Japan was absolutely stunning and life-changing for me. Many thanks to FEA for helping me be able to fund my amazing experience abroad!
Hey guys, welcome back to my Youtube channel!— Almost every Youtuber ever.
Sadly (or maybe perhaps luckily?), it’s not a cringe-worthy Youtube video. Instead, this is a pre-departure video before I head to Japan!
I’m super excited about going abroad, but there’s so much to do before I actually set foot in my country of study. That said, I want to kick off this blog and start on the right foot, and this video will help me do exactly that.
This video will introduce who I am and where I am going in detail.
For those who need it, here’s the entire transcript for the video (because I do realize I’m talking super fast).
Hi, I’m Christine, and this is my pre-departure video for the FEA scholarship!
A little bit about me… I am a student from San Jose State University, located in San Jose, California. I’m majoring in business and minoring in computer science. Hopefully, after college, I’ll be working in the tech industry.
Growing up in the heart of Silicon Valley, I’ve always been influenced by technology because I’ve always been playing games and I’ve always been interested in tech. That’s why I want to be part of the process that help impact people’s lives through technology.
That said, for the academic year of 2019-2020, I’ll be studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan at Waseda University. There, I’ll be taking some international business courses, as well as courses in Japanese culture (so that I can learn more about the country that I am in).
I chose Japan specifically because they are one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. Their AI development is growing super fast and their gaming industry is huge.
I’ve always aspired to work for a Japanese gaming industry because I’ve grown up playing games like Harvest Moon and Rune Factory, all produced by Natsume.
With my study abroad at Waseda, I am going to squeeze my way into the gaming industry through internships and/or learning opportunities that the school provides. This in turn could help me get more experience that I really need to get myself more involved in that industry.
I’m leaving soon, approximately in two weeks, and I’m looking forward to being so far away from home. I’ll be blogging everything that I experience or that I’ll be running into, so I’m really excited for that.
Thank you so much to the FEA scholarship donors, and please look forward to my year abroad and my adventures in Japan.
The Freedom I Took for Granted
If Japan has taught me anything, it is to be independent.
Now that I’m home and have been at home for two months now, I think about how I might have taken that freedom and independence for granted. Every day, my parents come to me with a new problem, whether it be to help them fill out their unemployment form claims or to help them take care of my sister. I’m back to thinking and caring for other people, rather than just myself. Of course, I’m not saying that I don’t like to help them, but it was nice to have the freedom of taking care of just myself. It’s stressful when you have to worry and care for other people, on top of the things you have to do for yourself.
Since I got back, I’ve received a constant reminder:
“What is my problem is your problem.”
If my sister is hungry, it’s not just her problem, but also my problem.
If my mom’s phone is broken, it’s not just her problem, but it’s also my problem.
If my dad loses his driver’s license, it is not just his problem, it’s my problem.
Whatever problem they have, I have to fix.
I suppose it’s practice for being selfless because I never once told them I didn’t want to help them or I was sick of helping them, but it does make me think about the freedom I had in Japan. Even though I miss it, I’m happy to help my family because it’s preparing me for the future.
Recent Mass Gathering
Note: This blog post is purely a rant.
Just today, I have heard news in my friend’s county about people gathering in a group larger than 100 for Mother’s Day. Not only did I hear that, but I also heard that in that mass gathering, a man was tested positive for coronavirus.
First of all, why and who in their right minds would gather in such large groups like that when the COVID-19 danger and panic is still high? I get that it’s Mother’s Day, but really people? Is it really that hard to stay indoors and celebrate it amongst yourselves? Why must you gather in a group that large?
Secondly, tests for the coronavirus takes time. That means that the man that attended the large gathering had suspicions that he had the virus, but attended anyway. Why? Why would you risk putting others at risk like that? I have no words.
Lastly, why are the police and government not doing more about things like this? I know that some counties are able to lift lockdown orders because of low coronavirus cases, but if things continue like this, we’re bound to hit a second wave.
People can be so unbelievable. Stay at home and stay safe!
Chai Milk Tea
Chai milk tea – it is god sent.
Some times, I stay up until 3am or 4am, worrying about the future.
How will the economy be once this pandemic is over? How will I be able to find a job when I will be competing with so many others who most likely have more experience and knowledge in the field than I do?
The stress builds with each passing day. My dad is itching to retire (as he is the only one working in my family of four) because of his aching body (he works in construction and is almost 60). My family looks up to me to help carry them when I am fresh out of college. This is what keeps me awake at night and what makes my fingers itch to find things to do while being holed up in my house during lockdown. There are times where I lay in the dark, seemingly for hours because my brain refuses to shut down for the night. When things get that tough, I often find myself turning to chai milk tea.
I hadn’t had it much before, but after getting back to America after my half year abroad, I found myself almost addicted to it.
What I do is I heat up milk and take out one package of chai tea. I use this brand in particular, but any other brand would do:
I heat the milk up for one minute in the microwave and dunk the tea bag in for a few minutes. I usually don’t like it too strong and spicy, so I only leave it in for two or three minutes. After that, I put in about half a tablespoon of honey and stir. When it’s sweet enough, I add a pinch of cinnamon and the chai milk tea is ready to go.
It’s absolutely heavenly. It’s like the warm (and maybe an even better version?) of the milk you get after you’ve had a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.
After a cup of that, sleep comes to me in no time. It beats melatonin gummies any day, but of course, the stress of the future is still there.
Hopefully, with more positive news about the coronavirus lockdown, my levels of stress will go down, but from the looks of it, the light at the end of the tunnel is still very far off. People should stay in their homes and follow government protocol (specifically looking at the people who are going out to protest the lockdown (and virus, which literally makes no sense)) so this can all soon be over.
Stay safe everyone!
Things I Regret Not Doing While I Was Abroad
Sometimes I think about how it would be if there was no global pandemic. I would still be in Japan. I would still be waking up in the lovely apartment I had in Japan. I would still be able to make midnight trips to 7/11 for an onigiri or sandwich. Honestly speaking, it would be amazing if I were still in Japan.
Thinking about it in that way made me realize there are a lot of things I regret not doing while I was abroad.
1. Buying more clothes.
Asian fashion is amazing. Japan, known for their fashion, has several chains that sell great (and affordable!) clothing, such as GU and WEGO. I only found out about WEGO about a week before I was told to go home, so it was so disappointing that I didn’t have more time to go check out the store.
2. Trying out more new food places
There are a ton of places to eat in Japan. I managed to find several great places, and of course, was always open to finding new ones, but I realized that some time during the year, I started to frequent the places I had already gone to before. Maybe it was because I knew those places were worth my money and worth eating at again, but a part of me wishes that I tried to eat at other places – places I haven’t gone to before.
3. More travel around Japan
It’s a bit sad that I was in Tokyo most of the time. My program had trips planned for us around Japan, but with the virus, many of them were cancelled. I had a lot of plans to go with a group of friends later in the year (most of the plans to occur in the summer), but because of COVID-19, all those plans went down the drain. That makes me wish that I had went on more trips earlier in the year.
4. Taking more walks
At some point during my year abroad, I did complain about the amount of walking I had to do. It was tiring – especially when it was hot out. Even so, I wish I had taken more walks around my neighborhood. It was such a pretty neighborhood – there’s rarely trash on the streets and the roads are relatively safe.
5. More pictures and videos!!!
Of course, the most common regret among all students that go abroad: taking more pictures and videos. I documented a lot in general, but of course, it’s never enough. I wish I took pictures and videos of more common things, like my apartment or when my roommates and I decided to cook. I took so many pictures of exciting things that I forgot to take pictures of the most mundane things. I miss the things that I considered boring back when I was in Japan (like cleaning the house or moving the furniture) and I wish I captured more moments of it when I was there.
There’s a ton of things I miss. I hope one day I’ll be able to return, as a visitor on vacation or as someone with a working visa, and do the things that I regretted not doing when I was there the first time.
Nature’s Thriving With or Without Us
Spring is obviously here, and do you know how I know? Well, it’s because my allergies are kicking in and they’re kicking in hard. My throat has been itchy, my eyes have been watering, and my nose has been running. My allergies are working 27/4. If I don’t take my allergy medicine at the start and end of the day, I feel like death is looming over me. That’s how bad my allergies are.
Getting back to the main point though, my allergies are a telltale sign that nature is thriving. The other day, I decided to take a walk. It wasn’t a very far one because of my family’s coronavirus fears, but it was a good one nonetheless.
During my walk, I saw bushes of blooming roses. There were red roses, pink roses, and orange roses. If it weren’t for my raging allergies, I would’ve stayed out to take pictures. But, because of how pretty they were, I picked some to bring home for my mom.
Here’s the picture:
Point here is that it’s kind of sad how nature thrives with or without us. I’ve seen a lot of news articles about how nature is returning to some places that people used to crowd. I know for a fact that Earth would do better without us, but in order for us to stay here for much longer, I hope the situation with the virus and nature returning is a wake-up call for those who haven’t thought much about their impact on Earth.
Spicy Ramen Noodle Quesadilla
I don’t normally cook, yet I always watch those quick Instagram and Facebook videos about cooking. I’ve seen recipes combining two different cultures and have always wanted to try it, but ended up forgetting about it because of something else that pops up in my life.
However, now that there’s nothing to do because of the coronavirus lockdown, I’ve decided to make a dish that I have been wanting to make for the longest time now: spicy noodle quesadilla.
This recipe actually came from my friend, who was scrolling through Instagram one late night (more like one early morning – it was like 4am). He sent the video in the group chat and told us when we had the chance, we should all make it.
It looked simple enough. All you needed was tortillas, beef, green pepper, onion, cheese, and a spicy ramen packet. I gathered all the ingredients easily enough – they were all still in stock at the supermarket – and began my cooking adventure.
First, I chopped the green pepper and then the onion into eatable sizes. I then cut the meat and marinated it in chicken stock powder. After that, I threw the green pepper, onion, and beef onto the pan and let it cook. On the side, I boiled water for the ramen. While I was moving back and forth between those two things, I also cleaned up my area and did the dishes. My mom always nagged me about keeping my cooking area clean, so besides letting the food burn, that was my other priority.
After those two things were done, I wiped the bigger pan clean and threw on the quesadilla. As soon as it was warm, I put the cheese on and then the vegetables. I layered over another tortilla for more cheese and the spicy ramen and finished it with the final tortilla to complete to quesadilla.
Here was the final result:
With a bit of tabasco sauce, it tasted great. For anyone who is interested in making this themselves, this is the recipe:
With that, I’ll bring this blog post to an end, as that is the most interesting thing that happened to me this week during lockdown.
The main thing we should have been warned about…
Reverse culture shock is always mentioned when it comes to going back home after traveling abroad for a long time. I’ve been warned about it from countless of people, but I only experienced it once when I was ordering food and the cashier was super (emphasis on SUPER) nice and friendly. It’s not like Japanese workers are unfriendly, but it’s strange to finally hear the language that I am used to in an incredibly friendly manner.
Anyway, back to the main point. What people should have warned us about was how displaced we will feel once we get back home. Because I was sent home so abruptly, nothing feels right. I miss my roommate, my friends, and my apartment. I came home to a room full of things (because my room was used for storage) that I don’t recall ever having. I spent a good amount of time cleaning it out and trying to get my life back into the rhythm I was used to before Japan, but it’s been hard.
Because I came back in the middle of the semester, I have no classes. It’s been difficult reaching out to people for help – no one ever replies until maybe 2 weeks later, after I send another email reminding them that I need help and I need help ASAP in order to keep my financial aid. Everything is closed and my parents are super paranoid about the virus. It’s hard to meet anyone because of the lockdown and it’s even harder to go out and get the things that I need because I’m afraid of bringing the virus back home.
So far, I haven’t been doing much but sending out as many emails as I can for help regarding school. I’ve scheduled appointments on Zoom too, but in the end, there’s never one solution that fixes it all. It always leads back to sending more emails, so I’ve been running back and forth emailing more people in order to get help. I’m slowly losing the optimism that I had when I first got back to America – the optimism that everything will be okay and everything will work out. It’s been almost a month since I got back, and yet I have yet to get everything sorted. I’m starting to dread opening my email because I know it’s going to be empty.
Hopefully, the people that I’ve emailed replied back soon, but there’s nothing I can do but wait on them. I’m hanging on to the thinnest thread of hope right now, but I am about 90% sure the earliest I can get my classes will be in the summer. Maybe everything will work out in the end, who knows. For now, all there’s left to do is wait.
Finally at home?
So, after two weeks of quarantine, I’m finally at home. Not much as been going on since I got back to America. It felt timeless during self-quarantine, and it still does. My parents are glad to see me, but my sister? Not so much. She was able to use my room as a storage room while I was away, and now that I’m back, she has to clear everything out and she’s grumpy about it. She also took my bed and a few other things from my room because she didn’t want to buy a new one to replace her old one. To be honest, even though she appears grumpy, I’m sure she’s glad to have me back to bother her.
Despite being happy that I got to see my family, I’m still sad about this entire situation. I can’t see my friends because of quarantine. I can’t go out because of quarantine. I can’t do the things I wanted to do when I got back to America because of quarantine. It feels stifling.
It feels strange to be back home. I know it’s home, but I’ve gotten so used to my roommate being just a few feet away from me and the company of my friends. When I really think about it, maybe it feels strange to me because everything that has happened the last few months feels like a dream. Maybe it’s because my good-byes with the people I’ve met and my study abroad country were too short.
I don’t know what it is, but I wish I could go back and complete my full year abroad. There’s so much to do – so much to fix – because my year abroad was cancelled. Hopefully all goes well these next few weeks and I get everything sorted out so I can finally get settled.
To end this post, here’s a picture of what I came back to:
First Week of Quarantine
I have been going through self-quarantine for about a week now. In contrast to Tokyo, it feels timeless here. I don’t have to wake up and worry about all my responsibilities here – all I have to worry about is making sure I’m virus-free.
Even so, I miss being in Tokyo. I miss being in my tiny apartment. I miss the transportation systems and the convenient stores. I miss some of the responsibilities that I had to take on because I was abroad.
You never really expect to miss what you didn’t like back when you were actually doing it.
So far in quarantine, all I have been doing is goofing around with my two friends and eating. Because they were on the same plane as me, we’re all in quarantine together at their parents’ house. One of my friend’s parents was kind enough to let us use the house for 2 weeks, so here we are.
We made breakfast together, played games together, and basically did everything together.
It is bittersweet because we know at the end of these 2 weeks, it’ll be super hard to see each other again.
Aside from all this, there is not much to report. I’m still upset about having to go home, but there’s not much I can do about it except plan for the future.
To end this post, here are some pictures of the food we ate and some of the silly things that we were up to this past week: