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Maintaining Academic success while studying abroad

The first word in "Studying Abroad" may be studying but if you ask my friends, I am most definitely the least scholastic of the bunch. Regardless of this fact I still wanted to do well while studying here in Tokyo. While these past few months have been tricky, I think I've discovered a few tips that have helped me tremendously.


The first thing I've learned is to be flexible. The Japanese higher education system is vastly different that the US. Many of my instructors have gone strictly by the lesson plan and rarely gone off course. I could hold a grudge and be really upset about this but that won't help my grade so I've learned to bend and mold accordingly in each class. My Japanese class for example, we have 3 different teachers and one of them is REALLY strict. The other two are pretty laid back and go at their own pace. So now I only bring my textbooks to class on Tuesdays & Fridays. This is an arrangement that has been approved by the other two teachers of course!

Secondly I've learned to be consistent. This has been really tricky because I want to get the most out of my experience here. But with good preparation and proactivity I've learned that I can make it work. If I know I have a busy week coming up, I'll save an extra hour or so to go study at the local library in my neighborhood. The hard part is sticking with this. Having friends from class study with me has been super helpful to keep me on track.


The third thing I've learned is to be optimistic! No matter how stressful things can get with tests and quizzes this too shall pass! My mom always has to remind me to look at the big picture rather than analyze everything on a microscopic level. This skill has been really helpful in Tokyo because surprisingly classes can get pretty stressful here in Tokyo! 


The last and most important thing that I've learned is BALANCE. Yes I am here to learn and get better at my Japanese. Yes I'm here to challenge myself academically in a new setting. BUT I am also here to soak in and experience as much of the Japanese culture as I can! If I stayed in my room and studied for 3+ hours every night then that wouldn't leave me with very much time t explore! And inversely, if I went out every night unit last train and never studied I would definitely flunk. Life is all about balance! Studying a little each day has kept me from having to cram last minute. And most days I try to finish all my homework and studying before my friends decide where we want to go for the night. 


All in all I would say mastering flexibility, consistency, optimism, and balance have all carried me through this experience. It has not been the easiest thing and I definitely try at it each and everyday.


Everlasting Love

On June 7, 2014, I participated in another program coordinated by CIEE. The staff planned an outing for students and host families (for students who have host families) to watch a kabuki play in the National Theater (国立劇場) in Tokyo. Kabuki is a traditional Japanese drama that is known for its elaborate makeup, as well as the only male actors who play both male and female roles.

In my opinion, the National Theater (国立劇場) was splendid with its lighting, grand staircases and magnificent statue of a kabuki player; however, according to my host parents, usual kabuki theatres are much larger and stunning than the National Theatre. I was shocked to hear that. I wonder how much larger a regular kabuki theatre is… especially since the National Theatre had two or three buildings connected to each other!

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The play performed that day was“ぢいさんばあさん” or simply, “Grandpa, Grandma,” written byMori Ogai (森鴎外). According to the play’s introduction, Mori Ogai wrote this famous play on 15 pages. Thus, the play had only a few, but powerful, scenes about a loving couple who was unfortunately separated for 37 years due to a terrible mistake. Even as they were reunited late in their age, their love for each other lasted.


Initially I was expecting that this play would be completely engulfed in sadness, but surprisingly, the play was comedic with touches of despair. There were scenes that made me tear up slightly, but the tears never dropped. I did see my friend’s host mother wipe her tears away, though. I recommend this play to anyone who wants to a see kabuki play at least once!

This particular play was designed for students and first-time kabuki watchers. Before the play began, an actor came to introduce how the theatre worked, who was behind the makeup and costumes (all males), and what the music means. I learned that the stage was built on a rotary system, allowing for multiple, extremely elaborate stages to liven the words of the play for the audience. Moreover, the males did their own makeup themselves, and practiced for years in the art of kabuki. They even gave us a two-minute lesson on how to stand and act like a woman. The traditional instrument players also introduced themselves and showed the audience when their instruments are played and for what reason. My favorite part, however, is the stagehands. They were black uniforms, making them look exactly like a ninja! It was extremely amusing to see the ninjas dart in and out of stage.

Another amusing factor was the theatre’s curtain. The curtain had elaborately embroidered picture of a stream framed by two dark trees. Even though the trees are dark, the flowers budding from their branches are bright white and red. Moreover, by the tree’s trunk are several other flowers growing in a variety of locations near the stream. What popped the most was the corner. There was a “Toyota” embroidered with bright gold threads. There are even advertisements in kabuki theatres!


All in all, this experience made me want to see another kabuki play before my month and a half is over in Japan!