Ding Ding Smile — Welcome to Hong Kong!

“Ding ding” is what the buses are called here; one of the many names Hong Kongers use where sounds are incorporated into the naming. Aside from the names, there were many other things that shocked me upon arriving and for the last three weeks that I’ve been here.

But before I dive in, let me backtrack a little so you have a better idea of who I am. My name is Sarah and I’m a fourth-year biology major and psychology minor. If you’re a biology major, you know how hard it is to study abroad due to our course requirements and schedule — but I made it!

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Coming Home; The Biggest Culture Shock of them All

I’m now back home after what was an amazing, life changing experience in Thailand. I know that the people I met will be friends when I come back to San Diego for school and the life lessons I learned will stick with me forever.

After starting the program in Chiang Mai, we spent the remainder the last 5-6 days in Bangkok. Bangkok is, as my former JMS teacher would say, is an “entirely different animal.” Bangkok is much more populated than Chiang Mai and a lot more busy.

Every night the city streets would be bustling with street vendors and tuk tuks and taxi drivers.

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It’s the Little Things in Life

Obviously, when traveling across the ocean to live on the other side of the world, you find that things tend to be quite different. Sure there are the obvious differences you find here in Japan, like temperature being measured in Celsius, the use of the metric system and driving on the left side of the road.

However, there are so many little things that I’ve noticed that I find rather interesting. Here are some unexpected differences that I found while living in Tokyo!

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No Smiling: It’s a London Thing

Being from Southern California, I’m used to smiling. I smile at my 65-year old neighbor walking her dog, the young store clerk as he hurriedly puts my groceries in my bag and just about anyone I encounter on my daily routine. I thought smiling was a widely accepted gesture in all parts of the world—I was wrong.

Not even a day into my study abroad program in London, my preconceived notions were immediately shattered. Nobody smiles here. If you did try to smile, you would be greeted with scowling looks from the locals. And that’s exactly what happened to me on my first day in London.

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The World of Food in Tokyo

食べ物、食品、食堂、レストラン。

All of these words have one thing in common; they are all related to food. Food is an important part of any culture, so it seems appropriate to discuss my experience with the food here in Japan.

My last supper in America was leftover food I had from The Cheesecake Factory. Eleven and a half hours later, my world of food had changed completely.

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Alone in Japan

There is so much I have experienced and learned in just my first few days of living in Tokyo, but I would first like to mention that this whole trip was made possible mainly through the funding I received from the Gilman Scholarship.

Anyway, now that I am here, I would like to give an organized mess of my initial thoughts of being in this country. Having never traveled or left home before, my thoughts and feelings may be a little sporadic.

Here goes:

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The Experience

I write this on Feb. 23. I’ve officially been here for more than a month. That’s more than a month of school, more than a month of being around the people, more than a month of getting used to the area.

It’s enough time to reflect on what I have been through since I arrived here in mid January. It’s enough time to really understand what it’s like to live here, to realize what I miss (and maybe don’t miss) from back home in California. The daily life, the night life, the food, whatever it is. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp on the whole experience right now. And I’m going to share that with you.

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