Preparing for a year abroad

Hi! My name is Tara, I’m currently in my second year of a bachelor in business, majoring in International Business & minoring in Japanese. Tomorrow I will land in Tokyo, Japan & will soon begin my exchange at Rikkyo University. As someone who has dreamt of going on exchange to Japan since the 6th grade (I wanted high school exchange at the time but same thing), I can’t believe that tomorrow my studying abroad will begin.

As my first blog post for this journey, I really don’t know where to begin.

I guess I’ll start with the packing aspect of this pre-departure. Preparing myself for a year overseas has proven to be much more of a greater task than I originally anticipated…in terms of a year’s worth of luggage, I’m constantly remembering things I have to buy. Being the paranoid person I am I have been searching “things to take on exchange” to get an idea of what to pack. Video after video, my list gets longer & the slight panic that I may be forgetting something increases. Currently I have two couches and a coffee table piled with ‘necessities’ (necessities plus the many things my mum believes I can’t live without). I’ve got things ranging from vitamins, my favourite snacks & foods (Iranian tea is essential), a mini sowing kid (mum’s doing), clothes, shoes, posters (I don’t think I’ll be allowed to put them up in my dorm but you never know) and printed out photos of my family & friends.

In terms of mentally preparing for this exchange, preparing myself for not seeing my close friends and family for such a long period has been quite alarming. Meeting up with friends has been a high priority the last month or so. The sorrowful tears that were shed as my two best friends and I said our final goodbyes was something I didn’t think would happen, we have gone months without seeing each other but I guess the fact that we won’t be able to meet up whenever we want is an odd feeling.

Despite this, I am so excited for what is to come. I can’t wait to get settled in my dorm, make friends, finish all my orientation sessions and finally start classes. I look forward to walking on campus and embracing it all. By following my host university on social media I have seen some sneak peaks of what my life will be like for the next year. Watching posts from Rikkyo University of their campus has really hyped me up for what is to come.

The thought of living in a completely different country for the span of a year is  somewhat frightening. Although a month ago I confidently said I’m not worried at all, slowly I’m coming to realise that this is a much bigger deal than I originally thought. But truth be told, my sheer excitement by far beats any worries I hold.

Studying a language is one thing but immersing oneself in the culture is an entire experience of its own. I am incredibly excited to see what experiences I will have, what kind of friends I make, how my Japanese (hopefully) improves and the thing I’m most curious about is, what kind of person I will become by the end of this journey.

Hopefully, in my next blog I will be settled down in my dorm & have gotten into a routine with my classes, so until next time..

5 Must-Have Apps When Studying Abroad in South Korea

Travelling to a foreign country for the first time is daunting for anyone. Seoul is a fantastic city that has a lot of delicious food to eat, interesting things to do and beautiful places to visit. However, navigating the city and making plans can be tough, especially if you don’t speak Korean. Luckily, there are several smartphone apps that will make studying and making friends in Korea so much easier.

Here are 5 apps you can download for free that will make your life in Korea infinitely easier!

1. KakaoTalk


This is the number one messaging app in South Korea and it should be one of the first things you download as a newcomer to the country. Everyone and anyone has this app in Korea and trust me, it will become the main way you communicate with your new friends whilst studying abroad.

The app allows you to communicate with other KakaoTalk users through text and call and lets you send photos and videos all free of charge as long as you have an internet connection.

2. Naver Map


Google Maps is virtually inexistent in South Korea – the local version Naver Map is the more reliable and detailed map service to use. This interactive map application also allows you to download the maps beforehand for offline use. It also has a handy feature that lets you save and download locations in Korean which is useful for when you’re lost and want to show the address to a friendly local to get help with directions. The only downside is that you’ll need to be able to read and type in Hangul as the app is only available in Korean.

3. Subway Korea


Korea has one of the most organised and easiest to navigate subway systems in the world. However, the Subway Korea app makes it even easier. This app is available in English and Korean. Download it on your phone to navigate the quickest route to your destination with minimum transfers, receive information on when the next train will arrive, when the first and last trains are for the day, and which carriage you should be on for the quickest transfer. Subway stations in Seoul can be quite crowded and you don’t want to waste time trying to figure out the subway map posters so a few simple clicks are all it takes with the Subway Korea app to get you to where you want to go.

4. KakaoTaxi


Although Korea’s public transportation system is world-class, there will definitely be situations where you won’t be able to use the subway or buses (for example, in the early hours of the morning). KakaoTaxi has you covered for those situations. No matter where you are in Korea, this ride-hailing app is cheap, fast and convenient and will have a taxi dispatched to your location within minutes. The app works similarly to Uber and is a safe alternative option to public transport.

5. Yogiyo


Let’s face it, as an exchange student in Korea there’ll be many times when you find yourself hungry but too lazy to leave your room. Yogiyo lets you easily order anything and have it delivered straight to you – Chinese, pizza, Burger King, and even ice cream and desserts. You can also read recommendations and reviews for restaurants and the app has real food pictures so you can see what you’re ordering.

From towering city streets to ski fields and mountains, cultural and historical experiences, plenty of delicious food to eat there’ll be many amazing memories you’ll make whilst on exchange in South Korea! Just be sure to download these helpful apps to help you make the most of your exchange experience!

Honkers Part 2

So we are now a little over two months in… and I am realising more and more that I love being a little fish in this big, big, crazy sea. I thoroughly enjoy spending time on my own and Hong Kong gives you endless opportunities to take yourself out on dates where you never really feel alone amongst the chaos.
In the most densely populated suburb in the world – Mongkok – you can found countless little Chinese or Taiwanese restaurants on the tenth floor of a 20 storey building crammed in between 2 other equally busy restaurants that will serve you up the most delicious broth at an amazing price… Honestly I could do six blogs just about the food and I am really giving myself a pat on the back as I’m becoming a true wiz at Chopsticks.  There is something exciting about picking your meal from the menu pictures and never really knowing what you’re going to get – just praying its not intestines or something like that!
Among other things, what I love about the young Hong Kongers is that they love to treat themselves. They love having the best – I thought I would follow the trend and wait 2 hours for ‘Hong Kong’s Best Bubble Tea’. Coming from uncrowded Brisbane this was crazy to me – I mean don’t get me wrong it was delicious but these people do this on a daily basis. Don’t let me put you off though – despite the huge crowds Hong Kong is a hub of efficiency. Everything in Hong Kong is how do we get as many people in the restaurant as possible and how do we get them straight back out again. So although you might see a huge line up for a little restaurant rest assured you will be served within 20 minutes! Although you better be ready to put your change away quickly and get out of the way!
What really has changed my life though has been the hot lemon tea. I am ADDICTED! This is basically a staple with every meal and if you have ever been to Hong Kong you know that you must preface every drink with ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ as everything is offered in both.
Another plus of living here, aside from the hot lemon tea, is Hong Kong’s central location.  It is close to most of Asia and there are so many airlines flying through Hong Kong that every week you will find flights that are cheap as chips to anywhere in Asia you wish to go. So far I have been to Cambodia and Taiwan and next stop – TOKYO.
Of course its not all jetting around here. I am starting to truly understand what living on a student budget looks like. But Hong Kong is perfect for youif you have plenty of money or no money at all, because you can pick the type of lifestyle you wish to lead! Extravagant, top of the range down to $15 AUD a day – note this is still eating delicious food if you know where to go!
Hopefully my next blog is less centred around food but it is unlikely. Until next time…