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  • kimuchee 2:26 pm on December 25, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , different languages, , , , transition   

    Lessons Learned 

    1) Communication is an amazing thing.

    Being in a country that speaks a language with absolutely no connection to yours except a couple of loan words can be quite a frustrating experience. I took understanding a person and having a person understand me for granted. It sounds silly but the fact that you can understand me now and the ideas that I am trying to portray is a beautiful thing. But when someone finally does understand me I get this ridiculous elation. It’s like my eyes have just been opened to the fact that the human species is amazing. That there are different languages and cultures is amazing. I wish I could find words that could express this enlightenment properly but unfortunately I wasn’t gifted with the power of eloquence.

    While on this trip I’ve also had a new-found respect for those people from non-English countries that attend our school, whether it be for a semester or four years. Talking about complicated concepts in a language that you were not born with is no joke!

    2) Distance makes the Heart grow fonder.

    This has proven to be true throughout my college experience in regards to my family and has proven to be even more true in Japan where I am away from my family and friends. I have resolved to go back and really make sure to treasure those bonds that I do have and to put effort into every relationship that I engage in.

    3) Try everything, even when it makes you queasy.

    My first adventure with queasy inducing food in japan has been with natto. Natto is essentially fermented beans with soy sauce. I had been warned about the dish and had been crazy to try it ever since. Of course it was everything  they said it would be. Stinky and Cheese link. I was told then that it is and acquired taste and most Japanese young people don’t like it. Needless to say I didn’t like the food but my host family found pleasure in my willingness to try out new foods. My second adventure was with a dish called Sukiyaki. This dish consists of meat (usually thinly sliced beef) which is slowly cooked or simmered at the table, alongside tofu, cabbage, mushrooms, and other miscellaneous delicious things. It doesn’t sound bad does it? Imagine my surprise when my host family proceeded to show me how to eat it. I  could feel my eyes getting nigger as they went on to scramble a raw egg in their bowl and dip the meat and vegetables in before eating them. That had to be one of my biggest adventures and I was well rewarded for my effort! It was absolutely delicious!!! I just couldn’t think too much about the fact that I was eating raw egg or I would start to feel queasy.

    4) Traveling is beautiful.

    There are of course difficult times that you experience when traveling but for all of those experiences there are three times as much wonderful experiences. After a while you even being to appreciate the tough times because they make the wonderful times stand out even more. You meet all kinds of people as well! I can’t ever see myself getting tired of the thrill that comes from traveling.

    5) Japanese is hard.

    Of course I knew this before my trip to Japan but studying Japanese and being fluent in Japanese are two completely different things, but on this trip I have come to realize that becoming fluent in Japanese is now a goal in my life. It is something that I wish to pursue no matter what career I ultimately end up choosing. The director of JCMU told us in our opening ceremony that the way you can tell if you have become fluent in a language is if you can understand their jokes. Not only do you understand the grammar, and vocabulary, but you understand the culture behind the joke as well. This is the measurement that I wish to abide by. Until I can understand jokes in Japanese I don’t want to stop learning it!

  • explorewithasmile 10:35 am on October 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , transition,   

    Hello Again! 

    My apologies for not updating you more often! Be on the look out for several blog posts in the near future!

    • Ellen 12:31 pm on October 20, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      So happy to see you, again on asiapod. Can’t wait to see pictures of you in a conical hat working the rice paddies.

    • Kristyna Bronner 9:42 am on October 21, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Wow! An internship on a rice farm?! That’s crazy. How do you like your roommate? My roommate in Hong Kong is from Mainland China and she loves that I’m a native English speaker because I can help her with her homework and pronunciation. I think you would really like Hong Kong: there is a HUGE city here, but my university is an hour train ride outside of it surrounded by mountains!

    • explorewithasmile 12:58 pm on October 22, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      My roommate is incredibly nice and similarly to yours loves practicing English! However, I wish she was a little more supportive and patient with me in my Vietnamese language practice. Yes, the farm is hard work but it is so rewarding that I love every minute I spend out in the field! NO WAY – that sounds awesome, even perfect! I don’t think I will be able to stay away from Asia for too long, so when I return I will definitely consider exploring Hong Kong and other parts of China. Now don’t get me wrong, Viet Nam is beautiful, everything from the country, the cultural traditions, the people and even the food! You should definitely adventure around South East Asia as well (assuming you will be back to Asia at some point too)!

    • DougReilly 3:16 pm on October 23, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Are you with the same family that Trevor Gionet was with two years ago? Or the same village? I wish I could remember the name of it. It would be fantastic if you could use your ipod to take some videos out at the farm, and give us a taste for wet-rice cultivation! I liked your self-discovery about where you want to live. I myself am always torn between City Mouse and Country Mouse…cities have a buzz and vitality and depth of human activity that is fascinating. Nature of course has an equally deeper depth….and silence (or rather freedom from human noises), darkness, fresh air! Coming from an intensely wilderness summer and diving into HCMC and Hanoi was certainly a journey from one extreme to the other!

  • sallyintaiwan 7:01 am on September 2, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , transition   



    Me at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial

    After being in Taipei for ten days, I somehow feel like I’ve seen the whole city… I’m positive that’s not true but I’ve certainly seen a lot: Longshan Temple, Taipeo 101, Nanmen Market, a flower and jade market, Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial, a celebration for the Chinese Valentine’s Day, a celebration for the Chinese Halloween (yes, in the same week,) the famous Shinlin Night Market, Karaoke (!) and the National Palace Museum, which holds most of the world’s Chinese art, saved or stolen depending on your place in the world.

    It’s really been a whirlwind of experiences so far—being both busy and a little jet-lagged, it’s all blended together a bit.  My favorite experience so far is a hike some of us took yesterday.  天上山(The Heavenly Mountain) provided a view and adventure that I thought only existed in guidebooks.  We were mostly hoping to get in a little exercise and maybe a few good pictures before our first day of classes (tomorrow!)    The almost 5 hour round trip hike took us through a Buddhist temple set in the side of the mountain.  There, we were offered water to drink, blessed by a Buddha, said to bring us good luck.  As we continued on up the Mountain both official plaques and slabs of stone had Chinese carved into them.  I remember two rocks carved with the translations of “Change Mountain” and “Blessed Rock.”  We are lucky to have “ambassadors” (Taiwanese students who will work with us on the language, but have also joined us in our orientation adventures.)  They often are able to help with translations, or the simple necessity of understanding directions well.  The end of the hike came just as the sun was setting on Taipei.

    Traveling to the “must go” sites in Taiwan has been a great way to orient me to the city, get used to the public transportation (which is incredibly clean,) and get to know the other students on my program.  But on the last day activities I am itching for Chinese classes to start.  I am looking forward to both to a routine, and to start being seriously challenged with this language.

    • jhboisselle 1:44 pm on September 6, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Wow! You’ve been busy. Your hike sounds fantastic. Now I’m curious about the elevation for Heavenly Mountain. We might need to get you to map that route in one of our future blog challenges 🙂 Update us on the Chinese classes when you get a chance!

    • DougReilly 4:50 pm on September 6, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Halloween and Valentine’s day do deserve a mash up…they have a lot in common for many people! What did they do for Halloween?

  • viennamf 7:30 pm on April 10, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , transition   

    Finally, A Reflection 

    I see Japan everyday. It’s been over four months since I returned from Hikone and not a day goes by that I don’t have some memory of my time there. It’s a little sad but they are all good memories. It’s a pleasant haunting.


    I meant to write a final blog post for AsiaPod a long time ago but as per usual, all sorts of other things got in the way.  My study abroad in Japan was the best experience I could have wanted.  Of course, there are always a few regrets but nothing that substantially mars my experience. I have tried to keep in some contact with the people I met there, both Japanese and American, and Facebook is especially helpful with this.

    In the days following my return to the States, I remember feeling odd.  It was definitely weird to be back in a place where the dominant language was English and I didn’t have to struggle to come up with a sentence, but this was actually a lot less strange than I had anticipated.  The weirdest part was the realization that nothing had changed since I had been gone. I had undergone a profound change and had had all these experiences in another place, but everyone at home had just been living their regular lives.  I felt like I didn’t fit into my American life anymore, but there was an expectation for me to just pick up where I left off. The first few weeks home were hazy and I felt disconnected.  It took me about a month to fully recover from the jetlag.

    I think coming back to school grounded me.  The structure of college life and classes gave me a framework to reintegrate into and some of the people I live with had just come back from abroad as well. This meant that we could all talk incessantly about being abroad without worrying that we were boring the other person.

    There are many parts of my study abroad that have stuck with me, but perhaps the most eye opening experience was learning what it felt like to be living in a country where you could not easily communicate. I have a new appreciation for the struggles that immigrants and international students face.  I think it can be difficult to fully understand why some people don’t learn to speak English when they come to the US if you haven’t experience the difficulty of learning an entirely new language first hand.  Your brain starts to hurt after awhile and eventually you want to take a break and just be around those who speak the same language as you.  That is not to say that I did not like learning and living in another language; being able to practice my Japanese was a challenge that I thoroughly enjoyed.

    My iPod Touch was actually an invaluable resource for my language study in Japan and it continues to help me with my language study here on campus.


    My favorite app was Kotoba!, a Japanese-English dictionary. It was free and I use(d) it constantly. You can look up words in both Roman characters and in Japanese characters as well as search for kanji.  It also allows you to save lists of words and this made a great reference tool. I do not know what I would have done without it.


    The other language app that I liked and continue to use was a Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) study app called JLPT Study.  You can download a free version, or get the full app for about $5. I bought it and used it to learn new vocab and kanji.  I am sure that I could have gotten by without the iPod but it made my life so much easier. (Thanks so much, AsiaPod!)

    I really miss Japan and I plan to go back there one day. How and when I do not yet know but it would be foolish to not try to get back.

    • jhboisselle 6:29 pm on April 11, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Vienna, thanks much for sharing concrete suggestions for apps! And, of course, thanks for capturing your transition thoughts in writing and sharing them outward. Readers, current and future, will appreciate the glimpse into your experiences.

  • iameeps 8:39 pm on March 26, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: apps, , , , , transition   


    One year later…

    February 21st was the one year anniversary of my return to South Korea, for the HWS-Yonsei Exchange program.

    I have spent much time this semester thinking about ‘where was I one year ago?’ and processing my time in Korea: wondering what I would like to share in this post.


    Ultimately this picture sums it up. The little Korean girl, going about her business, walking along while this huge group of foreign students attempts to catch big air in the typically tourist style ‘jumping photo’.

    I had a pretty rough adjustment when I moved to Korea for the Spring ’11 semester, and it was just as rough when I returned to the states. Despite that turmoil a year later when I think of my time, it is not the bad roommate or the homesickness or the rough times that I think of. It is the faces you see in the picture above. At the time I was frustrated by my situation because I found it challenging to meet Korean students on the campus of Yonsei, due to the removed nature of the international students’ dorms and classes. However, although almost all of my group of friends was American we came from such a diversity of backgrounds, ethnicities, and religions that I learned more about the world we live in from these thirteen people than I ever expected I could. By the time the semester came to a close I realized just how much I had been underestimating the potential we a a group possessed to teach and learn from each other. So although my second round in Korea was not as aggressive in language learning I would not trade it for the world– not to mention being one of the only Korean speakers in this group gave me a great opportunity to work on conversational Korean and my accent!

    I would like to share a couple of apps that I used frequently on my iTouch for future students as well!

    The first is called “Korean”: a bit pricey at $14.99, I am so glad I jumped for this app. With literally hundreds of different topics to study, this app teaches Korean vocabulary in a four-part interactive flashcard style which quizzes the user on spelling (Eng-Krn and Krn-Eng), listening, and reading. I used this app to kill time on the train and in between classes.

    Maybe an unexpected choice, “SoundHound” actually came in really handy. Everywhere you go in Seoul there seems to be music, and being a student of Korean popular culture, I was always interest what songs I was hearing. SoundHound had a surprising amount of access to identify Korean music in addition to music in English, and helped me to connect with my surroundings– and is a great topic for conversation too! (Free)

    Finally, is a really popular free app in Korea called “KakaoTalk”. KakaoTalk is a free messaging software, operating much like iMessage. The user simply downloads the app, makes a user name, and then you can message friend unlimitedly. This was great when I had wifi access because it allowed me to save some money on my cell-phone bill. Great news, it works internationally so I can still message friends in the U.S. and Korea now that I’m home!

    Thank you all for reading, and supporting my blog work while I was abroad! I wish the upcoming participants of AsiaPod an enlightening voyage~



    • DougReilly 6:24 pm on March 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      What a thoughtful, mature post! I know Korea was a difficult experience, but I’m really proud of how you’ve tried to build on the positive parts of it and carry on. Also thanks for turning me on to Soundhound…likely another app that I’ll have to go group therapy to get over!

  • grenphi 9:46 pm on February 13, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , transition,   


    It’s been a few months that I’ve been back in the U.S., and by request, here’s a post on the experience being back.

    Transitioning back to the United States has been fairly easy. I missed American breakfasts enough to compensate for a lot of what I lost coming back from China. I may have my qualms with the United States, but omelets with hot sauce is not one of them.

    What has proven to be strange and abnormally difficult has been transitioning back to the culture at HWS. Where in Nanjing I had a community of people to go do martial arts with during my free time, here I do not. I fit in better in Nanjing as a foreigner than I do here as a student. I find a lot of the chit chat that I do trying to make friends and open doors here at HWS is boring beyond belief. I bond more with someone who’s struggling to choke me or bring my joints to breaking point than someone who tries to explain to me how funny their friends are drunk. Many of my conversations with fellow HWS students break down when I say “no, I don’t drink or smoke, I don’t party, I simply like training and being with friends”. I usually receive an awkward silence, and then a hesitant change of subject.

    Academics have been a struggle as well. First and foremost, I have to care, which I didn’t last semester. Efforts to focus and stay alert while reading and writing have renewed, and so far I’ve made it through the semester without too many problems. I’ve been fortunate to have a class that interests me, my EMS class, to keep me sane. Unfortunately, this has caused me to look at other courses much more critically. My sociological research methods professor  told me on the first day of the semester that she thinks her course is the most important in the curriculum, and that research methods courses should be taught across disciplines. In the next month I learned a myriad of definitions, read studies and accounts of studies, and have expanded both my vocabulary and knowledge about conducting research. In contrast, from EMS class I’ve learned anatomy, how and when to move injured people, take vital signs, and CPR. For whatever strange reason, EMS class seems much more important.

    I choose research methods as a comparison simply because it consumes a lot of times these days. My struggle with that class and EMS is representative my struggle with a culture of education that often times seems lost in abstraction. It’s important to research and discuss issues, but without putting your boots on the ground, no good is really being done.

    But, that’s why I returned to the U.S. I get to work and get involved, and I will make sure that my boots will hit the ground as soon as they are able. China was a nice vacation, a cool experience, but it will not compare to the life of purpose I will create here.

    • DougReilly 6:31 pm on March 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      Thanks for this post…it has given those of us in mission control a lot to think about, especially since we’ve devoted so much energy over the years to higher ed. You’ve pointed out so many interesting tensions in that system, some things we have noticed as well. The desire to have things grounded in details and real world applications is one of the things that motivated Asiapod and our work in study abroad in general. To join the conceptual with the actual, details with underlying dynamics, etc, and to get conversations started between people with diverse experiences, to search for resonance. Anyway, bottom line is that I really appreciate your post and can empathize with your present situation! doug

  • Tatianna Jasmine 1:16 am on February 12, 2012 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , transition,   

    Loving Viet Nam…Missing Viet Nam 

    I’ll admit it, I cried as my flight departed from Sai Gon. Why? Because I fell in love..in every way.

    I fell in love with the landscape. The rolling hills, the beautiful weather, the wet rice paddies, the beautiful rivers, the amazing wild flowers, the breathe taking mountains of Ha Long Bay, the street scape of Hanoi and Saigon, and the magnificent colors that fell across the sky at sunset.

    I fell in love with the food. Banh Xeo (fried with beef/shrimp and fresh veggies), Xoi thit Kho (sticky rice and pork cooked in a clay pot), Pho bo (beef noodle soup), Thit vit (duck meat), Bun Bo Hue (spicy beef noodle soup), Com ga (chicken and rice), and most of all Nuoc Mam (fermented fish sauce).

    I fell in love with the language. Learning to speak Vietnamese was challenging, I struggled and made a fool out of myself all the time. I have not mastered pronouncing the six different tones, and often forget which pronoun I should use for myself when talking to my elders. However, I admire the respect for social relationships that is embedded in each phrase and sentence. I admire the diversity within the population- I have partially learned words/phrases from multiple dialects. Most of all, I am super proud of myself for learning the basics of the language so quickly. I still hold mini conversations with people when the opportunity comes along.

    I fell in love with the people. My fondest memories of Vietnam involve the amazing people I have met. There are little spaces in my heart reserved for the following people. Both of my language instructors were super encouraging, they took the time to work with me when I was struggling. These women were some of the best instructors I have ever had, I will always be grateful for the knowledge they have passed on to me. The women who live and work for the Van Ho pagoda were so warm and welcoming. Despite the fact that I am not a devout Buddhist, and often do not apply Buddhist philosophies to my life (although I am trying to make a better effort), these women allowed me to become apart of the family they developed for themselves. I was always greeted with a smile, fed wonderful vegetarian meals, and departed with extra affection and love. I hope/plan to visit Van Ho in the near future (when funding will allow for it). The women who ran the sidewalk food stalls were always super kind and cooked the best food! Co Tuy is a woman who sold her home cooked food one block away from the guest house I stayed at in Hanoi. Co Tuy’s food is delicious and her service was even better. After visiting her for several weeks, I finally had the courage to order my food in Vietnamese. It was an amazing experience, she engaged me with small talk every time thereafter and always helped me out when I fumbled with my words. We developed a unique relationship, she often gave me discounted prices, and I often gave her an extra tip. I also appreciate every person I encountered on the streets, strangers were always smiling and greeting me with such respect. I cherish those interactions because they reinforce my faith in the good nature of human kind. Above all, is the Vietnamese-American man who stole my heart. We were on the same study abroad program and met on our flight from NYC to S.Korea. He and I became friends instantly and spent the rest our time exploring Vietnam together. He helped me learn to speak Vietnamese by allowing me the privilege of meeting his family. This was the ultimate source of my cultural immersion. He supported me when things got rough, and was my partner in all of our excursions and adventures throughout the country. He taught me the value of the human connection, the pillars of friendship, and the unconditional love that is family. I will forever be grateful for the relationships I established in Vietnam.

    Now that I am back in the states, I spend a significant amount of time trapped in nostalgia. I miss being there, and often find myself extremely sad to no longer be so close to the people and things that I love. Sometimes I have the urge to bust out into a rant in Vietnamese, only to find myself speaking to people who cannot understand me. Despite all of this, I have learned to overcome my nostalgia by appreciating the experiences I have had, and teaching my friends small Vietnamese phrases. Although I miss living in Viet Nam, I am grateful to have had such a amazing experience, one that many people cannot relate to.


    • TJ
    • DougReilly 6:58 pm on March 28, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      What a wonderful post! We at Mission Control agree that study abroad is about love, in many and sometimes all the ways you talked about it! What a great testament to the experience you had.

    • Christopher 1:24 pm on September 12, 2012 Permalink | Reply

      This is a great post. My daughter Melissa is now in Vietnam and I hope that her experience will be as fulfilling as yours. Study abroad in my mind should be about the connections made with the people and culture where one is immursed. You will always have the memories of this trip and I hope you will be able to travel back one day. Thank you for your thoughts.

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