Sunday, January 19, 2014

About my experience in Japan (Program, school, host family, etc.)

I received a lot of emails recently asking about my experience in Japan. I'm so so SO happy to hear from my readers and please keep emailing me :p
There are a few questions that come around pretty often in the emails so I figured a lot of people had the same questions. Therefore, I will try to cover as much as I can in this post. If I forgot something or you want more details, please contact me by the email address down below or comment down here!

Program and application

The program that helped me go to Japan is called Greenheart Travel (CCI) which you can check out by clicking here-->Greenheart Travel
They are a company based in Chicago I believe and they have programs for destinations around the world. As in my application for this program, I just found them online and sent them an email. They replied to me fairly quickly and I just bombarded them with emails full of questions. The representative from the company was very patient in answering my questions and she was such a sweet person. She helped me complete my application forms and contacted the organization in Japan (JFIE). We mainly communicated through emails, I just sent her my applications by email once I filled them up and it was just very easy overall. They do require that you have two years of Japanese learning I think (?) I'm not sure. If you have any further questions about them, you should definitely contact them! They have a rather strict set of rules though so make sure you check that out before signing anything!
I find it's really important to look at various programs and do a lot of research before deciding on one program that really suits you. I emailed three different programs and I decided to go with the one that I'm most comfortable with. 

Before going to Japan (language, packing, preparation)

I went to Japanese school every Saturday for four years before deciding that I was ready to go on an exchange trip. My goal was to evaluate my Japanese level and to improve it by speaking to native speakers. The Japanese level of exchange students vary so it's not such a big deal, but I think in order to enjoy your stay even more it's better to be able to communicate and understand people around you. It will be easier for you to make friends too!!
Packing... I hate packing... I'm so bad at packing you can't imagine! I didn't have any sort of plan when I was packing so my suitcase ended up with a lot of useless things, which is always the case. So I can't really say anything about it but bring the minimum of clothes and stuff that you know you will buy in Japan!! You will be living for months there so you will definitely buy things anyway.
I did some research about my host school before leaving Canada which isn't really preparation, it's just curiosity *tehepero*
I didn't do a lot of preparation except for buying gifts for my host family and some souvenirs for my classmates. 

School (making friends, school life, classes, clubs)

My host school had a rather close system to the North American high schools. We had no uniforms but most girls still wear "Nanchatte Seifuku" which is a fashion looking like school uniforms but actually not. Those clothes can get really expensive too! 
I had a home room class every morning with the same people but I was free to choose my classes. I chose a lot of physical education classes, as I've mentioned in my older posts. I do have some classes with my home room class, such as one of me gym class, chemistry, Japanese, etc.. Obviously, I'm most familiar and close with my home room classmates. However, I'm a rather outgoing person so I talked to a lot of people in my other classes too. Especially in phys. ed., it's easy to become friends with team mates. It also helps to join lots of clubs, it makes you meet lots of new people and new friends. I met a lot of people in sports clubs! 
School life at my school was pretty relaxed. I felt like most didn't care about their marks THAT much so even during exam period they were still pretty relaxed. I know other schools may be different though so don't take my word for it. People at my school were very outgoing too towards exchange students. 

Host Family

I think JFIE does a great job with finding host families in general. Mine was such a great family, I've mentioned in a lot of posts. I've heard about other students having problems with their families since it is a very different culture and life style. My family was very open about things so we got along really well. Getting along with your family is very important because you're going to be staying with them for months. It's always nice to have gifts and souvenirs when you first get to your host family and for Christmas, birthdays, mothers' day, fathers' day, etc.. It doesn't have to be super luxurious but something that shows you've put thought into. Of course, communication is key in most situations. Even if your Japanese isn't the best, still try to talk with your family and don't be afraid of asking questions because that's how you learn!

My advices

My advice is just to try new things because this is a once in a life time experience! If you hold yourself back, you will most likely be regretting it afterwards. It's always better to think "WOW! I can't believe I did that!" than "Ugh! Why didn't I do that!". Try your best to learn Japanese while you're there because that's just going to bring you so much closer to people around you! Finally, don't think that you're special and should be treated otherwise because you're a foreigner. This makes your distance with people enlarge and some might even not like you because of your attitude.

If you want to contact me for anything please comment here or
Youtube: Manou Liu

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Back home in Canada! Thank you to everyone...

As the title suggests, I'm back in Canada! My exchange trip has officially ended on January 11th which is of course very very sad.

I would love to thank Greenheart Travel (CCI), the company I went through from North America to make this awesome experience happen for me! The staffs are really nice and easy going. And of course, the Japanese group JFIE, who took care of me during five months, from my arrival to Narita airport in August to the moment when I walked into the security section on five days ago. Thank you guys so much!!

Host Family

My host family, Nagashima family, is the best I can ask for. I love them! They were like my second family. At first, of course I felt really nervous because it's someone else's house and you know, it takes time to adapt. However, I soon realised how great they were after the first hour I spoke with my host mother. She's just such a sweet person with a big heart and she was funny so I loved talking to her! ^.^
My host father is very hard working so he's always away on business trips. Despite that, he still tries to deepen our family bond by taking me to different places.
Finally, my cute little host brother... He's just such a sweet heart! I fell in love with him at first sight, he's a bit short and a bit skinnier than other kids his age. When we first met, he was too timid to make eye contact with me so he kept on glancing at me every three seconds haha!
Writing about them still brings tears to my eyes even now. I miss them and I definitely hope I can see them again!


My host school is Kanagawa Sougou Sangyou High School (神奈川総合産業高校) or as most of us call it, LiSA. Everybody was so welcoming and I felt so lucky to be a student at this school. My classmates were so nice and funny people I feel lonely even on weekends from not seeing their smiles and hearing their jokes. They were ALL my best friends!! I could laugh with them, I could tease them and I could be myself with them. I can't be like this to everyone in Canada, even though it's my home. Everybody in the clubs I joined were amazing too. Some of them I just cannot forget because I had so much fun with them.
The teachers were all very kind too. They were very patient despite the fact that I brought a lot of trouble along with me. I had different teachers for almost every class but all of them were such wonderful people and they gave me the energy to try and understand everything in class. The teachers in the clubs I joined were so great! I love everybody at my school, no matter how they thought of me.

I'm not very good at expressing myself in these kinds of situations but I just want to say Thank you to everyone! I had a blast in Japan!!


アメリカの団体Greenheart Travel CCIと日本の団体JFIEに感謝の気持ちを伝えたいです。お陰様で、こんなに素晴らしい体験が出来ました。本当にありがとうございました!!




I still have some posts that I'm working on about my experience so this won't exactly be the last post about Japan but once those posts are up, I don't know what to do with this blog but I WILL keep this going!! 

If you want to contact me for anything please comment here or
Youtube: Manou Liu

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Illumination at Yomiuri Land (よみうりランド)

Watch my Vlog about this day (along with my trip to Shizuoka)!! Please don't forget to SUBSCRIBE!!!

I went to a theme park called Yomiuri Land and Tokyo Tower with my friend Natsuki after I got back from Shizuoka. Our main goal was to watch the illuminations going on everywhere around the city and the theme park had one too. With the night pass, you can ride on any rides you wish and look at the illuminations when it gets dark.

We rode the Ferris Wheel in the park and the view was breathtaking once on top. It costs 600 yen but it was definitely worth it!

Sky Tree and Tokyo Tower from the Ferris Wheel

It was so pretty I got really excited. A lot of couples were there since it has an area designated to couples. In the area, all the lights were pink and blue, with a "lake" in the middle of the place and hearts floating on the water. The second part of the area had white lights, giving out a feeling of being in the middle of piles of snow. It has a giant water fountain with water shows on certain times.

 The locks were meant to seal the lovely sweet relationship between the lovers.

In our case, it  sealed our friendship!

After leaving the park, we went to Tokyo Tower to see the night view of the city. It was amazing! Everybody tend to go to the newly built Sky Tree nowadays but I prefer Tokyo Tower for some reason. We could see Odaiba with its wonderfully colourful lights shining in the dark. 

Rainbow bridge and Odaiba

A road in the same shape as Tokyo Tower, right in front of it.

So my trip to Japan is almost over and I'm going to post my last blogpost about my Japan exchange trip soon. I'm really depressed right now actually :(

If you want to contact me for anything please comment here or
Youtube: Manou Liu

Monday, January 6, 2014

Japanese New Year in Shizuoka (Mt. Fuji and dogs)

Happy New Year!!

During the New Year's period, my host family was kind enough to bring me to my host dad's parents' house in Shizuoka. Of course, when we talk about Shizuoka, the first thing we think of is Mt. Fuji! We drove there in the morning so during almost the entire trip in the car I got to see Mt. Fuji in front of me.
It was just so pretty to look at in the car >.<

It took us about two hours to get there since we got out pretty early, thinking about the traffic jam later on. There's a beach near my host's house that was recently certified as a World Heritage for being able to see Mt. Fuji and the sea at the same time. 
It was one of the most wonderful things I've seen in a while...

The house of my host dad was really big with lots of rooms and lots of dogs!! I love dogs so I was really happy since there were four of them. Everybody were really friendly and generous. Unfortunately I got sick on the second day and just completely died D:
Traditionally, Japanese people go to temples on the 31st to strike the bell (除夜の鐘). The bell can only be rang 108 times so only 108 people can do it. We went there at around 11:40pm to line up and I celebrated the arrival of 2014 in line. Luckily, we did get the chance to ring it and it's in my vlog.
Then, on January 1st, people go to the temple again to do their first prayers (初詣). It was really crowded and everybody were buying something from the temple since it's really important for Japanese people to get blessed by God since the beginning of the year. 

 I bought an Ema with Mt. Fuji on it

It was really fun to be able to travel with my host family since I know other students don't necessarily have the opportunity to do so. I'm so grateful for their generosity.

Wish you guys a Happy New Year!!

If you want to contact me for anything please comment here or
Youtube: Manou Liu