Weekend in Kyoto-Japanese Autumn and Red Leaves

Last weekend, I had a very short but memorable trip to Kyoto, the old capital city of Japan from more than a thousand years. Before Japan changed its capital city to Tokyo, Kyoto was the center of Japanese politics, economics and culture.

We were taking the Shinkansen (the high-speed railway network in Japan) from Tokyo to Kyoto. It took around 2 hours, and on our way there, we met the Mount Fuji, famous for its snow-white “hat”.

In Kyoto, there are a lot of traditional Japanese Shrines, or Jinja, and temples.  Many of them exist since the ancient times. When we were visiting the Yasaka Shrine, there was a conventional Japanese wedding held inside the shrine (Shown on the middle of the picture above).

Kyoto still keeps the traditional side of Japanese culture. Unlike Tokyo, which is more modern and westernized, people living in Kyoto are more likely to wear Kimono, the traditional Japanese clothes. At first, I was curious to see so many people wearing Kimono walking on the streets. I asked my friend whether there was a festival these days so that people wear Kimono. My friend told me that this is their life style.

Also, we saw several Geigi on our way to a temple, shown on the lower left corner of the picture above.

The natural sight in Kyoto was so breath-taking! It made me feel as if I were in the ancient time of Japan.

And… we also tasted the food in Kyoto. I just think that is is art rather than merely food!

Cultural Events

Football is a huge part of American identity and much of our entertainment and community comes from events revolving around football games such as tailgating, super-bowl parties, etc.

AC Milan. The name and logo for the soccer team in Milan, Italy

In Milan, and most of Europe, the national sport is “football” or what Americans would call, soccer.  There is a huge appreciation of soccer in Milan and there are bitter rivalries in this sport much in the same way as Ohio State University feels towards University of Michigan.  Milanese people dress in the colors or jerseys of their home soccer team as they excitedly rush to the soccer stadium.  Once inside the stadium, the crowds are wild and highly enthusiastic, cheering, swearing, and engrossed in the game.  However, unlike in America, there is no tailgating, which I believe is mostly just an American practice.

soccer stadium in Milan

Attending a soccer game in Milan was a great adventure.  It made me nostalgic of the football games back at the Ohio State University, because although it was a different sport, the energy, the cheering, and the atmosphere was exactly the same as back home.  I feel that although the sport itself is important, the most important part of a national sport is the community it brings together, and the shared enthusiasm to support your home team.

Self-pressured Learning Pattern at Rikkyo

The teaching pattern at Rikkyo University is quite different from that of OSU. Although, this semester, I am enrolled in 8 classes, but I never feel stressed out. At first, I unaccustomed to the teaching pattern here, because instructors didn’t us a lot of pressure.

There is a kind of course called Research Seminar here at Rikkyo University. The Research Seminar is held every year, and according to the standing of the students, they could choose to enroll in the seminar. I enroll in the 4th Year Research Seminar for International Business. The class size is small, and there are only 12 students in our class. I talked with my Japanese classmates in our class, some of them told me that this is the only course that they are taking this semester. The time arrangement in Japan is also different from the US, college students always graduate in March, so this is the last semester for them. The content of this seminar is unique, too. Every week, we have a report or part of a book to read, mostly they are theories about the current international business.

This is one of the books that we have to read in three weeks. It analyzes the changing patterns of Japan and Germany under the global trend of Financialization and under the impact of US and UK.

Our instructor, Professor Ozaki, never forces us to do anything. At the beginning of this semester, he told us about our assignments and time arrangement. Then, all we have to do is to study by ourselves, reading the books and discussing during the class time.

I think this kind of teaching pattern is really depending on students ourselves. It is really self-pressured. And it requires me to be more careful on the time arrangement for my study. Professors do not keep sending us email to tell us what is due. And this is also another new thing I learn from this exchange experience.

A Weekend of Bliss

This weekend I traveled to Barcelona, Spain and it was such a great adventure.  I traveled with a good friend of mine and when traveling with a great partner, it makes the whole journey that much better.

On top of traveling with a great friend, I loved Barcelona because of the food and the sea.  I grew up loving lakes and oceans, and to see this city surrounded by beautiful beaches and the great expanse of the sea was so calming and peaceful for me.

My beautiful feet! Oh and I guess there’s the ocean too

In addition, the food everywhere was cheap, fresh, and delicious.  Seafood is a large part of Barcelona’s cuisine since the sea surrounds this city, and the seafood was so fresh.  There is a huge difference in the taste and texture of seafood in Cleveland, Ohio as opposed to that in Barcelona for obvious reasons.  There was also a huge bustling food market where they sold all sorts of fruits, meats, sweets, and more.  It was very lively and incredibly fun, and although everyone says that Barcelona is dangerous and full of pick-pocketers, as long as you keep an eye on your belongings, then you should be fine.

My friend and I at the fresh food market!

I would love to go back to Barcelona someday!

6 Reasons To Study Abroad in Singapore

Asia usually gets overlooked as a study abroad destination as most American students pick European or Australian destinations. However, as I come near the end of my study abroad experience here in Singapore, I’ve come to the conclusion that Singapore might be one of the best places to study abroad.  Here are 6 reasons why –

1.The weather is an amazing  85-90 degrees all year round

Sentosa Island, Singapore

What can beat perfect beach weather? Coming from OSU, this weather in Singapore in November is a dream come true. It’s hard to feel gloomy or stressed when the sun shines almost everyday. Also, Singapore is built around the heat so this isn’t like summer in NYC. There’s air condition everywhere, even in the MRT stations (luxuriously comfortable compared to the NY subway stations).

2. Singapore is an English speaking country

Most people probably aren’t aware that Singapore has four national languages and one of them is English, along with Mandarin, Malay, and Tamil. It’s incredibly easy and comfortable to get around since there is no language barrier. I have to admit, I had no idea Singapore was an English speaking country before I Googled it. Actually, most of my friends weren’t even know where Singapore was on the map when I told them I was coming here! (It’s wedged beneath Malaysia, in case you weren’t aware either!) Since Singapore is such a small country, I think it often gets overlooked. Singapore is roughly the size of NYC, maybe a bit smaller. There are 5 million people living here compared to 8 million in NYC.

3. The business education at SMU is top-notch

If you’re a business major, then there’s no better place to be than in Singapore. Singapore ranks No.1 worldwide for being most business-friendly. Singapore knows how to do business and that trickles down to SMU (Singapore Management University) where I study. The business school is extremely engaging and really tries to prepare its students for success in the business world by making participation and presentations a must in it’s curriculum. The smaller classroom settings at SMU compared to the lecture halls at OSU has been a nice change of pace as well.

4. The ease of traveling around Southeast Asia

This was taken during a 10-day recess week trip to Burma!

Traveling out of Singapore to other countries in Southeast Asia is extremely easy. Cheap flights out of Singapore are made possible by budget carriers like Jetstar and Tigerair. Since I’ve started school here in August, I’ve traveled to 6 different countries already (Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Thailand, Burma, and even Australia!) I’m really surprised with the amount of traveling I’ve been able to do here (and very grateful too!) because traveling was a priority for my exchange experience. My round-trip tickets for weekend getaways have never cost me more than 260$ USD and that one was to Australia! It blows my mind that a round trip ticket from Singapore to Australia (8 hour flight!) could be cheaper than a ticket from NY to LA. Not only are the flights inexpensive, traveling around Southeast Asia is extremely cheap as well. For a typical local meal, I can expect to pay 2-3$ along with accommodation priced around 5-10$. What more can you ask for when you’re on a student budget?

5. Singapore is an extremely safe city

Most people have an image of Southeast Asia as dangerous. And it’s true, some parts of it is dangerous but the majority of the places I’ve traveled to are not nearly as bad as some people make it out to be. However, when the rest of Southeast Asia’s safety standards are compared next to Singapore, it comes nowhere close. Singapore is one of the safest urban cities in the world. I am not joking, you can walk around at 4 AM and not have to fear getting mugged or assaulted. Drug laws are strict here and poverty hardly exists on the streets. And this is all because Singapore has very, very strict punishment for crimes such as heavy fines, long imprisonment, and even caning.

6. Opportunities to meet exchange students from all over the world

Roommates!

Although Singapore is not a popular study abroad destination for Americans, it’s actually a very popular destination for students from Europe. As a result, American exchange students are rare here (maybe less than 6%). The rest are from Europe and other parts of the world. I’ve met many incredible people on my exchange who have taught me so much more about the world. I’m currently living with five girls— three from Finland, one from Germany, and one from Brazil. It’s sort of our own little melting pot—everyday we get the opportunity to exchange stories about our country and culture to each other, and as a result we learn so much from each other.

 

Although these are all great reasons to study in Singapore, the truth is, anywhere you choose to study abroad will be amazing and life changing. The most important thing is to not be scared and just go for it!

Academic Culture at Bocconi University

The academic culture at Bocconi University is a little different to that of Ohio State University.  Bocconi University is ranked as one of the top Economics and Finance Institutions throughout all of Europe, and by the content and difficulty of their coursework, I would have to say they live up to their standards.  I am enrolled in classes they specifically assign for their exchange students, so my classes are taught in English and they are filled with students from around the world.  It is interesting to have students from so many different backgrounds all in one room.

Although this is a business school in Italy, we study how the financial markets and institutions work in the United States of America.  I think it is interesting that such a prestigious university from across the world studies the financial markets of America, and not so much of their own country.  I am thinking that this has to do with America’s dominant central role in the world economy.

Something else I thought was interesting was how Bocconi sets up their class structure.  As an exchange student, we have an option to either be an “attending student” or a “non-attending student”.  As an attending student, you have group assignments, and homework that count towards your final grade in addition to your final, and mid-term exams.  As a non-attending student, you are only graded on the final exam, and that is 100% of your grade.  You have no homework, group assignments, or anything.  The exam is just based on the textbook.

Overall, I am enjoying my experience as a student at Bocconi, because they have a very efficient office set up for exchange students to help them get around, and answer any questions exchange students may have.  Thus, because of them I had a very smooth admission process into the university.  In addition, the courses that I am studying are taught with professors who are genuinely interested in seeing their students succeed, so that makes learning much more fun and enjoyable.

Encounter with Jinja

When I was hanging out with my friend today in Tokyo, we just had a unexpected and surprising encounter with a traditional Japanese Jinja. Jinja is the Japanese name for Shrine. It is the place where people come to make wishes to Gods. Most Jinja’s in Japan were build in old times and are kept perfectly almost in the same way until nowadays. We never thought about that there could be one there, because it was a really modern area where we were walking along. The Jinja itself is located between modern buildings in a small street.

These are wish-paper that people tied on the ropes, expecting the Gods can know and help them to achieve their wishes.

The atmosphere in Jinja was really amazing, because it made me feel that I was taken back in old days. Through the marks by the time left on the building and wood, I can imagine how many years has passed along with this Jinja. The Jinja never seem to be unhomonized with other modern surroundings, rather, it is a place where I can get closer to the tradition and culture of Japan.

Travel Lessons

Over the past two weeks during Bocconi University’s fall break, I have travelled to five different cities in 14 days.  I travelled to Paris France, Dublin Ireland, London Britain, Berlin Germany, and Rome Italy.  It has been quite an adventure, exploring different cities, beautiful architectures, delicious foods, and of course we can’t forget, figuring out public transportation.

Over the course of my traveling I have learned two very important lessons about traveling.  First lesson; it is the journey that matters, not the destination.  I travelled with a friend of mine, and we really got along well and we realized that it was more enjoyable to travel and spend time with each other than it was to reach the final destination point or tourist location.  The second lesson I learned was that it is okay to trust people, and share some laughter with strangers (but of course you have to be smart about it).  The world is usually not out to get you, so have fun with life as it passes you by.  Time is precious so laugh, live, and love.