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Packing Disaster

There was not much fighting after we all got the news to return home by the 21st. Some students tried to become independent students at Waseda, but that idea was quickly shut down by my program. Because I knew there was no arguing in a situation like this, I decided to start packing right after I got the news.

I didn’t realize how much stuff I had until I started to pack.

I dragged out all my things from the closet and had to individually pick what I wanted to bring home. During this time, my roommate was freaking out about the fact that I was leaving. If I was leaving, that meant that she had to pay rent by herself or find another apartment. She was on the fence about leaving Japan for almost the entire day when I first began packing. She loved the country and she wanted to stay for as long as possible. However, in the end, she decided to withdraw from her program as well. She didn’t know when she’d be called back from her program and the United States just categorized the whole world as a level 4 threat. Plus, she told me that it would’ve been really expensive to try to look for another apartment, so leaving was a wise choice money-wise too.

With her decision, we ended up packing together. As a result, our entire apartment was a mess. Here are some of the pictures we managed to take during all that chaos.

Packing and trying to move out in a few days was absolute hell. We had almost dozens of tasks to get done before we left the country. We had to cancel our health insurance, submit a moving out form, cancel our SIM cards, etc. There was too much to get done and too little time.

During this time, I don’t think we slept that often. For almost 4 days straight, we got probably a max 6 hours of sleep.

In the end, we were able to finish everything on time, but we never got a chance to stop and admire what we took for grant. There are so many things that I love in Japan and it was saddening that I was unable to go and appreciate them once again before I left.

I managed to get some pictures of my apartment in the same state that it was before I moved in, so here they are:

I’ll miss the place I’ve called home for these last few months and I can’t wait to come back again when I’m able to.


A short update during all this chaos

A very short update.

On March 17th, I got a text from my program coordinator – my Japan study abroad program is being cancelled.

I was expecting the news, but I wish it hadn’t come so soon. I still had a lot of places I wanted to go to, a lot of areas to explore. I never was able to go to Okinawa or the Kansai region of Japan.

It’s sad, but I suppose it’s a good idea to go back home before I get stuck in Japan.

I’ll see everyone in a couple days, when I’m back in America.

More Unfortunate News

Image of coronavirus from WebMD.

It seems like there is a never-ending cycle of bad news this spring break while I am in Japan. Schools are being cancelled worldwide because of the coronavirus and the possibility of being sent home early looms over my head.

Just a few days ago, I’ve got an email from my program, telling me that if I wished to return home and end my year abroad now, I could. They weren’t requiring me to do anything like that, but they gave me the option. Unfortunately, some of my friends received separate emails from their school, informing them that they have to return ASAP. I’m dreading the day where my home university sends out the same email.

As of right now, there is not much to update/post about thanks to the virus. I have been at home because my program has restricted domestic and international travel for this spring break. There is no new information yet, so I’m sitting in the dark, scared of what is to come.

There has not been good news yet, and I’m desperately wishing for some. Honestly, at this point, I just want news. I hate being left in the dark. Hopefully there will be good news soon or else I’ll be forced to think that 2020 is (or was) the worst year to study abroad.

Good-bye Asia Trip

This spring break, my friends and I planned a trip abroad. We were supposed to go to South Korea, Taiwan, and Vietnam. We bought tickets back in 2019, unaware of what was about to happen in the next following months of the new year.

The flight tickets were $520 in total for the multi-city trip. It was amazingly cheap, considering the ticket we bought to get into Japan was about the same amount. We had everything planned out. Everything was booked, down the the shuttle buses that would take us to our hotels and the pocket wifi. We thought that we were going to go 100%, so we were all super excited. Little did we know, near the beginning of February, we would have to cancel everything.

The situation concerning the coronavirus got staggeringly worse. South Korea gained hundreds of cases overnight. My family from Vietnam told me about the large, unreported numbers of people getting ill with the virus. Everything was falling apart, so we did what we thought was best: we cancelled the trip.

We only managed to get refunds for some of the things that we booked, such as the hotels. Any AirBnb that we booked only gave us half of our money back. In addition to that, we lost the money from the flight because we didn’t buy insurance. It was probably the biggest mistake that we made. We were so sure that nothing would happen, so we would definitely be going, but we were wrong. Out of what seemed like the blue, a virus popped up and is now causing havoc on the international stage.

We lost approximately $900 in total for cancelling our trip.

If I learned anything from this terrible incident, it would be to always purchase insurance because you’ll never know what will happen. Life is never perfect, so you’ll always have to be prepared to handle what it throws at you… And in this case, I should’ve been prepared with the insurance…

Always buy insurance to be safe. If you don’t, you might end up like me and lose out on a super fun trip, as well as $900…

Cancellation of Program Trips

Because of the coronavirus, one of the most fun and memorable trips of my entire study abroad here in Japan is cancelled. Much regret was expressed by my program coordinator, but it still resulted in anger and disappointment from my fellow program-mates.

We had plans to go to Okinawa, an island off the coast of Japan. Part of our program expenses were allocated for trips, so we paid about $4,000 for them. Most of that money went into the two long trips scheduled during spring break: Okinawa and Kansai.

However, now that the trip has been cancelled (it was cancelled just two days before), most of the students from the program are simmering with anger. It was cancelled too suddenly, meaning most students had no time to plan other trips now that their main one has been cancelled.

One of my friends went on a long rant about how my program was being ridiculous, cancelling an entire trip with no evidence that there was a coronavirus case in Okinawa. Her anger was justified, but it seemed a bit harsh, considering the program only cancelled the trip to ensure that students would be safe.

In fact, just a day later (after the day we were supposed to leave for Okinawa), there was a confirmed cased. My friend was quick to withdraw her words, but there was no doubt that she was still incredibly upset. After all, she had paid the program $4,000 for trips like these.

Luckily, the program is going to refund us for the money that we paid for the trips. Unfortunately, they will not do that until the end of the year, so we’re still a few thousand short of what we’re owed. I wish they would have paid us back immediately, so that we could use that money to plan and pay for our own trips this spring break.

The coronavirus is perhaps one of the most unluckiest things to occur during my year abroad. As of today, there are over a hundred cases in Japan. People are panicking and stripping the shelves clean of wipes, masks, and toilet paper. All plans this break are cancelled, and now we’re facing the possibility of being called back home to the States. If this is to happen, I would miss one entire semester of schooling, wasting both time, and money.

Hopefully, the situation will look up, but as of now, the future seems bleak.

Shelves were completely empty because people are starting to panic and stock up.
Grocery stores are now limiting 1 item per family – but even so, everything is sold out.

Flushing Plans

Now that spring break is in session, my friend from the Netherlands has decided to come visit me. It’s my first time seeing her again in ten years, so I was excited to finally have some good news and something to look forward to.

Since this is her first time abroad in a foreign country alone, I decided to go to the airport to pick her up. Unfortunately, I got lost myself, so I was about 20 minutes late, but she didn’t seem to mind. After I picked her up, we went home to drop off her luggage and to decide on what to do next. We had a ton of options, considering I planned her trip in Japan very carefully.

Here was how the week she was going to stay in Japan (basically) looked like: [condensed version]

Day 1: Pick up my friend, go to Shibuya, help my friend submit a payment for the tattoo she wanted to get here, get Ichiran Ramen, and explore the bustling city.

Day 2: Show her around my school and my favorite go-to eat spots, head to Shin-Okubo for street food and shopping for Korean skin-care and K-Pop merchandise.

Day 3: Head to Ikebukuro, spend a day at Sunshine City and do things that it has to offer, go to an AYCE hot pot place, and grab KOI milk tea.

Day 4: Go sight-seeing at Kamakura

Day 5: Go to Shinjuku to go to the Tokyo Metropolitan Building and to explore

Day 6: Go to Kawagoe for the Edo-styled streets and street food.

Day 7: Go to Yokohama for the Cosmo World Ferris Wheel, China Town, Ramen Museum, etc.

Day 8: Go with her to Harajuku and Shibuya where she can go shopping, go to an owl cafe, and get her tattoo done.

Day 9: Bring her back to Narita airport for her flight home.

All in all, it sounded like a very solid plan. However, when we arrived at my place, my friend told me she was feeling unwell, so she decided to go to bed early and apologized if that hindered any plans. I told her not to worry about it, but in the end, we had to push back plans and change them. She ended up sleeping for the whole day – not that it was a problem. I should have expected she would be super jet lagged. What I didn’t expect though was how she ended up sleeping in for three days straight.

She would occasionally get up to use the restroom or to talk to me, but most of the time, she went back to sleep. It got even more concerning when I noticed that she couldn’t bring herself to eat anything for three days straight. She was feeling fatigue and nausea.

I was scared she had caught something on the plane or the airport, but she assured me it was just jet lag.

Worried that her trip would end up being too boring for her, I suggested we play games on the fourth day, hoping she felt better so we could at least make it to some of our day trips. We were able to play games, but she decided to turn in early after a bit. Luckily though, she told me she was gradually feeling better and was slowly adjusting to Japan’s time.

For the next few days, she gradually got better. We couldn’t go on our day trips, but she went out and I was able to take her to the places in Tokyo that she wanted to go to the most. She was most excited about Shin-Okubo because she was big on Asian skin-care. She also was able to get her tattoo done before she safely left for home on the 15th.

From this crazy week of always re-arranging plans and constantly worrying about my friend’s well-being, I’d say that being adaptable might be one of the most beneficial traits to have.

Always remember to be adaptable because life will always give you lemons, and it’s your job to make lemonade with them!

We were able to take one day trip to Kamakura. She still felt unwell, but it seemed like she had a lot of fun!


On February 4, I got the news from my parents that my grandfather had passed away at 6:30am in the morning. I was on my way home from Kawagoe when I first got the text.

At first, the news came as disbelief. I was fortunate enough up until that moment to not have anyone I know pass away. I didn’t know what it was like to lose someone, so my mind just went blank as I re-read the text several times over. I wasn’t exactly close to my grandfather because of some family matters, but at the same time, he was my grandfather.My mind automatically went to how my mom was handling this news and my heart broke for her.

It wasn’t until one of my friends put a hand on my shoulder and called my name did I start feeling the tears well up in my eyes. Apparently they had saw the text when they glanced over, wondering why I was staring at the text for so long.

The feeling was like someone punched me in the gut and knocked all the wind out of me. My chest was tight and tears threatened to spill, but I was in public, on a crowded street, nonetheless, so I refused to cry. However, my friends were not making it any easier. As I struggled to pull myself together, they asked me if I was okay and if I wanted a hug. Knowing that I would most definitely start breaking apart, I told them no and to give me a quick minute alone. They looked a bit sad as I told them that, but withdrew their hand on my shoulder and just stood behind me quietly. Looking back on it now, I should have not reacted like so because all they wanted to do was help.

After a good minute, I managed to blink away the tears and continued home in silence. However, the closer I got home, the more I realized I didn’t want to be at home with my thoughts. When I told my friends this, they nodded, saying they could book a hotel (and told me to not worry about the price because they’d split the bill and pay for me) and stay out with me instead. At that moment, I almost burst out in tears again. What did I do to deserve such great friends?

The whole day, they tried to cheer me up. They all split up to find comfort food. They asked me what I wanted to eat and tried their best to get it for me while I stayed back in the hotel to think. When they got back with all the food, they asked me if I wanted to be alone or if I wanted company. I chose the latter and grieved with them right next to me. I apologized for my initial behavior of waving them off when they were trying to help me, but they scolded me for even feeling guilty about it. During this time, some of them cried with me. Even though I was in grief, I was so happy that they were there for me.

That said, I want to use this as a chance to thank my grandfather and friends for everything that they did for me. Despite note being close to my grandpa, he will always be in my heart. I hope he can rest in peace, for he has had a good life up until now. Furthermore, I’m grateful to have met such kind people abroad that would help me through these hard times. Thank you both for supporting me when I most needed it – I am forever grateful.

May he rest in peace.


A few days ago, my friends and I decided to take a 2 night trip at Kawagoe, a little town famous for its Edo-styled buildings and streets. Located about 1 hour away from Tokyo, the little town proved to be quite fun.

When I first arrived at Hon-Kawagoe Station, I noticed that the area was incredibly quiet – almost too quiet for a place located right next to the train station. It was even more surprising when I realized the area was right next to a busy hotel/tourist area. It should have been loud, but it wasn’t… Honestly though, I loved that about the area.

The hotel that I got for the two nights was right next to the station. It was a good hotel for its price – the only downside was that it only had heating and not air conditioning, so it was a bit stuffy (the windows also barely opened). Around the hotel was a shopping mall, convenient stores (as expected of Japan), and a number of cafe and restaurants. In an area that would supposedly seem loud, it was very quiet. Even so, it was fun.

Because I arrived in Kawagoe late on the first day, I only was able to catch a glimpse of what the town’s “Candy Alley” had to offer. There were stalls of street food and shops selling traditional Japanese sweets lined up in an Edo-Styled street. On the first day, I got taiyaki and lemonade, along with another sweet or two, before heading back to the hotel. On the second day, I got to explore the streets a bit more before leaving for Tokyo. The trip to Kawagoe was mainly about the food that I got to eat, so this is going to be a fast picture-based blog. There was an abundance of street food and interesting buildings that I forgot to take pictures of, but here are the pictures I did remember to take throughout the trip:

Sweet potato chips and maple cream dipping sauce. The line for this snack was incredibly long the first day that I came to Kawagoe. The wait time was about 30 minutes. Luckily, I was able to buy one to try for myself right before they closed. It costed about $5. It was pretty tasty – I’d rate it a 7.5/10. They’re very addicting…
Perhaps one of my favorite street foods that I got to eat. This is a jumbo steak skewer. Super good, would recommend to all. The meat was juicy and soft! I’d give this a solid 10/10
Your standard ramen, gyoza, and fried chicken. I have a habit of ordering way too much, so it was super hard to finish all this food. The story behind this picture is that we decided to all get a late dinner, around 8pm. What we didn’t know at the time was that most places closed in Kawagoe by then, so we had to settle with ramen. It was still good though!
A famous landmark in Kawagoe. I saw this right after I got my sweet potato snacks.
Just an interesting thing I ran across: Starbucks, Edo-style! It was super cool to see Starbucks in a traditional Japanese setting. I’m pretty sure you can only see this type of thing in Kawagoe!


Isn’t it just my luck that a dangerous illness arises during my year abroad?

As of right now, there are currently 10,000 people infected worldwide with the coronavirus. It has caused so much concern that some of my Chinese friends cannot return home to China for this upcoming spring break. In fact, countries are now posting travel bans. My friend, who was planning to go to Taiwan with me this spring break, is now unable to go thanks to the travel ban placed on Chinese passport holders.

Cases are appearing all over the world. There are 6 cases in the U.S., about 14 in Japan, and a whooping 7,700 cases in China. The number of people getting infected are increasing with each passing day. Face masks in China are all sold out and Japan is on its way to being in the same situation.

Just today, I went to the nearest convenient store to look for face masks. The whole rack was empty – there were no face masks at all.

The face mask section at the 7/11 closest to my apartment.

The alarm and cautiousness regarding the disease has risen considerably. People now wear face masks everywhere they go, and I don’t blame them. Tokyo is a pretty dangerous place to be when a virus like the coronavirus breaks out. The trains are always packed, there are huge crowds of people throughout the day, and it’s a big city. If one person contracts the virus in the city, the likelihood of them being in contact with others before they are quarantined are quite high. This means that the rate of the virus being spread would be incredibly fast.

To be as straightforward as I can: it would suck to get any type of fatal virus while I am studying abroad.

This spring break, I have plans to travel to Taiwan, Vietnam, and Korea. However, with the coronavirus going around, I’m starting to have second thoughts. Even so, I already paid for my flight, hotels, and activities for each country. Even though it would be safer to stay in Japan, the amount of money I spent is non-refundable, so I don’t know if I should actually cancel and stay back or just go and have fun while I’m abroad. Truly a hard decision.

That said, the future with all these new viruses is bleak, especially with global warming melting the ice and exposing the world to new and existing (previous) viruses. Hopefully, the coronavirus cases settle down soon, so that everyone can go back to their daily lives and not worry about contracting a deadly disease.

First Semester – End

As this semester is coming to a close, I’m going to take my time to write about Waseda University.

Waseda is a beautiful place. The buildings are new, the campus is clean, and there are a ton of restaurants to eat at. The students that I have met are incredibly kind and friendly. They are always eager to learn about where I came from and I am always eager to learn about them. The school brings together people from all over the world. I’m always amazed when I meet someone from a new country. This semester, I’ve met people from Germany, the Netherlands, Finland, Britain, Morocco, Brazil, China, South Korea, Singapore, and more.

I’m incredibly thankful that I was able to go study abroad because it gave me opportunities to learn a little more about each country by talking to my classmates throughout the semester. For instance, I didn’t know that Finland was involved in World War II. My friend from Finland had to tell me that. She told me that it wasn’t something her country liked talking about or was proud of since they sided with Germany.

Aside from the social aspects of Waseda, the school itself is a very good school. The moment I say I attend Waseda University in Japan, people are in awe. I learned that in Japan, Waseda is seen as a school similar to a school in the Ivy League in America. Some say its equivalent to Stanford, or even Harvard. The school is incredibly difficult for Japanese students to get in, thus people are always mind-blown when I tell them I’m an international student there. Furthermore, the education that I have received there thus far is great. Unlike America, there is very little homework. The process of learning is pretty laid back. Most of the assignments that are graded at participation (attendance), the midterm, and final. Even though there is not a lot of homework and assignments, I have learned a lot. My Japanese (which started from almost zero) has improved greatly. I have learned more Japanese at Waseda in one semester than I did in the three years that I took Japanese in high school.

What about the bad? There are little to no complaints about Waseda. The school is almost perfect. The three things I wish for most would probably be for the library to be bigger and to be open 24/7 (like most do on American school campuses), so that it could accommodate more students, and have more eating areas (benches + tables). Apart from these things, there are not many negative things I can say about the school.

I look forward to my last upcoming semester at Waseda after spring break. Even though there’s still a few months left for my study abroad trip, I’m already afraid of the upcoming end. I hope these next few months will go by slowly because the last thing I want to do right now is leave!

Here are some pictures I took on campus:

Waseda’s clock tower
Waseda’s campus
Building 11
Building 3 – it’s a building inside of another bigger building!
Hallway of building 11. Look how clean it is!
One of the few tables that are in building 3.