Lists of things to update on!

Posted by irene , 7.20.2010 7:23 PM

The title says it all!

-Tokyo Disneyland
-Asakusa/Shibuya/an onsen
-School, school, and more school!
-School swim club :D
-Visiting the Ocean
-Host Dad's company!
-Visiting the ocean again! + Shrimp crackers :D
-Japanese Chinese restaurants
-NAGOYAAAA! (with its pokemon center)
-Last day of school :(
-Nagashima amusement park >:D
-Deep host family conversations
-the mooovies
-Conveyor belt sushi!

... and much more ^__^
apologies for the lack of detail... will come when I get back next week.
Yes, I have cried. :'(

Okay, please take care everyone! きおつけてね!I will post many things soon (:



Posted by irene , 6.24.2010 5:45 AM

Bleh! You all haven:t heard from me in a while, huh? :\

the reason for this is that my host family doesn:t have internet. XD
I:m currently using a computer in the hotel i:m staying in in Tokyo. I have a lot of entries typed up , but this PC can:t take USB drive.
I promise I will upload all of them and photos if I somehow get a good connection.
Sorry to all of you--I:m okay! :D and miss you!!


Seattle airport... Tokyo soon!

Posted by irene , 6.14.2010 12:09 PM

Currently at the Seattle airport :DD
This is the first airport that we've come across that actually has fast, free wifi.
I will be boarding plane to Tokyo in 45 minutes!

Wish me luck on the 10-hr flight! :D



Posted by irene , 6.12.2010 11:00 PM


I just looked on another Exchange Student's blog, and apparently the hotel we're staying in is in SHINJUKU.
...yes, that Shinjuku.

Flail of excitement!
this simply makes me hope that we get to go outside of the hotel even more ;______;

*crosses her fingers*

Japan PDO Day 2: aaaaaiyaaaaaa awesome

Posted by irene 10:03 PM

Note: All these posts following with are, obviously, pictures that I have and will upload once I get a decent wifi source.

I am currently using the only wifi connection known to all the YFU students right now... lucky me :D

6:04 AM

Everyone living in California really needs to appreciate this beautiful sky and landscape they can wake up to every morning.

This is at 6 in the morning, mind you! I would be so much more motivated to go to school if it was like this every day, haha. It usually doesn't start looking like this until at least... 6:30 in Michigan? If not later.

Today's schedule is pretty packed...
(and I never finished this)


We had huge amounts of lessons and such today. Our entire day is crammed full... which is great :D it's amazing how long I feel like I've been here... Finally feel like I'm actually in California and I'm leaving in two days ;___;

Radio exercises (ラヂオ対ソ) in the morning:
After WWII, the Japanese government wanted to create a system of boosting morale, community bonding and such in its citizens (as well as encouraging physical wellness, of course!)
The exercises are essentially a series of timed stretches set to the wonderful beat of a man saying "いち、に、さん、し。。。” so on and so forth. Example video with way more people here!
Call me a nerd but they are actually somewhat fun... it's kind of amusing to see 60 other people doing the same exuberant movements as you XD

In the afternoon, we discussed our homestay experiences (I think I'm going to discuss this in a later post), and then practiced Japanese.
I know I mentioned my uncertainty about this in my Day 1 post, but I somehow got into the advanced class o___o
けいこ先生, our teacher, is a native Japanese speaker from 大阪, Osaka! :DD Her accent is very good, as a result.
We just learned some basics: parts of the body, time, days of week/month, et cetera.


We also played a game called bafa bafa. The premise sounds pretty simple, but actually playing the game was really fun XD
Our kumis represented different cultures, with completely different ways of associating, trading money, and values.

(for example, my kumi placed huge value on money and we spoke a language solely based on phonetic sounds... to trade. on the other hand, another kumi was a outspoken, patriarchal society with much physical contact, little notion of personal space, and less emphasis on the value of hard currency)

We sent three rounds of ambassadors between the two kumi rooms, mirroring our own exchanges, and it was definitely amusing to see the perceptions of one culture by another.

It'll be impossible for me to completely understand Japan, I realize that... but looking up current events and understanding the psychology behind the societal workings will help.
I want to make sure to not eliminate the human element behind all this though. Cultures do not operate simply by a set of rules... those rules are simply norms and guidelines.
The individuals themselves are the ones who make the decisions, with the norms in place to show precedent... which is usually followed as the outcomes for choosing those paths are known...
Getting a little too in-depth right now, sorry! I have a post on tis that I will type on the plane, when I have a clear head and time to thing ^0^


After dinner, we had our two culture workshops :D
Since I picked karaoke and taiko drumming, both were rather musical. I have videos for both, which will go up velly velly soon.

...and right now I'm taking full advantage of my limited wifi connection! :)

Tomorrow is our last full day of PDO, and I really will miss it.
I have met so many people here... it's my dear wish that I will be able to see them again after Tuesday (stay in JP for 1 night).

...and yet, it's just the beginning! I really am unable to wrap my head around it right now... even after I've heard so much about it, it's almost unreal that I'm going there. In two days. AHHHH!

*deep breath*

Until I get a good connection (probably tomorrow), toodleloo! :)


Japan PDO Day 1: Arrival!

Posted by irene 9:50 PM

Directly following up to my travel post :O

(This is June 11th post.)

After arriving at Berkeley, I signed up for two culture workshops. There were Haiku, Karaoke, Taiko, Takoyaki, and Sports Festival to choose from, but by the time I got there, only Karaoke, Taiko, and Sports Festival were open. I picked the two musical ones, haha :)

I also got my room key and a language evaluation... I had no idea it was coming o__o but I guess I'll find out how that works out tomorrow.

I also got my kumi!!
It is basically be my home group for the next 2-3 days... and I'm happy to announce that my kumi is amazing :DD
I am in 青い(blue) kumi. We have a flag that says 青侍 (blue samurai) on it! :D It's very majestic.
The other colors of kumi are 紫 purple, 刀 (katana) silver (we call them gray though XD), and 赤い red. We've already established that 青い kumi wins though.
At what, you may ask?'ll see :)

We ate dinner in the very spacious and beautiful UC Berkeley Dining Hall:

... in which I pigged out while somehow sleeping simultaneously.

Afterwards, we saw a slideshow on Japan in general, which made me even more excited to leave on Monday... mental convulsions of joy.

After that, I went back to my room, cleaned up some loose ends, and hit the bed :D

Exciting day tomorrow!!!

More updates to come later

Posted by irene 9:08 PM

UCBerkeley has... no good wifi for non students ;___;
I don't blame them for that, though. It's completely justified.

I'll be posting pictures and all that later, then. This is just kind of an excuse for my hiatus...

Today was our first full day of YFU Japan PreDeparture Orientation O___O I am writing up long posts and stuff like that (have taken at least 100 photos since I got here!) but those will come later, when I actually have a valid wifi source ;___;

Just a summary: did taiko drumming on trash cans, legit radio calisthenics, sang old Japanese boy band songs, and ate many things, such as strawberries (as Tanya is narrating to me right now)

Kaytlin and Heemy are also in this extremely overheated computer room...
I know these names don't make any sense, but I will explain later. I think. Yes. I will.

Sorry I am incoherent... tomorrow is our last full day in the US and I am absolutely sure there will be a lot to type later :D

Okay, Irene is over and out.

Ta ta for now! (says Tanya)

Finally, an update! pt.1, host fam :)

Posted by irene , 6.06.2010 6:08 AM

[Whew! It's been hectic recently. I'll post info in separate posts, this one's more general :D]

Last wednesday, I was doing homework on the computer when...

[image coming later]

Pretty much sums it up :)
Needless to say, I was extremely excited and like shaking when I was talking on the phone with the YFU admissions counselor XD

I'm going to Handa City in Aichi Prefecture (
City website) according to Wikipedia:
Handa (半田市, Handa-shi)
is a
city located in Aichi, Japan, which was founded on
October 1, 1937. As of 2003, the city has an estimated
population of 114,336 and the density of 2,421.35 persons per km². The total area is 47.22 km².

Handa is a little bigger than Canton.

I'll be staying with the Kawauchi family: mom Hisayo, dad Nobuyuki, brother Yuu (18 years), and sister Ai (16 years)
/shivering with excitement/

As such, I checked my email extremely frequently for the remainder of that week... and my efforts paid off today, when my host mom sent me an email

Dear Irene,
How do you do?
By the way, you wil have swimming class in the school.
So if you have a swimsuit colored dark blue, please bring it.
Then we will go travel to Tokyo Disney Land.
Why don't you go there with us?
This season has a lot of rainy days in Japan.
I hope that you enjoy Japanese life.
I'm looking forward to seeing you.
See you.
                 your host mother, Hisayo
Can you imagine my excitement? Tokyo Disneyland..... oooooo :D
To top it off, I also called my host family today! I've never taken Japanese, you can imagine how many 追う一度おねがいしますs and わかりませんs there were XD

However, it was definitely one of the most awkwardly exciting things I've ever done... sense of accomplishment!

Paraphrased, translated conversation below
Mom: Moshi moshi. (hello.)
Me: moshi moshi! Is this the Kawauchi family?
Mom: そうです. (That is correct.)
Me: I am calling from America. This is the exchange--
Mom: OOOOH!! Are you Irene?
Me: yeeyeyeyeyeyeyeyes! (it was something like that... coupled with frantic head-nodding and mental happy squeal)
Mom: Hello!! Nice to meet you.
Me: Nice to meet you! I called today to say hello.
Mom: Yes!
Mom: Oh, did you get my email?
Me: Yes!

[email related conversation here, hard to sum up since I was asking questions for most of the time :P]

Me: I have some questions.
Mom: Yes?
Me: What are my brother and sister's names?
Mom: Brother is Yuu.
Me: Yuu.
Mom: Hai. Sister is Ai.
Me: aaah, Ai.
Mom: Hai.

Mom: battery
Me: Oh, okay, わかります. さよなら!
Mom: さよなら!
Whew! I really hope that I didn't make any serious mistakes!
It really was fulfilling though, seeing as I was able to communicate in a language that is somewhat alien to me :)

I have almost finished getting host family gifts! All that's left to do is get wrapping paper and the like. Gift shops are great for finding michigan -related stuff... I found one of those oven mitts with a map of michigan on it XD

On a different, slightly related note...
Check out my shirt.
The only reason why my shorts extend past that shirt is because a) I pulled them down and b) I have my arms extended. amazing YFU logo'd shirt! :DD It's XL as I have said before. A good precaution to take, methinks!
However, since my mom is an amazing seamstress, she has altered it so it is roughly my size now. Whoo!

Okay, phew. Long post. Next one coming up!

Irene's gone mobile!

Posted by irene , 5.31.2010 6:21 AM

In preparation for the possibility that I won't be bringing a computer/have handy wifi all the time, I have downloaded a blogging app on my itouch :D
Unfortunately, this app is limited to text only posts, but now that I think about it, I wouldn't be able to connect my camera to my itouch anyway... Brain fart.

On a more prominent note, I'm going out to get presents today :D I still haven't received my host family yet, but all in good time, I suppose.

Btw... Hamlet is awesome. He is so cool. /sigh

Okay! I will go organize more stuff now :)
Expect meatier, juicier posts this week! (can you tell that I'm hungry? XD)

Pre-Departure Orientation!

Posted by irene , 5.23.2010 12:38 PM

(another post coming soon... once I finish writing it. and pictures! I'll edit this post to include them later. :D enjoy!)

I had my orientation yesterday! This was a regional orientation for future exchangers in the area, so it wasn't limited to country :) I thought it was cool, seeing the differences between European and Asian behaviors (generalizations, of course). Most of the exchangers were going to Germany for a year (especially on the Congress-Bundeschag scholarship; If you're considering going to Germany, make sure to look intothat on YFU's scholarship page :D links on the right -->), but there were five of us--me, Grace, Ben, Stefan, and Abby-- heading to JP for a summer, and one runner-up (Hi Katherine!).

I met the other two JBSD scholarship winners, Grace and Ben :D who are from the same school! It's kind of funny how that worked out. It was nice knowing that I'd be seeing them again in two weeks! (more about this later*)

Yaaaay, JBSD kids! :D

Twas an exciting, yet tiring (as most exciting things tend to be) day, filled with discussions about personal space, culture, family, and roleplays of foreign creepers! (yay!) The presenters also cleared up a lot of confusion about the communication structure of YFU and what to pack (though I still have to decide about many of the things I want to bring).
There was also an alumni panel of current and previous foreign exchangers, which responded to our questions, trivial or not :D

All of us hadn't gotten anything from our host families yet, but hopefully that will change soon.

In two weeks, I'm going to a luncheon with the other JBSD scholarship winners, REACH (college exchange program) winners, and the higher-ups of JBSD itself! o___o
I asked one of the orientation presenters about the luncheon, and she said that the president of YFU is most likely flying in from DC to attend!


Nervous now O___O I think we each have to give a 1-2 minute speech, preferably with some Japanese... self-studying mode activate!
(doesn't help that it's the day before my SAT IIs... blech!)


Just on a sidenote:
going to the orientation reminded me of how much I need to step up on studying .___.
I'm at a disadvantage, not being able to study JP in school every day. Found some good resources (, Tae Kim's guide.... I'll write these out in a separate post) but just finding stuff won't cut it-- I have to WORK!
Go go! >:D

*sings the Mulan song to herself*

organization is awesome! (more planning)

Posted by irene , 5.19.2010 4:05 PM

too happy, maybe?

(in this post: post-APs sentence long celebration, to do list, and upcoming dates!)

aaaaand.... that's a wrap!
AP tests are over (actually they were over last week... w/e) and I now have time to think seriously about exchange stuff :D

So. Things. To do! (and have done, for some...)
  1. Get a Dictionary. Fortunately I have done this already :D I got the pocket webster dictionary (which can be accessed from if you're interested at all) and am highlighting and doing other fun things in it.
  2. Get a phrasebook. I didn't think that I would need one, but looking at how much I know thus far, it's definitely gonna be a good idea... heh. still have to go to Borders to scope them out.
  3. Host family gifts! this one's tough... I think I'm going to make a photo/scrap-book about life in America, get some UMich stuff, Michigan-related great lakes stuff, lanyards.... practical stuff :D
  4. Other gifts! Little stuff... candy, photos.... magnets? o__o
  5. Packing... bleegle bleegle. I have to get clothes... shorts... summer clothes besides T-shirts xD
That's all the important stuff for now.

Oh! I should probably show off my YFU goodies. My shirt is currently in the wash so I'll do that in a separate post.
(it's XL.... bound to be interesting hehehehehehehe...)

And one last thing... I have my Orientation this weekend :DDD I'm excited. I don't know if it's only Japan-bound students (probably not, as I have seen from the feedback on our Facebook forum) but I am sure it will be awesome either way.
JBSD luncheon next week. whoot whooo!

until next time :D

Packet and Visa info is a go! +other things

Posted by irene , 5.13.2010 3:15 PM

Sniffle sniffle. I think I might have a cold. It rained so much today, and I got totally soaked.
This post is going to be really discombobulated. I will try to bold things to make the topic clearer, but I am sorry :( I promise that future posts will be tidier.

I got visa info yesterday and other YFU info today :D
Just like you might have seen on Courtney or Kaytlin's blogs (among others, of course!) there were two handbooks and a HUUUUUGE T-shirt. XL! Whoo! I'll have to wash it repeatedly hehe. It's pretty much a dress for me XD Oh well, it's distinctive. It works! :D
I read through the handbook, and as I did so, the first strains of nervousness hit me. I don't want to set expectations too high, just like so many people have instructed, but it's hard not to be at least a little anxiously anticipating.
I think a problem for me will be getting enough sleep =___= no doubt I will be so excited all the time it will be hard o__o but I have to get rid of these massive eye-bags sometime! Hehe. Plus, I'll need all the energy I can get to learn and listen and talk!

Marked some things down on my calendar... only 30 days! THIRTY DAYS. that's like... NO TIME. AT ALL. MUST START PACKING! and stuff o___o
Also have an idea for host family gifts. I haven't gotten a placement yet (of course) but I figured I'd start with some... more general things. Photos and stuff. :D
Considering heading to the UMich store at the mall and picking up some little stuff. Because Michigan, is, y'know, awesome. MAIIIIZE AND BLUUUE YEEE

Last thing! I am going to Borders next week to get a Japanese/Eng dictionary and possibly a study book if there are any adequate ones. Any suggestions? I'll need them!

Okay, over and out!


Posted by irene , 5.09.2010 11:20 AM

Hmm. I still haven't gotten the official scholarship letter yet... kind of weird, since I got the email a week ago. I'm going to call YFU :)

SO. New post. Introduction. Take it as you will :D

Posted by irene , 5.04.2010 4:56 PM

Hello world!

(I'm totally copying wordpress defaults!)

Before I get on to the second part of my post, I guess I should introduce myself a little. It's like an icebreaker... but I'm the only one doing it! Weird!
My name is Irene. I'm a sophomore in high school, Taiwanese by descent.
I heard about Youth For Understanding's programs through one of my friends, who got a scholarship two years ago (Thanks Lexie!) ...
...and five essays, one interview, immeasurable minutes of waiting and encouragement later, I received an email from the Japan Business Society of Detroit last night.

I almost exploded into pure energy right then (good thing I didn't, I'm sure pure energy is pretty messy to clean up), which is probably a pretty accurate measure of my current level of excitement.

Not sure exactly when I'm departing yet, but I'll post when I get the formal invitation from JBSD.

...oh and AP tests. ohnoz!

Lastly, I'd like to thank everyone who's helped me get here-- Mrs. Brunsch, Mrs. Miller, all my friends who put up with my emailing them to proofread, my family... you really touch my heart. I'll do the best I can for all of you. Thank you!


Post for post's sake.

Posted by irene 2:57 PM

Pretty much the title :)