My name is Pablo Cisneros and welcome to part one of my series of blogs from studying abroad as part of the IES Abroad Summer Tokyo program. I want to highlight my favorite experiences from Japan and inspire students to study abroad.
Arriving in Japan and Capsule Hotels
After departing from O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and a short layover in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, I finally arrived at Narita International Airport in Japan. Since I knew I would arrive a day early, I booked a night stay at a capsule hotel. I was curious to see how it would feel staying at one of these hotels. Conveniently, I booked the hotel that was inside Narita Airport, Nine Hours Narita. At the reception, I was kindly greeted and received a key to my locker, slippers, a robe, and a bag of toiletries. I stored my luggage in the huge locker provided and made my way to the capsule room. The room looked very futuristic as if it were part of a scene in Star Wars. After I showered, I spent the night in my capsule studying Japanese and watching videos until I fell asleep. I thought that the capsule was comfortable, but I did feel a bit pressured to monitor my noise level to be mindful of the people sleeping around me. I was sure that the majority of people sleeping around me were tired businesspeople and jetlagged travelers. I didn't get the best sleep, but the jetlag and my excitement to start the program were to blame.
Orientation, the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center, & Tokyo
The students in the program were guided to a hotel in Makuhari, where we all met. We had a basic orientation where we went over helpful tips, rules, the schedule, etc. It was my second time studying abroad in Japan, so I knew a majority of the topics discussed. It was a great orientation to get to know the staff and the cultural differences in Japan. After the required meetings, I spent time with my new friend, Mason, who was part of the IES Abroad staff. He was helpful when we went out because of his high level of Japanese and familiarity with the area. I got to know him and other students by going out to eat and shop, and visiting the bathhouse in the hotel.
The next stop was the National Olympics Memorial Youth Center, our home for the next two months. We took our Japanese placement tests and had orientation regarding the rules of the youth center and our rooms. We also met our EPALs, whom we communicated with before arriving in Japan. Regarding my class placement, I believe that I had a unique situation where my level was in between the class I placed into and the one below it. Luckily, I had the option to choose which class I wanted to take after giving both classes a try. In the end, I decided to take the class I placed into because I wanted to learn more Japanese. The rooms we were staying at were small and basic. The only things inside were a bed, desk, and chair. I didn’t mind my room because I never had the opportunity to live in the dorms at my university back in Chicago. So, I thought of it as a new experience. The only thing I didn’t like was that we could only take a bath between 5 pm and 11:30 pm. Conveniently, the Center had a couple of cafes (Cafe Friends and Piccolo) and a store.
After getting used to our classes and rooms, it was time to explore Tokyo. The last time I studied abroad, I was only in Tokyo for two days. Now, I had about six weeks to see the city. The first places I went to were Harajuku, Shibuya, and Shinjuku. These were places I visited before but never had the opportunity to truly explore. Also, a couple of friends and I bonded with our E-PALs, Ruka and Sachi, in Yoyogi Park, which was very close to the Center. I also met with my close friend from back home, Vins. He and his sister were in Japan for vacation and I was excited to spend time with them. An evening in Shinjuku, we met up with each other and went to the top of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. The view was beautiful and rivaled the one from atop of Tokyo Tower (and it was free!).
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<p>I am a Marketing student who transferred from the College of Lake County to the University of Illinois at Chicago. I have a passion for art, music, and learning Japanese. My hobbies include video editing, playing guitar, playing video games, watching pro-wrestling, reading manga, and going to concerts. My favorite bands are Dance Gavin Dance and Rage Against the Machine. My favorite pro-wrestlers are Kenny Omega and Pentagon Jr. Finally, my favorite manga is One Piece.</p>