Sunday, June 11, 2017

Pre-travel Itinerary

My name is Rose Steffensmeier. I'm a senior at Western Illinois University. Soon, I will be going to Japan for the first time in my life. I have wanted to go to Japan for a very long time and I now finally have the chance to do so. I'm going to Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata City, Osaka Prefecture. I will be there for six weeks, studying Japanese language, history, and culture. I've already arrived, but for those of you who want some help getting ready for a program of your own, I'll go over some of the steps that I took to be able to go to Japan.

1. Sign up for Kansai Gaidai's summer program.

I couldn't go if I didn't sign up for it. I went outside the school's normal programs offered in order to find this one, but the school itself should be the first place you look when looking for somewhere to study. They have a bunch of great offerings and there will be something for everyone. If money is something you need to be worried about, read the next point.

2. Sign up for scholarships and financial aid.

This one is very important. Scholarships really do help out when going to school in general, but especially when you're going overseas since you'll want to get souvenirs, try new food, etc. I signed up for financial aid through my college as well as scholarships. I managed to get one scholarship through the school.

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There was one scholarship that was the most helpful was the $2,500 I received from the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship (also called the Gilman Scholarship). This scholarship gives out awards to many students every year whether your study abroad program is for a semester, a full year, or for a summer like mine is. While many people got the scholarship all across the United States, I was the only one to have gotten it at WIU. There was even a press release on the website back in May.

Sign up for those scholarships; you never know if you'll will receive them if you don't sign up or not.

3. Getting visa and passport in order.

Since I had been to France before when I was still in high school, I still have a passport that was good, but if you are going to a foreign country, make sure you sign up for one months in advance. This way you'll know you will have it before you leave.

This visa was another matter. I had to look up Japanese laws and was confused on the wording of some of them. I even emailed one of the embassies to see what I needed, but I apparently emailed the wrong one. It wasn't until Kansai Gaidai sent an email about which citizens of which countries needed to get visas. Americans only need to get visas if they are going to be there for more than 90 days unless they are working. I'm only going to be there for about 45 days, so I turned out to be fine, but if you're going overseas, make sure you have the right visas.

4. Signing up for school credit.

I am the first person from Western Illinois University to be participating in this program. This meant that I had no idea if I would be getting anything that would be applicable to my general credits that I need to graduate. I talked with both my advisor and the Study Abroad office and, if I pass all of the necessary classes, will be receiving 8 humanities credits. I will be doing my best in all of my classes!

5. Purchase plane tickets.

I went with my mother to the travel agent in Macomb. They helped with purchasing plane tickets and booking my hotel room for the first night. I'm very grateful for their help and would go to them in the future.

6. Gather all necessary supplies.

 This includes textbooks. I had to make sure that I'm getting the right stuff.

7. Pack up everything.

I made extra sure that I did not put my passport in my suitcase and put it in my backpack instead. You need your passport to be able to get past airport security, but you have to hand your suitcase over to luggage first, so always make doubly sure that you have your passport on you BEFORE you give your suitcase over.

I can't wait to board that plane and go to Japan. I also hope that if you are going to an overseas country for study abroad that this list helps you out as well.

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