May 2007


I’ve been thinking about this for a while now (since I started the blog), about setting up deadlines for myself for posting to this blog. It is a fine line to tread because for me, if I don’t set up deadlines I may start slipping and posting to the blog less and less, meaning that readership will go down because of unreliability and not knowing if the next time you visit there will be new content or not. On the other hand I don’t want to post so often that I don’t have anything meaningful to say, the last thing I want this blog to turn into is a stereotypical “I woke up, it’s raining, Japan is great, went to class, ate food, goodnight” kind of a blog. Personally I find those kind of blogs to be simply unenjoyable, and if I don’t want to read those types of things, I’m sure there are others who find that to be annoying as well.

I’ve been throwing around ideas in my head as to an ideal posting schedule, and I’ve come up with two viable options.

  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday
  • Monday, Friday

The benefit of both options is that I would have the weekend to do things, meaning that I can give advice and other tidbits of knowledge when I return to the computer. The reason I haven’t decided between the two is because of that gap in the middle of the week, I haven’t really decided on whether it would be a good thing to have it or not. I’m leaning more towards the MWF model of doing things because of that balance between frequency and free time.

At the moment it isn’t a big issue for me because I am not in Japan yet, so the information that I can provide about Japan and the area where I will be living is extremely limited as I don’t have any first hand experience. When I go across the Pacific, this will be a little more important. It’s just a decision I would like to get out of the way so I don’t have to worry about it later kind of thing. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated, you can leave a comment or click on the “Contact Corbin” button on the right side of the block (near the bottom). Just letting you see a little into the backround happenings of Corbin in Japan… before I’m in Japan.

There are a few things that you will need to take care of before you leave for your Study abroad trip. You will have to organize what will happen when you are abroad with your home campus. The first step you should take is to discuss your decision with your adviser, that person you should be seeing every semester or so to make sure you are taking the correct courses to advance your major. When you go to talk with him/her you should bring a couple of things with you.

  • Information about the study abroad program (if your home campus is the one offering the study abroad that makes things a little easier)
  • The course listing for the semester you are studying abroad of your home campus, if available.
  • The course listing for the semester you are studying abroad of the study abroad university, if available.

Some advisers require you to make an appointment while others don’t mind walk-ins. When you do go to discuss your plans with your advisor, with the above things in hand, here’s what you should discuss (this is just a basic outline, so feel free to add or subtract topics as you see fit):

  • What courses are left that you need to take to complete your major
  • What forms you will have to fill out to get credit for courses taken while you are studying abroad

After talking with your adviser your next stop will probably the registrars office, or the study abroad office of your university to talk about how your courses will be handled for the semester(s) that you are in Japan. You will need to register for courses for the first semester you will be in Japan with the home campus so that you are still an active student and can continue to receive any scholarships and financial aid that you have had in previous semesters. That leads you to your next stop, the financial aid office of your college.

While at the financial aid office, make sure you discuss how to continue receiving the financial aid that you currently have. Also see if there are any other financial aid programs that you are eligible for because you are studying abroad, you may be pleasently surprised. The financial aid office should be your last stop, although they may tell you that you need to see another office, just follow their directions and you should be fine.

Your finances and your enrollment are the most important things that you will have to deal with at your home campus so that is a good weight to get off your back as soon as possible. Next time I’ll be discussing some things you should do before you receive your Certificate of Eligibility from your study abroad campus, which then allows you to get your visa, so until then!

A few months before you leave, consequently starting your study abroad experience, the campus you are doing the study abroad program through will hold an orientation giving general information, and possibly having some people that have done the program in past semesters and academic years. Although it is probably not mandatory I recommend going to this orientation, at the very least to meet some of the other students that will be joining you on your trip to Japan.

The first part will most likely be a general orientation, some kind of presentation with all of the study abroad students going to all of the countries offered by that university (the general orientation I attended at SUNY at Albany was held in a big auditorium/lecture hall with students going to Spain, Germany, the UK, Japan, and many other countries). This presentation will contain the most generalized information regarding things such as financial planning, organizing your time, dealing with culture shock and jet lag, and reverse culture shock to name a few topics. Because it is such general, broad sweeping information a lot of it will be generic and common sense, however you should pay attention because a couple of gems of information may be given. Also, because it is held before a large group you probably won’t be able to ask questions, so write down or keep in mind questions that you want to ask. They should also give you a packet of information, read it over at the very least, taking notes probably isn’t necessary but if that’s how you remember things better feel free to do so.

After the general orientation, they should separate you into smaller groups by regional program. Depending on how big the university’s study abroad program they may put you into a group of study abroad students going to Japan or, if they have a smaller amount of students, all the students going to Eastern Asian countries (the former was true with my experience, rather than the latter). Regardless you will be grouped with students going to the same general area as yourself, as well as the adviser or program coordinator for your area of travel. My recommendation is to not be shy, don’t be afraid to talk to the other people in the room. Be sure to ask questions that you have, the adviser will know the answer, or if he/she doesn’t they will find out the information for you. A lot of the information provided to you will be different from university to university. For me, there was a student that had gone to Kansai Gaidai the ’06-’07 academic year, so I asked all of my questions directly to her, the answers to which I will be providing in subsequent posts to this blog in due course.

So that should take you through to your orientation, next time I will go through what you should discuss and organize with your home campus (in my case I don’t go to SUNY at Albany so I will describe what needs to go on if you go to a college that isn’t directly providing the study abroad program to you, but it should be very similar for any campus, although significantly easier if you go to a university that provides that program directly), so until then!

I am extremely happy at the moment, I just received the second acceptance email, acknowledging my acceptance to Kansai Gaidai from the university itself. For the benefit of the reader I will post the full email so you will know what to expect when you receive your acceptance to study abroad. I will be asterisking ( **** ) parts of the email that are specific to myself or are not publically on Kansai Gaidai’s website. So without further ado here it is:

CORBIN, Andrew M
Admission Number: *****
State University of New York at Albany

Dear Andrew:

We are happy to inform you that you have been admitted to the Asian Studies Program at Kansai Gaidai for the fall semester of 2007. All the faculty and staff members of the Asian Studies Program join me in extending a warm welcome to you.

The following information outlines the procedures you must follow in order to complete your admission and entry arrangements. Please read carefully all the information provided in this e-mail.

Admission and Visa Procedures:

As soon as you receive this acceptance notification, please send us a short e-mail confirming your receipt of this message to the following account, so that we can create a listserv for students who will participate in our program for the fall semester of 2007: ******@kansaigaidai.ac.jp. Since we will use this listserv for our future communications, it is imperative that you send us this message. When you send us the e-mail, be sure to write “Admission Acknowledgement” and your Admission Number in the subject section of your e-mail.

This e-mail acceptance notification is being sent to the e-mail address that was written on your application document. When you confirm receipt of this e-mail to us, please send the message from the e-mail account that you would like to receive our future communications at, if different. We will send all the future correspondence to that e-mail account unless otherwise requested.

The procedures to be completed are as follows:

1. If you have not sent us a copy of your passport, please send us the following information via fax or e-mail attachment to ******@kansaigaidai.ac.jp:

Copies of the pages for your name, photo, passport number, date of issue, visa(s) granted for any previous trips to Japan.

2. You are exempted from the payment of the $50 Admission Fee and the $200 Enrollment Confirmation Deposit as per the agreement between our two institutions.

3. Since your participation is arranged under our official affiliation program between Kansai Gaidai and your institution, we will shortly apply to the Ministry of Justice for your Certificate of Eligibility (a visa-supporting document). If, for any reason, you must withdraw from our program, please let us know as soon as possible since we are
required to immediately inform the Ministry of any cancellation.

4. As soon as your Certificate of Eligibility is issued, we will forward it to the address indicated on the Address Form via DHL. Be sure to return the completed Address Form (form is attached) indicating the most reliable address to receive the certificate. If you want to have your certificate sent to the program coordinator at your institution, please
indicate so on your Address Form.

5. When you receive your Certificate of Eligibility from us, please take it and your passport to your local Japanese Consulate/Embassy and obtain a student visa. With the Certificate of Eligibility and your passport, you should encounter no difficulty in obtaining a student visa.

As for the academic calendar and the course offering for the 2007 fall semester, please refer to:

http://www.kansaigaidai.ac.jp/asp/03_academics/01.html
http://www.kansaigaidai.ac.jp/asp/03_academics/06.html

Please be advised that the course offering for the coming fall semester is subject to change without prior notice.

For further information regarding arrival, immigration and our orientation program, please refer to:

http://www.kansaigaidai.ac.jp/bekka/admissions/adm_index.htm

We look forward to welcoming you to our campus in August!

Hajime Yamamoto, Dean
Center for International Education
Kansai Gaidai University
16-1 Nakamiyahigashinocho
Hirakata City, Osaka 573-1001
Japan

So there it is, I’m sure that the email provided you with a lot of answers to your questions as far as procedure after your acceptance. I will still go over alot of the information topic by topic in the coming months before my departure for Osaka, Japan. Here are a couple of topics that I will cover to wet your palate:

  • Organizing your study abroad with your home campus
  • Doing some preliminary research on the city you are travelling to
  • Getting your Visa
  • Obtaining your flight

So I hope you look forward to reading what I have to write as much as I will enjoy writing it, until then!

Probably the most important thing that you will have to get before you leave for Japan is your passport. It takes a little while to get, but it lasts you 10 years (at least mine does). The process is pretty strait forward and I’ll go over the basics on this post.

Your first step is to go to the Passport Homepage. This page will give you pretty much all the information you will need. It’s not that user friendly though, so here is what I would recommend you do; first, find a place where you can apply for your passport (usually a post office) by looking it up on this page, all you have to do is enter your zip code and it will show you the nearest facility where you can apply for your passport. When you find where you will apply for your passport it’s just a matter of filling out the application, getting your picture taken and then waiting for several weeks for your passport to come in the mail. You will have to call the location to make an appointment, so make sure that you do this before hand.

Your passport is your key to other countries, it’s what lets you traverse the world (legally). It will take usually six weeks for you to receive it in the mail, which is why I strongly advise you to get this done as quickly as possible, unless you pay an extra fee to get it sent to you quicker. If you are going to Japan to study for the Summer or Winter this may be all you have to do depending on how long you are staying over there. The maximum time you can stay in Japan without having to get a visa is 90 days. Obtaining your student visa will be covered a little bit later.

Next time I will go over orientation, and getting your things in order with your college, until then!

Once you have sent out your completed application form to your home campus (the US campus that you applied for study abroad), you should receive an acceptance letter within about three to six weeks, depending on how early you sent your application out. Be exited! This means you are one step closer to going to Japan to study abroad. So now what?

Included with your acceptance letter should be an assortment of papers and other forms. First take all these thing out of the, more than likely manila, envelope. Spread them out on a table so that you can see all of them and revel in your excitement for a while, you earned it ^_^. Okay, once that’s done lets look at what you have there.

All institutions run this a little differently but here’s a basic rundown of what you should see in front of you:

  • The acceptance letter itself (feel free to frame this or whatever is necessary 🙂 )
  • A checklist with a list of what you should do next
  • Some sort of general information booklet
  • A group of forms that you have to fill out

I’m assuming you have already read the acceptance letter a few times, so we’ll take it from there. Look at the checklist and take note of the due dates for different forms and any information listed within. In the set of forms that are included, you will probably have to get a physical of some kind from your doctor, this should be one of the first things you do as you will have to make an appointment to do this. Along with this you should obviously do the things on the checklist that have the soonest due dates, and read the general information pamphlet. It will answer most of your basic questions.

The most important thing that you will have to do, and I recommend that you do this as soon as possible, is get your passport. And that will be the topic of my next post, till then!

The first step in studying abroad in Japan is to find a college that offers you the ability to study abroad. You should always check with your home college whether it offers study abroad, some may offer it but not have an office for it. For instance my college offers study abroad (although not to Japan) through the business office, not a separate office for study abroad. If your college does not offer it to you the best resource to find colleges that do offer study abroad is www.studyabroad.com. This site will tell you what cities in Japan you can choose, what college offers it and for what time period (fall, spring, one academic year, summer).

I will be studying abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Japan through the SUNY at Albany study abroad program, so most of my information and advice will be given from that point of view. I found this program on my own, to be honest I don’t really remember exactly how I found out about it because it was a long time ago, I just recently applied for the Fall 2007 semester because I finally got around to applying.

After you have found what college offers a study abroad program to the city you want you should then think about when you want to go. Do you want to go for the full academic year? Just a Fall or Spring semester? Just for the Summer? I chose to go only for my Fall semester of my senior year because I wanted to finish my four year degree in the US just in case anything were to happen, but circumstances may be different for you and the decision is yours. I would reccomend that you go as soon in your academic career as possible, to find out whether you want to have other semesters in Japan or if it isn’t right for you. Also, if you don’t think you could handle a full semester in a different country I would suggest going for a Summer or Winter semester (if available) to get the feel of how a full semester or academic year would feel.

After you have selected what college you will go through and when you want to go, the next step is actually applying. Go to the website of the college (the study abroad office’s website if it has one) and look at the directions for the application process. It is also a good idea to call the college to see if they offer any advice and they can answer any questions you have as well. Take note of the deadline to make sure you can finish and send the application in time. Most times the application can be downloaded from their website (either .pdf or .doc format). Fill out the necessary information and mail it to the institution as soon as possible, most colleges appreciate and take notice of applications that arrive early.

In my case, my application was a two-step process; SUNY at Albany had to accept me into their study abroad program, then they sent my application as a reccomendation for acceptance to Kansai Gaidai.

Don’t worry if you don’t hear back very soon, sometimes it takes quite a while for them to review and respond to applications. If you don’t hear back from the college two weeks after the deadline don’t be afraid to call them to inquire as to the progress of your application.

After you receive your acceptance packet there are several things that you should do next, and that will be detailed in my next post.

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