Packing Tips, Preparing for Study Abroad, Study Abroad Goals, Visa

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March 19, 2015

Hi everyone! Niki here, and as you can see, one of my luggage is so big that I could pretty much just be shipped over through baggage. It’s Wednesday, March 18th, 10:50PM – pretty much exactly one week before I begin my study abroad adventure in Tokyo, Japan at Aoyama Gakuin University. Since school there starts at the beginning of April, I’ve had about 3.5 months of just hanging around San Francisco since the fall semester ended, and it’s been overall really chill. Everyone asks me “Are you excited yet? Have you started packing?”, and at that time, I couldn’t confirm either of them. Three and a half months just seemed so long to wait, that I couldn’t really say I was excited yet since my time to leave was still so far away.

But all of a sudden I only have one week left to enjoy the city before I don’t see that Golden Gate Bridge for a whole year and it almost makes me anxious.

Although, I shouldn’t say that it’s the city I’ll miss the most (but I definitely will miss it) –  that’ll definitely be my family and friends. Born and raised in San Francisco, this will be the first time away from home for such a long amount of time. And in very much relation to that, a few of my goals for study abroad are:

  • Learn to be independent – cook, clean, commute on my own
  • Learn the language – speak as much Japanese as possible and immerse myself in the culture
  • Learn to use time wisely – between regular classes, online classes, and a social life, this will definitely be a struggle

So we’ll see how those go! To future Niki reading this blog, I believe in you ~(‾⌣‾~)

And since I’ve gone through all of it now, this is to the students who are either planning on studying abroad, or are thinking about studying abroad, or about to study abroad:

  • Start you application early. If you know you’re going to want to do study abroad, ask your teachers as early as possible if they’d be willing to write a recommendation letter for you. I asked somewhere around 5-6 months before applications were due because I had just finished taking classes and getting to know my teachers, so I planned ahead by asking if they’d be willing to fill out recommendations for me when the time came. It was painless and also prevented any last minute stress on whether or not I’d be able to get all my recommendations in time.
  • Think about classes ahead of time. Figure out generally what classes you’d like to take while abroad. If you’re in the group of students who have been enrolled at SFSU before all the general education changes, GE Segment III is perfect to complete while abroad. Additionally, make sure you take any prerequisite classes to classes you might want to do abroad. You don’t want to have to take summer classes online while abroad just to complete a prereq for classes you’re planning to take your second semester abroad… like I do… o(╥﹏╥)o All in all just save yourself the trouble and stress and take your prereq’s!
  • Find a bank that won’t charge you international fees. As recommended by the study abroad office, I’m mainly using a Schwab checking account for my travels. With Schwab, I won’t get charged foreign transaction fees when using my debit card, and anytime I use an ATM to withdraw money from my Schwab account, I’ll get reimbursed for any fees that come along with using the ATM as well! Small fees add up, so try to take advantage of a bank that won’t ring up charges like that. And although I don’t know much about it, I also hear that Citibank is a good choice for those studying abroad in Japan as well since it’s a large bank there too. So if you already have Citibank, good for you!
  • If you’re going to Japan, your visa is free! While the welcome packages from your host university might come a bit late, and you might have to scramble to get your visa in time, at least it won’t cost you anything! Also the Japanese visa is pretty cute – it has sakura and Mt. Fuji on the background~
  • Wear your heavier clothes on the plane. I got this one from my cousin. If you’re a heavy packer like me (I’m pretty much packing my whole wardrobe, it’s horrible) try to wear your bulkier pieces of clothing and heavier shoes onto the plane. It might seem uncomfortable, but I tend to take my shoes and outerwear off during long flights anyways so it doesn’t matter to me too much. This will give you more weight-room or physical room for other things in your checked luggage if you need it.

Hopefully these tips are useful. If not, then…. you didn’t hear them from me. Haha! Well, that’s about it for now. Talk to you guys in Japan!

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