) define your time abroad.  You only have a semester/year, so make it incredible.  That seems like a good note to stop on.  Thank you all so much for reading my blog and thank you to Sarah for making this blog happen.  Oh, and I have a photo attached of myself with my Calligraphy final project (No, I don’t have my grade yet).  Thought it would work as a good final picture.  Thank you all again and Sayonara!


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TRAVEL BLOG: Smoking in Japan

03 May

Hey, everyone!  So this week has to do with smoking in Japan.  Back at UVM, I see people smoke cigarettes a lot.  I was a bit taken aback by the amount of people who smoked, actually (I also find it ironic that a popular place to smoke is in front of Fletcher-Allen).  Also, the price of tobacco in the US is rising.  I’m not sure what it is now, but it’s pretty high.  Now for some facts about consumption of tobacco in Japan:  The age at which one can purchase a cigarette is 20.  Also, it is okay to smoke inside bars, restaurants, public parks and nightclubs.  Most cigarettes are priced at ¥320 (roughly $3.20).  Interestingly enough, I have never seen anyone get carded for purchasing cigarettes since coming here.  For such a high smoking age, I would have expected a bit more enforcement.  But the most interesting thing about cigarettes in Japan has to be the various, and plentiful, vending machines that dispense various packs.  I have included a photo so you can see what they look like.  Then again, after seeing tons of beer vending machines, I suppose that I shouldn’t be surprised to find cigarette vending machines either.  Back to the US, we also have tons of ads on TV, in magazines and other media outlets about the dangers of smoking.  To date, I have seen only two subtle TV ads about programs for quitting smoking.  I also remember reading somewhere that Japan is one of the largest consumers of tobacco products (I feel like China is the heaviest consumer).  I find it fascinating that the US puts such a high stigma on smoking, yet Japan has a very relaxed view of the same issue.  That’s all for today’s blog entry.  For next week’s entry (and also my final blog entry), I’ll surprise you all with a random topic.  Thank you for reading this week’s entry and Jaa, ne!

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