Staying Safe Abroad for LGBTQI+ Students

Staying Safe Abroad for LGBTQI+ Students

Written by Dave Landry Jr.

Studying abroad is an incredible and life changing adventure for many students. The number of students choosing to participate in study abroad programs increases year after year with Europe being the top pick among students.  The academic and career benefits of studying abroad are overwhelmingly positive. As the world becomes increasingly more interconnected thanks to social networking, companies are looking for more students with experience living abroad or those with international experiences. Through study abroad programs many international students gain academic knowledge for their field but also career knowledge that can help propel them after graduation. Students studying abroad need to prepare not just for their new classes and university but also their living situation in a whole new country. Students must consider safety precautions while living abroad and LGBTQI+ students in particular have to consider some unique sets of precaution. Here are some things to consider while studying abroad:

  1. Research The Country: According to research, more American “millenials” who identify as LGBTQI+ feel more accepted in their communities than previous years. Although acceptance seems to be growing in the United States, other countries around the world might not be as LGBTQI+-friendly. As a student abroad you should be conducting research about the country you will be moving to and its culture anyway, but you want also want to make sure you look into the  LGBTQI+ culture that exists in the country as well. You can often find country guides online that list the various safety risks in various countries as well as acceptance rates. Finding out your host country’s norms and styles of behavior can help you gain acceptance within the community you are studying in as well as help you learn more of the country’s culture in general.
  2. Learn the Lingo: In addition to learning the host country’s language you also want to learn vocabulary and slang related specifically to sexual orientation as they will always differ. Learning the positive and negative connotations of the jargon can help you maintain correctness while speaking as well as show awareness. Knowing these terms can also help you gauge who might be the right people to foster friendships with while abroad.
  3. Find Safe Havens: Learning the safe places in a community for an LGBTQI+ person can take time and for students going abroad it means really stepping out of their comfort zones. As a student going abroad you’ve already taking the brave step of trying something risky but exciting. For LGBTQI+ students abroad the added risk of being able to express themselves in a completely different space and culture comes into place. Try to make friends in your host country that know the lay of the land to find our which places might be riskier for those part of the LGBTQI+ community.
  4. Join LGBTQI+ Groups on Campus (or start one!): Joining LGBTQI+ clubs or groups on campus can not only direct you to great resources in the area but also make new friends at your university. However, keep in mind that campus activity will depend on the country you are living in and what kind of university you are enrolled in. American universities tend to emphasize campus life and university pride by having many on-campus student activities. However, not all universities around the world have that same higher education culture. You might find that there are few groups or clubs on campus or none at all. Keep this in mind while researching your university but also think about starting your own group if one does not already exist. This can help you meet new people as well and have another activity you can add to your experiences.
  5. Make Friends: Making friends for any student studying abroad is a necessity and especially making friends with locals. While being friends with other international students has the added benefit of sharing that similar experience of being away from home, making friends with locals can help you learn first-hand about the country you are living in as well as the culture and customs. Remember, people from the country can tell you authentically much more than any guidebook can and of course making friends while studying abroad can help you build friendships that last.

A crucial part of having a fun and successful study abroad experience is safety. This goes for all students but especially for LGBTQI+ students as acceptance various so greatly among countries and cultures. Keep these tips in mind while abroad to ensure a safe experience but do not forget to have fun and enjoy this exciting educational opportunity.

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Job Hunting in the Digital Age

Job Hunting In the Digital Age: Reputation, Resumes & Video Interviews

Written by Dave Landry Jr.

As you pursue your studies and plan for your future, you need to set yourself apart from the pack.

One way you can differentiate yourself from the competition is by highlighting your study abroad experience at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Study Abroad Center.

According to one organization, the number of U.S. students who studied outside of the country for credit during the 2013 to 2014 school year climbed 5.2% to 304,457 from 289,408, which represented less than 1.5% of all U.S. students were are enrolled at post-secondary schools in the country. So your study abroad experience will put you among a relatively small group.

Also take into account that in this digital age, your online reputation matters a great deal since everything you do online leaves a footprint that employers can follow — and you don’t pictures and forum posts to overshadow your study abroad experience.

Consider this, for instance:

  • 75% of recruiters will conduct online research of candidates
  • 70% of recruiters have rejected candidates based on what they found

While there are things you definitely need to avoid doing online, there are things you can do to create a digital footprint that will interest employers and recruiters for all the right reasons. Whether it’s a great resume on your LinkedIn page or an enticing video interview, you can demonstrate to decision-makers looking to fill positions that you’re an ideal candidate.

LinkedIn + Resume

According to International Student, there are lots of benefits to studying abroad. One that you should be particularly mindful of is that it can lead to more career opportunities since future employers will take note of your openness to immersing yourself in other cultures, your language skills, and your well-rounded education.

You can make it easier for them to find out about you by getting yourself a LinkedIn profile and by filling in the sections thoroughly. Be sure to highlight the fact that you did study abroad. Combining the power of LinkedIn with the power of a great resume will help you leapfrog over the competition.

Video Interview

In this digital age, you need to be prepared for the possibility of video interviews. Whether the video interview is for a job opportunity or for a business school interview after you take your GMAT exam, you’ll want to talk up your experience studying in another country.

Once more, your decision to study abroad will give you a competitive advantage over your peers who did not choose to do do. Make the most of it, and you’re sure to come out on top.


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Some (Not-So-Secret) Secrets to Securing Scholarships for Studying Abroad

Have you always wanted to study abroad, but thought you could not afford it? This post is written by Spring 2016 in Seville, Spain participant Catherine Gardiner, who was awarded three scholarships (that we know of!) which would cover a big chunk of her study expenses. Read on to find out how she did it!


Is money the only thing keeping you from studying abroad? That’s what initially hindered me from even dreaming about studying in Spain. Without a steady income, there was no way I could afford a European adventure on top of my tuition and other living expenses.

But I decided to indulge and attend an information session, anyway. What the heck?  Window shopping is always free, right? In that initial meeting, as the study abroad advisors explained the expenses related to studying abroad, I realized just how attainable an adventure like this really is. To spend a semester studying in Shanghai, China, for example, is $19, 543 cheaper than studying at UHM. Here are some other comparisons:


Cost of Attending UHM*

Cost of Study Abroad Program**


Shanghai, China $ 26,834.00 $ 7,291.00 (Fall 2015) $ 19,543.00
Machida, Japan $ 26,834.00 $ 9,771.00 (Spring 2015) $ 17,063.00
Paris, France $ 26,834.00 $ 17,096.00 (Fall 2015) $  9,738.00
*Based on resident rates to include tuition, fees, books/supplies, meals, housing, and personal expenses for 2015-2016. See UHM budget.
**Cost includes school tuition, housing, excursions, health insurance, meals, textbooks, ground transportation, and UHM study abroad and student visa fees.  Round trip airfare is not included. See respective program online budgets for further breakdown of costs at

Had it not been for the informational meetings and encouragement from the study abroad advisors, I would not have applied to study abroad in Spain for the Spring and Summer 2016 terms. Furthermore, I would not have searched for and secured the scholarships which are covering nearly all my travel expenses.

As I have sought numerous scholarships, there are a few (not-so-secret) secrets that have helped me to obtain a surplus of awards.  Here are the highlights:

Money doesn’t grow on trees. You’ve got to work for it.

Your parents were right. You have to honestly work to earn a pretty penny—even (if not, especially) scholarship money.  Reading the list of requirements of a scholarship application might make you cringe at the amount of work involved: application forms, essays, recommendation letters, oh my!  But think about it: even if you put in ten hours into applying for a $1000 scholarship and you win, that’s $100 an hour.  That’s about what an orthodontist or underwater welder makes per hour. Plus scholarship money is untaxed income.  So roll up your sleeves and work to make your application and essay really shine.

Write an Essay that’s Outstanding and Stands Out

Simply from the application form, you’re not likely to stand out from the other hundreds of applicants with similar grades, extracurricular activities, and volunteer experience. This is where the essay is so important. It’s your chance to show the review committee the person behind the application—why you’re passionate about this study abroad program and why it’s vital that you receive the scholarship.

To do this, answer the essay completely and try to show how their investment in you will be compounded because of your study abroad experience. How will it affect your outlook, your future and, more importantly, your community at large?

Make sure you review your application meticulously before sending it.  Your professionalism, attention to detail, and overall effort can be the difference between being the recipient of an award and being second best.  I usually ask my family, esteemed peers or professors to read over my essay for both grammar and content before pressing “Send”.

Apply, apply, apply!

You probably won’t obtain a scholarship for every application you send in, but the more scholarships you apply for the higher your probability of attaining money and financing your experience.

Generally, I try to apply for as many local applications as I am eligible for, because there are usually fewer applicants and therefore less competition.  There are also thousands of national/international study abroad scholarships you can find by searching online search engines or scholarship websites.

Here are some of my favorites:

I’m getting ready to pack my bags this month and head to Spain—an experience that I had originally thought was out of reach. My radical shift in thought—from not thinking I could afford this experience to paying for nearly all of it through scholarships—is due to the persuasion and support of the study abroad advisors.  I hope that what I have written can be the encouragement you need to realize that study abroad is totally attainable! As the Spanish say, “Si se puedes” (you can do it!).

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Spending the night in an Internet Café

Rodney McGary | Machida, Japan | Spring 2015

You may have read the title and thought, “What the heck?!” Well, that’s one of the many convenient things about life in Japan, you can camp out in a net café overnight if you miss your last train or bus home.  As for me, the idea of doing this circulated in my mind before arriving, but I never intended to stay out and miss my last train. Instead, I wanted to go out at night with the express purpose of staying in one of these net cafés. Anyway, one night I went out to an International Mixer-type Meetup way out in Yurigaoka. Little side note, if networking is one of your goals while studying abroad or you want to make friends with people who aren’t students I highly encourage you to create a Meetup account because there are countless Meetup groups in Tokyo that suit any and all interests. With that being said, I had such a good time talking to different people, practicing Japanese, drinking, etc, that I left later than I should have. Luckily the trains were still running when I left the Yurigaoka. Upon arriving at Machida station, I made the foolish assumption that buses would still be running at 1AM (insert face palm here).

blog bagusAnother important thing to note is that most buses and trains shut down around midnight or earlier in Japan, which a city-born kid like myself found a wee-bit inconvenient, but it is what it is. Fortunately, there are 24-hour Internet/Manga cafés everywhere, including Machida. I made my way to the nearest one, Café B@gus. When checking-in, you’ll be asked to choose from a few rooming options, which included room/booth with: leather chair, leather reclining chair, flat sleeping surface, and leather reclining massage chair. I opted for the massage chair because I really was in need of a massage and it wasn’t too expensive. As for pricing, it varies according to the kind of surface you get and the duration of your stay, which ranged from 3 hours to 24 hours (I think). For the reclining massage chair for a little over 5 hours it only ran me about 13USD. After checking in, I was given a key to my space and told I can enjoy all the free ice cream, soft drinks, and manga as I pleased for the allotted time.

My spot was upstairs in a section with 7 cubicles complete with chairs, desk, and computers (with door), which made it look like a proper office (but instead of working you sleep and relax). After throwing my things down and removing my shoes, I went downstairs to the hot food vending machine that offered: thick fries, hot dogs, fried chicken, yakisoba, takoyaki, fried rice, and onigiri for just 300 yen. After selecting yakisoba, I got myself some ice cream from the machine while I waited 110 seconds for the machine to heat my food then dispense it. For something that dropped from a vending machine, the yakisoba was actually pretty good (and piping hot). Since I didn’t have much time to waste, as I just wanted a little sleep, I wolfed down my food and along with some strawberry coffee from a different machine upstairs. After finishing my food, a few minutes were spent fiddling with the controls on the chair to get a position for optimal massage comfort. It felt great and all, but trying to sleep in one position with your back firmly pressing against a large massage ball in the spine of the chair isn’t an ideal way to get a good night’s rest. I managed to find a position that wasn’t too bad and rested until I heard someone’s mobile alarm clock go off.  The person who set the alarm was completely oblivious to the annoying “beep-beep” which continued even as I was leaving with cubicle four minutes later.  On the way out, all that was left to do is turn in the key, then I was on my merry way home.  However, the buses on Sunday morning start running a little after 7, so I rode the train from Machida to Fuchninobe (just two stops), footed it home, changed into my jammies, and got a proper (day’s) sleep.

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Life in a Homestay

Rodney McGary | Machida, Japan | Spring 2015

A quintessential part of studying abroad for some would definitely be doing a homestay for the duration of one’s program. After all, you get daily exposure to the language and an up close perspective of life in the host country.  Homestay may not be everyone’s cup of tea as I’ve learned in conversing with other students at Obirin who chose to stay in the dorms instead. A couple of common concerns from those who chose dorms over homestay were worries of having a curfew and having to do chores. It is true that some host families will impose a curfew, which may bog down your social life a bit, but in my experience there was no such thing. As for chores and cleaning up, that’s just a part of living in a house, it shouldn’t be an issue at all. Homestay situations and environments can vary greatly. You could end up in a house that’s thirty minutes or more from school. You could end up in a brand new house with an elevator in which you have an entire floor to yourself. You could end up in a modest house with small children and a dog. My point is that when choosing to do a homestay, it’s important to be open-minded and flexible in order to get the most out of it.

When I received my homestay assignment, I had no idea what to expect, but was pleasantly surprised to find myself in a nice house that was located just minutes from the school. One of my initial concerns was whether the interior (furniture included) of the house would be accommodating to my height (I’m over six feet tall). Lo and behold everything was all right, I never bumped my head on anything. However, I did notice that dinner table chairs, tables, and sofas in the house were unusually low to the ground, but it never posed a mortal threat to me so I’m not complaining. I ended up getting situated with a two-person family consisting of an older married couple that spoke next to no English. To my surprise, there was also another international student in the house as well from a mainland university. Honestly, it was nice having a fellow countryman there with whom I could share experiences and converse freely.  This was especially welcome since the host family had no children in the house.  Lucky for us, our host family did not impose a curfew, as that would have been a bit inconvenient and restrictive to social activities. The rules of the house were nothing excessive or unreasonable. We just had to make sure we cleaned our rooms once a week, took care of the garbage on the designated days, no showers past midnight, and other small requests. In general, things went swimmingly well. However, I think it’s worth noting that you’re almost certain to run into a problem, either due to miscommunication and/or cultural differences. For instance, both my homestay brother and I caught heat for improper washing of the winter futons as neither of us were familiar with futon cleaning at the time. Nonetheless, that episode was not an evictable offense as my mother later told me that there’s always been some issue that has popped up with prior international students who have stayed there so it wasn’t a big shock. This couple seems to be veteran in hosting international students, so I’m sure they’ve experienced a lot and know how to handle situations. With them not speaking English, it made us make use of our Japanese. I found it quite convenient that a couple of my textbooks and other useful materials were already in my room courtesy of the previous occupant.

One of the best things about doing a homestay is all the awesome, homemade food I got to eat! For nights I was in the house, dinner was either provided or we took a trip to a local restaurant. Breakfast at my homestay usually consisted of salad, a cup of yogurt, and a juice of some kind. Dinner varied greatly from curry rice to yakisoba and quite literally every other Japanese food you could think of. Eating with the homestay family was always a treat and economical.  One more thing I’d like to highlight is that staying in a residential area in which locals will at least see you regularly enough can potentially afford you the opportunity to get to know your neighbors, thereby opening up a whole new box of possibilities. For instance, my host brother and I ended up befriending our neighbor who also attends Obirin. She lives with her mom, little sister (also a member of a budding idol group), and little brother. Every so often we’d link up to cook, eat, and play video games together. There was even one time my neighbor and her mother took me into Yokota Air Force Base, something that only people who have base access can do. If given the opportunity to do a homestay in Japan again (or any other country for that matter) I’d definitely do it!

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Friendly Circles

Rodney McGary | Machida, Japan | Spring 2015

A vitally important part of studying abroad in Japan (or anywhere really) is making friends, particularly with locals.  Since Obirin has been operating its Reconnaissance Japan Program for over 20 years now, they definitely know how to make international students feel welcome and integrated with the local student population. On the first day of orientation at Obirin, you’re placed in a cluster with other international students and you all get acquainted over a welcome lunch. Within your assigned cluster are a few “Global Supporters” who there to answer any questions you have about Obirin, Japan, or anything you want to know.

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Based off my experience, most of them speak English reasonably well and are quite friendly. During the initial orientation phase of the semester, it’s possible that you’ll come in contact with persons representing one of the many school clubs (“circles” as they’re called at universities in Japan). In my opinion, there’s no better way to make friends at Obirin than by joining a circle because you’ll be surrounded by people who share the same interest and passions as you, whether you’re into dancing, martial arts, sports, anime and manga or other things, you’re certain to make some Japanese friends with whom you share common interests. In being apart of such circles you can become connected to on-campus social events, cultural events/activities, and even more friends (both on campus and off).

There are few circles at school that specialize in promoting intercultural friendships and learning. Early on, I was nabbed by such a group called 世界の友達 (Sekai no Tomodachi). I really like this circle because there’s a diverse crowd of people who can share their respective cultural practices and languages. Best of all, the primary language used within the group is Japanese! Another benefit of joining circles is the opportunities to hear natural Japanese amongst young people and using the Japanese you learn in class as well as picking up some more. If you’re serious about improving your Japanese, then joining a circle is definitely the way to go. At Obirin, there are similar circles to the one I’m in, such as Ichi-go Ichi-e and Global Supporters. Groups like these help to create friendships amongst members by: throwing various parties, hosting fun trips, doing  cultural events, and eating together during the week.

All in all, I’d say it’s pretty easy making friends at Obirin, as there many active circles on campus and many Japanese students here are eager to have foreign friends. You’ll be embraced all the more if you can speak Japanese or at least make a decent effort to try.

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Getting Around in Tokyo

Rodney McGary | Machida, Japan | Spring 2015


Riding trains in Tokyo is by far the easiest way to get to anywhere you want to go in the city as they are incredibly convenient. Now, when you think of Tokyo trains, what kind of things come to mind? A seemingly infinite network of trains spanning across multiple prefectures? Claustrophobia-inducing crowds during rush hour? Super fast and clean trains? If any of these came to mind straightaway, you wouldn’t be wrong! As a student coming here, this is a topic that I suggest you mentally prepare yourself for beforehand. I must say that if you’re from a big a city like me and already accustomed to life in a metropolis, adjusting to Tokyo trains is a piece of cake. However, for those of you who have limited to no experience with city trains, dealing with trains here may be a bit of a shocking and hectic experience (that can be overcome nonetheless).  Based upon my experiences thus far, I will do my best to explain the transportation here in simple terms.

tokyo trains

First off, there are 158 train lines serving the greater Tokyo area. Overall, I’d say that you’ll probably only be using a small handful on a regular basis (depending on how much of the city you want to see and how often you go). Luckily your commute to and from school won’t be very complicated. For homestay students, you’re generally not situated far from school. Just a quick train ride anywhere from 2-5 stops, then you arrive at Fuchinobe Station where you take the free shuttle to Obirin campus. If you’re lucky like me, you could get placed 15 walking minutes from campus 😉


As for getting around Tokyo on the trains, it may seem overwhelming at first, but there are maps posted at every station with information in both Japanese and English. If you can read a map, it really isn’t as complex as it seems (trust me, it’ll all make sense when you get here). However, in this grand age of godlike technology, I can’t neglect to mention that there are some free apps available to help you navigate the trains. Most of my Japanese friends here use the NAVITIME for Japan Travel app. Even the most directionally-challenged folks will be just fine with using this app.  Tokyo train stations are quite large and have a multitude of exits and transfer points and certain stops. There are also signs everywhere in stations that can easily direct you to the proper exit or transfer point, but sometimes contending with crowds whilst finding your way out can make the process a little daunting.


I’ve found that transportation here is a bit more expensive than what I’m used to back in America and requires stricter budgeting, because travelling long distances in the city can stack up in no time. For instance, me going to and from Yokohama to hang out (from Fuchinobe Station to Sakuragicho Station to be exact) cost 550 Yen each way, amounting to 1020 Yen (roughly $8.50 as of May 2015) both ways. The cost of your trip will be determined by the distance you travel each time. The further away you travel from your start starting point, the more you will have to pay. At every train station, above the ticket dispensers, is a map of train lines and alongside each stop is the price you have to pay to travel to each individual stop.


This brings me to my next topic: paying for the transportation! When I first arrived, I paid for train tickets using cash. Tickets can be purchased at the ticket machines that are usually located near the gates. These ticket machines may seem a little intimidating, but the interface can be switched to English with the push of a button, which can ease the situation a bit. In order to figure out how much money to put in the machine, simply locate your destination and price on the overhead map, and then insert your money. The machine will dispense your ticket along with change. From there you insert your ticket into the entry gate, the gate spits it out on the other end, then you take the ticket. Please be sure to hold on to the ticket as you’ll need it to properly exit the gate at your destination stop. Aside from paper tickets that need to be purchased for every single ride, you have the choice of getting either a Pasmo or Suica card. I think Suica would be your best bet because they are valid on all lines and buses at all times. Suica cards can be purchased at any train station and  recharged at the aforementioned ticket machines in increments of 1000, 5000, and 10000 Yen. In order to pass through the entry and exit gates, you scan the card over the card reader, which allows you to pass and displays your balance on a small screen. The Suica card is not only used for the trains and buses, but you can also use it at station vending machines and some casual dining restaurants!


In my experiences thus far, the train stations are always clean, orderly and safe. On train platforms people line up at designated spots that align perfectly with the train doors when the train arrives.  The oh-so-well-known Women Only cars are available during weekdays only at designated times that vary from line to line.  As for crowded trains…it’s not like that all the time, I would say it’s like that in the evenings and on Saturdays.


Just a small note on buses, they too are incredibly convenient, but just like trains, the further you travel the higher your fare. Each stop is announced well in advance as well as being displayed on a monitor at the front of the bus. Instead of pulling a string, you press a stop button, letting the driver know to let you off at the upcoming stop. One thing I have noticed is that buses will charge double the fare after a certain time. For instance, a trip from Machida Station to my house usually cost 248 Yen, I was charged nearly 500 Yen when it was close to midnight. I am not complaining, though. After all, I got home without incident.

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Japan: A Country of Convenience

Even though the regular Spring 2015 semester is officially over, the students in Machida are only mid-way through their semester abroad! We will be sharing journal excerpts written by Spring 2015 participant Rodney McGary about his experience in Machida. Stay tuned!

Rodney McGary | Machida, Japan | Spring 2015

Well, well, well, I’ve finally made it to Tokyo after so many years of wanting to come and waiting for the right time.  Before arriving, I did a fair amount of research to get a general idea of what a foreign student’s experience might be like.  However, the thing that really impressed me within my first few days of arriving was just how convenient things are here. I’m sure many of you who are itching to come here to study have heard about the ubiquitous convenient stores, or konbinis (i.e. 7-11, Family Mart) where you can: pay utility, buy concert tickets, recycle your waste, get your food heated, etc.  At the Family Mart on Obirin’s campus, you can even use copy machines and book travel tickets! How convenient is that!? Such features birth new meaning to the word “convenient”.

vending machines


Aside from the konbinis, I found everyday things in the house and beyond surprisingly pleasant. For example, in the house, I was introduced to the bathtub upon arrival. The bathtub has two control panels (one in the bathroom and the other in the kitchen), which allows you to automatically start the bath water (which stops on its own too). While the bath is filling itself up, that leaves you a little extra time to tend to other things.  On the control panels, one can also control the bath temperature and depth.  After taking a hot, refreshing bath wouldn’t it be nice if you could walk straight to the bathroom mirror and see yourself clearly, without all the fog?  The bathroom mirror is equipped with both a light and an anti-fog screen! These things and countless other things have made my home experience very convenient and comfortable.

As I go about my days here I’m continually amazed at so many other conveniences, such as the countless vending machines that can be found at every train station, on nearly every street, and inside of many stores. You can never go thirsty walking around Tokyo all day. The available selections are countless (juice, sodas, coffees, energy drinks, etc) and there’s no telling what you’ll find exactly in any given machine. Sometimes it almost feels like a treasure hunt, to find drinks I have never had before. Not to mention Japanese vending machines are certainly not limited to just drinks. So far, I’ve even seen machines that dispense books! What’s more, many vending machines at train stations accept payment via transit card (i.e. Suica Card) with just a simple tap on the card reader. This feature isn’t only available for vending machines, but at convenience stores too. One day I went to Chuo University to visit a friend and decided to eat lunch in the cafeteria. Little did I know that my Suica Card could be used to pay for my dish at a vending machine that’s right at the entrance, which then dispenses a ticket, then you take that ticket to the appropriate counter to pick up your order. This method greatly expedites the process, eliminating long lines and other inconveniences. Who knew paying for cafeteria food could be so quick and easy?

Thus far, I’m enjoying all the convenient little quirks this country has to offer. I certainly look forward to discovering even more cool things here during the semester.


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Get Out of Your Comfort Zone!

IESEG School of Management Campus, located below La Defense

Post written by Veronica Manjarrez
Paris, France
Spring 2015
My name is Veronica and I am currently studying in Paris. Paris is a beautiful city. For me personally I would never be able to afford to live and study abroad for 5 months if it weren’t for UHM Study Abroad program. The most  lucrative aspect is that I get to travel and live abroad while still earning college credits! A professor once told me that the greatest rewards are obtained when operating outside of your comfort zone. Though traveling abroad let alone studying abroad may seem intimidating for some, it falls away quite quickly once you settle in and build new relationships. In my experience, the most stressful aspect was in preparing to leave the states. The visa process was nerve wracking.  To be honest, however everything worked out smoothly.

The Study Abroad Center does a really great job of preparing students in terms of what to expect and basics that help while traveling abroad. Although in the moment the orientations may seem unnecessary for some, they are essential for all of us! When nervous about things that can go wrong, just know that this moment/opportunity will only happen once in a lifetime and you will be so happy you took that leap. In my case everything went according to plan until I arrived at the airport in Paris. The airline lost my luggage and I missed my pick-up from the airport due to the lengthy process of filing a claim with the airline. The orientations kicked in, and I remembered the discussion on transportation and how to maneuver within it. I was able to find my way to the host home without a glitch! However, I can tell you even what I considered in my brain to be the worst case scenario before embarking on this journey it was not terrible. I was able to stay calm and collected, and I just gave in to the entire experience.

The first week was a bit tough, attending orientations while still dealing with jet lag and all. I see now how crucial it was to establishing a routine that made it easier to fall in to the rhythm and new time zone. You will be surprised at how quickly a new foreign place becomes familiar. Being in a situation such as studying abroad helps you tap into different aspects of yourself that you may not have known existed. Taking in a new culture, making new friends and seeing and experiencing new things are well worth taking that chance!

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What to Expect on your Hainan, China Study Abroad

Have a free summer to pursue an advanced learning of Chinese language? Never been to China before? Then the Summer in Hainan study abroad program is something you should look into. I went on the Hainan trip back in the summer of 2006 and received a full year’s worth of language credit for it. This article will help you understand what to expect on your Hainan study abroad trip.

Here is Ernest, standing at the south gate of Hainan University. Ernest was in the 2nd level Mandarin class with me and also took most of the pictures used in this article.

1. You will sweat a lot.

The first thing you will feel when you step outside the airport in Hainan is the powerful humidity. Although the temperatures there are similar to Hawaii, the humidity is much higher and it is the humidity that makes you sweat (which is also how Las Vegas can be 100 degrees, but won’t make you sweat). There are air conditioners in your own, private room to provide relief from the humidity, but you cannot hide there forever!

One strange thing I noticed was that the humidity did not go away at night, like it does in Hawaii. When I would walk to the library at night to do homework, I would be sweating just the same as if it were daytime. For me, the humidity also made me very tired and I often feel asleep by 10pm.

In Hainan, you will be doing a lot of walking on the campus, so you should bring suitable clothes that will allow you to deal with the sweating. Shorts, tank tops, capris and athletic shirts are recommended for everyday wear. If you sweat a lot, try and avoid cotton, as your sweat stains will be very visible.

Aside from your room, the places on campus are not air-conditioned, including the library.

2. You will use Chinese in and out of the classroom.

The UHM faculty Resident Director for my study abroad program was Professor Ted Yao. He had a policy of “Chinese only.” He wanted us to speak Chinese the entire 9 weeks in Hainan to force us to practice Chinese. Well, the truth is that all of us spoke English when he wasn’t around, but everywhere else, we followed his rule. In his presence at lunch, we spoke Chinese only. With our teachers, we spoke Chinese only too. And outside of our classes, we were forced to speak Chinese with the locals on campus, restaurants, taxi drivers, and banks because most had no English speaking ability.

By the end of that summer, I was able to understand the 4 Mandarin tones, I had written an entire summer journal in Chinese, and my speaking was very fluid. Following Hainan, I took 2 more years of Chinese at UHM, but my Chinese never improved as much as it did during my study abroad in Hainan.

This was the 2nd year classroom during my trip. Expect to write, read, speak, and think in Chinese all the time.

3. The Chinese natives will be fascinated by you.

Many of the students at Hainan University are from remote areas of China, so they will be fascinated by you, a foreigner. If you’re white or black, you’ll stick out like a sore thumb and there will be stares. If you’re like me, an ethnic Chinese born in America, you’ll blend in… but as soon as you speak good English or speak bad Chinese, there will be stares again.

The main thing to understand is that their stares are not meant to be rude, but rather, the stares are because they find you fascinating. You can also befriend some of them as well. I got to know some natives and we enjoyed exchanging cultural stories and grabbing some beer.

Aaron, the guy at the very front, probably received the most stares of anyone on our trip. Aside from not being Chinese-looking, he is also about 6’6” and has a ponytail.

4. You will experience a different standard of living.

One thing you should be mindful of before applying to study in Hainan is that their standard of living is different than ours here in America. Thus, it’s important to keep an open mind when you travel there because some things are quite surprising. If you don’t have an open mind, you will probably have a miserable time.

One thing that was different for example, was that we did not have personal refrigerators. There was a water jug in our room, but the only refrigerator was in the lobby. Furthermore, I don’t think I once ever saw a freezer or ice. Another is that outside of your room, the toilet you use will probably be a squatter. And yet another one is that you’ll see people holding their nose and shooting snot out on the sidewalk. Then there is the driving — driving lanes and traffic signals seem to be optional for cars — all pedestrians need to be on alert when they cross streets. This is a just a glimpse of what really is a completely different way of living. Be prepared.

At the end of the day though, going abroad is not about experiencing the same type of life you have back home – it’s about expanding your horizons by seeing how other people in the world live and think. Please be mindful of this.

5. There will be plenty of opportunities to get to know the other students.

The entire group on our trip got along well. Although none of us knew each other at the beginning (for the most part), we all got to know each other by the end. Everyone’s room is on the same floor and everyone’s class schedule is the same, so there will be a lot of time to socialize. We would often gather around dinner time to try a new restaurant together. On several free weekends, I also remember going to the beach, the zoo, the mall, and also to a nightclub. There are multiple organized field trips on the weekends as well, so you should have lots of fun time outside of class. Also, you can consider traveling to different parts of China while you’re there. You’ll likely need a stopover in the Hong Kong airport to get back to Honolulu. I spent about a week in Hong Kong with a couple of other students on the trip on our way back to Hawaii.

Although many of us on the trip were different from each other, our common goal of learning Chinese and sharing the experience of visiting a foreign land provided us all a great foundation for bonding.

Luckily, we had Adam (blue shirt) on trip. Adam had been on the Hainan trip multiple times and took us to many places to eat off campus. I ate a lot of food from all over China while I was there. It can be tedious, because all menus are in Chinese, but it can be deliciously rewarding as well!

After dinner, we had one of the best desserts available: “bing qi ling”. It’s a frozen fruit smoothie of sorts… like a Jamba Juice that you eat on a plate with a spoon. I’m the guy with the baseball cap.

Organized field trips include trips to some scenic and historical parts of the island.

Here’s a photo of all of the study abroad students at a temple of sorts.

This field trip was to Sanya, a resort-area of China which has some nice beaches. Here we are playing volleyball in the water. The area has been popular in recent years with wealthy Chinese tourists. The area has also seen a tremendous amount of hotel development.


At Sanya, we also learned that our Resident Director, Professor Yao, was quite the “pool shark.”

You will also have free weekends to yourself. Here, Ernest, JP, I, and a Hainan University student visit the local zoo. That’s a real snake on us.

The Summer ‘06 in Hainan Study Abroad 2nd year Mandarin students finish their studies at Hainan University.

The Hainan Study Abroad trip is worth taking.

I am a man that looks at the value of things to consider making purchases. Looking back, the study abroad trip to Hainan was of great value. If you look at the cost of housing and tuition, the opportunity for cultural experience, and the amount of Chinese language learning, this trip is one of the best available in the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Study Abroad Center. As long as you can handle the humidity and are open to cultural differences, I would highly recommend the Summer in Hainan Study Abroad program to you.

For more information, please visit Hainan University’s website at or contact the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Study Abroad Center.



Author Bio

Ron Lum was a participant in the UHM Study Abroad Center Summer in Hainan program in 2006. He graduated from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. He currently runs a Hawaii Web Design business.

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