October-December/Winter Break (十月から十二月まで・冬休み)

Authored by:
Alyssa S.

I haven't written a post in a while so this one will be kind of lengthy to catch you guys up. October Early October, we had two new exchange students from Australia come to my school from a different program. For their privacy I'll use their initials. There was a boy (P) and a girl (L). They got put into the first-years classes. Some classmates of mine, P, and I went to help out at a shrine near my school called tōfukuji (東福寺). The shrine is very popular in the autumn due to the leaves changing colour. If you're in Kyoto I recommend you to take a look around. That weekend there was some event and there were booths around selling sweets, alcohol, and souvenirs. The people we helped out were some college students that were doing surveys, asking foreigners things like: "why'd you come to tōfukuji?" and "how do you like it?" It was fun handing the surveys out at first but then it started raining. It was difficult to balance an umbrella while handing out papers and pens but we managed. Late October the English club (ESS) had a Halloween party. It's the only time of the year you're allowed to wear something other than your uniform at school. Even if you go to school for an event during the weekend you have to go in your uniform, so it was fun seeing everyone's costumes. Some people went all out and put on a face full of makeup and contacts and others just wore a hat and glasses. We ate snacks, played games, and carved pumpkins. November November was probably the month where I had the most fun. It mostly consisted of hanging out at Hello Village- a room in my school where people can study English and also where ESS is held- after school and during test week playing Connect Four, chess and cards. I met a lot of people that month from the other classes. Normally there isn't a chance to talk to them so I'm glad that I got to. One of the girls that I met also takes the same train as me to go to school/go home. One day we ran into each other on the train and since then we've been friends. The movie "IT" also came out in Japan in the first week of November. I had waited so long to be able to see it so as soon as it came out I went to see it in the movie theatre with P. I've loved horror movies ever since I was a child so the movie didn't scare me. Pow, on the other hand, kept jumping out of his seat every few seconds. That was amusing. I also went to Universal Studios Japan (USJ) for the second time with the new exchange students plus one of their host sisters. We dressed up in the Harry Potter robes and scarves and agreed that we would all belong to different houses, mine being Slytherin. Last but not least, I changed host families again, so I'm at my third family. It's an old couple and it's rather difficult to communicate for a few reasons. December December had three major events. For one, we had a Christmas party hosted by the ESS club. We did a present exchange and about thirty high school students from Taiwan came to visit our school. They did a presentation about their school and their culture in Japanese and then half of them danced for us. Most of them couldn't speak English but they could somewhat speak Japanese. It's a really satisfying feeling when you meet other foreigners who can't speak your main language and you can't theirs but still communicate due to both parties knowing a different language. It goes too show that if you can speak other languages you aren't only able to interact with people who live in the country that uses that language, you can interact with so many more people from all over the world. Secondly, the two exchange students were getting ready to leave and go back to Australia. During their time here, I had gotten close to the guy, so when it was time to say goodbye it was pretty hard. School had already ended and even though it was officially winter break people still had to go to school. The first day of winter break was the last day that we could see each other and he wanted to say goodbye to his Japanese friends so we met up at Hello Village and hung out for a while. He left to hang out with his classmates (they threw him a farewell party) and when he got back he had to leave already. I actually had plans to go back to California for winter break to see my family. The day of my flight was the same as the other exchange students who were going home. We were all flying out from Itami (in Osaka) to Narita (in Tokyo) to our final destinations. The guy and I had plans to meet up at one of the airports. Unfortunately we couldn't since we booked with different airlines and were on opposite sides of the airports. We still stay in touch though and now if I ever decided to travel to Australia I have a friend there to show me around. Winter break was two weeks long and seeing as how I wasn't in Japan for the break, I'll spare details. Overall, it was nice to be back for a while. Eat the foods I was craving, play on my PLayStation again, sleep in my own bed, see friends, etc. Yet I also really wanted to return to Japan. My being home made me realize how fast time can go by and before knowing it my study abroad will have ended. There's still so many things I want to talk to my classmates about and I want to hang out with them a lot before having to say goodbye. Upon returning I didn't get homesickness. Visiting home for the holidays actually helps me to appreciate my time abroad even more. You only have a limited amount of time abroad that goes by quickly. Spending it feeling homesick is a waste. If you feel homesick, though, try to focus on things you don't miss form home and things that make your trip abroad worth it. For me, my classmates make it all the worthwhile. Just being able to joke around with them makes my day. My flight back was two days before break ended (U.S time). When I arrived to my home stay it was the night before school started again. It was a tiring trip but I was excited to see my classmates the next day. I had also brought them some Mexican candy to try out. Japanese people aren't good at handling spicy things so it was amusing seeing some of their reactions. That's it for this entry. I'll try to post more regularly from now on so all my posts aren't as long as this one.

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