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!

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