Planning a Trip to Europe

In a few months, I will be going back to Europe for the third time! The past two times I went to Europe, I traveled to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Holland, and Denmark. This time I will be going to Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Italy, Luxembourg, and France. 

So far, I’ve traveled to 13 countries. After this trip, though, I will have traveled 17 countries in total. Right now, I’m still currently in the process of planning the trip. Some of the places I’ll be revisiting and some of the places are going to be completely new to me. I’m not going to say exactly where I’m going just yet. I’ll leave that for after I come back and can post pictures. 

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Japanese Bento Boxes

Japanese bento boxes are packed lunch boxes or takeaway containers that are made out of wood, plastic, or metal. Bento boxes are often filled with cooked rice, meats, fish, pickled and/or cooked vegetables, and egg. They are usually made by parents to give to their children for lunch in school or sold as takeaway foods from restaurants or train stations. These bento boxes are often nicely decorated and look very cute. I’m not exactly sure if I would be able to eat from the bento boxes if they looked this cute!

Nabana no Sato: Japan’s Winter Wonderland of Lights

Enjoy winter without being in the snow! Located outside the city of Nagoya in Mie Prefecture, Nabana no Sato is a botanical garden that has been transformed from flowers to thousands of LED lights to create a winter wonderland. The beautiful landscapes the lights and flowers create make it great for couples and families to visit.

Nabana no sato tree

From November to March, you can walk through the illuminated gardens and tunnels once it gets dark. You first begin with the gardens. Once you walk through the illuminated garden, “The Sea of Clouds”, and crystal white archways, you feel like you have been teleported into your own fairytale.

nabana no sato garden

After the gardens, you will reach the tunnels. The glittering tunnels will seem like they are never-ending. Both tunnels are about 100 meters long and filled with millions of LED lights. The tunnels are most popular with young couples to stroll under the stars and take pictures.

nabana no sato tunnel

While walking to and from the gardens and tunnels, you can walk along the Kiso river and enjoy Japan’s biggest water illumination display. It is about 120 meters long that is outlined with interchangeable lights. The combination of the waterfall and lights create such a breathtaking site. Watch the rainbow flow with you as you go!

Nabana no sato river lights

The most popular attraction during the winter season at Nabana no Sato is the light show. Each year is a different theme. This year’s theme is Heidi. Previous themes included Mt. Fuji and Niagara Falls. You can watch the screen come to life as the show and music play right before you!

nabana no sato heidi

The light show attracts about a million visitors every year. The light show was created, because they wanted to have an attraction in winter as beautiful as their flowers in the spring. Visitors are usually local Japanese since Nabana no Sato is not a well-known attraction to people outside of Japan.

When I visited there about a month ago, Nabana no Sato really took my breath away. This was definitely one of my favorite places I visited and I recommend for anyone that will be in the Nagoya area to visit and experience this winter beauty.

Adventures to Nagoya and Kyoto

It’s been about a few weeks since I’ve came back from my trip to Japan and since school is canceled again because of the recent snowstorm, I decided to write about my trip.

Before even going to Japan, I had a layover in Beijing, China for 2 hours. Well that was a trip itself…While I was on my flight to Beijing, they decided to cancel my flight from Beijing to Nagoya due to the lack of people. So you can pretty much understand how worried and confused I was when I arrived to Japan. First off, you are not even allowed to stay in China for more than 3 days without a visa. Second off, I had to explain my situation to customs and the ticketing officers with the basic Chinese
I know which still led to confusion from the language barrier. And third off, trying to figure how and when I would be able to get to Japan while trying to find my suitcase.

All in all, after a few hours everything worked out. I found my suitcase, the airplane carrier I was traveling on was able to book me a (free) ticket and hotel room, and the next day I was able to fly to Nagoya.

*Note: when traveling, expect the unexpected. You’ll never know what will happen. Make sure you have enough money, a way to contact someone from home, and keep track of your belongings at all times.

When I finally made it to Japan and my friend picked me up, I felt like I was in a whole new world. Everything was in Japanese, smaller, and the very best-cuter. You could see mascots and pictures of famous anime characters from e.g. Pokemon or Love Live!

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We were around Nagoya for about a week and then spent about 2 days in Kyoto. Even though I was only there for about a week and a half, we were still able to see and plenty of things.

The first day we went to the aquarium in Nagoya. There I was able to see not only fish but seals, turtles, penguins, whales, dolphins, and some really ugly fish (and I mean ugly).

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Throughout the days in Nagoya, we did a lot of shopping, went to Nagoya castle, Nabana no Sato (a winter wonderland of lights, a science museum, and one of my all time favorites-the Pokemon Center.

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Before New Years, we visited Kyoto for about 2 days. Each day we went to about 3 different sites. This included Kiyomizu temple, Fushimi Inari-taisha, Kinkakuji temple, and Sanjusangendo (Buddhist temple with 1000 statues). On the way to all the places, there were vendors and souvenir shops all over the place. One of my favorite things I saw at most of the shops were the amount of kokeshi dolls. If you’re not sure what kokeshi dolls are then you can read about them in my blog post here:

https://christinathepolyglot.wordpress.com/2013/01/01/kokeshi-dolls/

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Visiting all the places was definitely a lot of fun. Another thing I enjoyed about being in Japan was the food. I was able to try so many different foods and desserts while I was there. And there’s so many I already miss eating. I tried tonkatsu (pork cutlet), okonomiyaki (vegetable pancake with meat and sauce), fried shrimp, loco moco (even though it’s technically Hawaiian), kishimen noodles with miso, different types of soups, real ramen with dumplings and rice, melon bread ice cream, cakes, strawberry cheesecake kit kat, and so much more!

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All in all you can say I had a great trip. I’m so lucky and thankful to have such a good friend (who’s like my twin) to allow me to stay with her and her family and show me around like she did.

Japan is definitely a great place to visit and I highly recommend to go if you ever get the chance!

The Land of the Rising Sun

In less than  one week, I will be going on my next adventure to-if you didn’t get it from the title-Japan!

Japan is also known as the Land of the Rising Sun since the Kanji (Chinese characters) for Japan-日本 (Nihon/Nippon)– literally means  “the sun’s origin. Then from “the sun’s origin” translates to “The Land of the Rising Sun. Also in the national flag of Japan, officially known as 日章旗 (Nisshoki), has a red circle representing the sun in the center of a white background.

Japanese flag

Anyways, I’ll be going to Japan for about a week and a half to visit a friend of mine I met in college. I’m really excited now, since the closest I’ve came to actually being in Japan was being in the Narita airport 3 years ago. This time I’ll actually be exploring in the cities of Nagoya and Kyoto-the food, the culture, and the language. The language part will be interesting since I decided to start learning Japanese this semester, so let’s see how that works out…

North South East West

It’s been about 8 months since I’ve last written anything in this blog. But you can’t really blame me once I tell you what I’ve been up to these days..

Since the start of the year, I’ve been to Oklahoma for Army basic training, Missouri for AIT training, back home to Pennsylvania, Wildwood Beach, New Jersey for vacation, Virginia and South Carolina for vacation and a wedding, to Boston, Massachusetts to study Chinese for the summer, and just recently in Maine for a short day trip. Soon I’ll be going back to West Virginia to start school again, and to end my year I’m off to Japan.

This year has definitely been busy for me, but traveling is what I do best. And I’ll find time again to post more about what I’ve experienced, the different programs that are out there, and so on.

Rainbow Row in Charleston, South Carolina

Rainbow Row in Charleston

Boone Hall Plantation, Charleston, South Carolina

Boone Hall Plantation

Boston, Massachusetts

Boston

Ogunquit, Maine

Ogunquit Maine

Study Abroad Scholarship Opportunites for High School Students

It’s about that time of year again. Study abroad scholarship applications are opening up. Many of you may be asking yourself, why should I study abroad? Why should I leave my family, friends, and everything behind to go somewhere I’ve never been before? Well, let me tell you. Looking back at my life, studying abroad was definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. Yes, it will be difficult at first. Leaving everything you know behind, and being thrown into a new culture and family you don’t even know. However, during this difficult time you learn more about yourself and accomplish things you didn’t even know you could do. You make friends of a lifetime, and learn and fall in love with a new language and a new culture. You will have opportunities that you will probably never have again. This is why I really want to push more American students to study abroad. There is more out there than the American life and English language. Expand your horizons, do something different. Something challenging, adventurous, and rewarding. I will tell you, you will definitely not regret it.

So if you’re interested in study abroad, here are several scholarships that will allow you to study abroad for free or at least help you along the way. These scholarships, however, are very competitive. Not trying to scare anyone off or anything, if you really want one of these scholarships then you really need to take these applications seriously. For high school students or recently graduated students only*

NSLI-Y (National Security Language Institute for Youth program offers intensive language immersion during the summer or for a year to students willing to learn Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Russian, Hindi, Persian (Tajik), or Turkish. Locations include the following locations: Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Moldova, China, Taiwan, South Korea, Russia, Estonia, India, and Turkey. More information at: http://www.nsliforyouth.org/

CBYX (Congress Bundestag Youth Exchange) program offers 250 full-year scholarships around the United States to high school students who are motivated to go to Germany and learn the German culture and language and gain a new perspective on the global current affairs and German economic, political, and social life. More information at: http://www.usagermanyscholarship.org/about/

The YES Abroad (Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Abroad) program offers 65 scholarships to high school students to study abroad in countries with significant Muslim populations. Countries include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Macedonia, Malaysia, Morocco, Oman, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, and Turkey. More information at: http://yes-abroad.org/

YFU (Youth for Understanding) provides several partial scholarships to study abroad in countries like Japan, Finland, Germany, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Uruguay, Venezuela, etc. More information at: http://yfuusa.org/american-students/scholarships.php#

The CIEE Leadership Academy program offers scholarships to study abroad for a month in the summer and do community service projects in one of the following locations: China, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Ghana, Japan, Jordan, Senegal, or Spain. More information at: http://www.ciee.org/high-school-summer-abroad/

In the summer of 2013, I went to Nanjing, China with the CIEE Leadership Academy. It was definitely one of the greatest experiences of my life. I stayed with a host family, learned more about the Chinese culture and way of life, taught English to elementary school students at a local school, and made friends of a lifetime. If you want to read more of what I actually did during the 4 months, you can read about it here: https://christinathepolyglot.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/ciee-leadership-academy-in-china/

The AFS (American Field Service) organization also offers some partial and full scholarships. These scholarships include the BP Global Citizens of Tomorrow scholarship for students who want to study abroad in Brazil, China, India, Malaysia, or South Africa; the Cultural Explorer Merit scholarship for students who want to study abroad in Bosnia and Herzegovina, China, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Russia, Turkey, or Thailand; Japan scholarships; and several other scholarships by state. One state scholarship I would like to talk about is the Speedwell scholarship. The Speedwell scholarship offers 30 full scholarships to students from Northeastern Pennsylvania. I am personally thankful for this scholarship and for the donors, because without this scholarship I wouldn’t have been able to go to Germany and fulfill my dream.

If you’re even considering about studying abroad, please apply for these scholarships. It is a lot of hard-work and effort, writing dozens of essays, getting teacher recommendations, going through interviews, and the roller coaster emotions. But trust me, in the end it is definitely worth it.

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