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Perfect Times in Tokyo

As we left the dock in Tokyo Bay, embarking on an hour-long cruise around the area, I couldn’t help but smile. This was the perfect way to end a perfect trip to Japan.


Before I arrived in Tokyo, I was lucky enough to spend a month with my cousins who live in Shizuoka, about an hour west of Tokyo. There, I got a very practical crash course in Japanese language, culture, and daily life. Coming to the CIEE program, I had no idea what to expect – how different would living in Tokyo be? How difficult would the classes be? Would I make friends? I was much more excited than nervous, but both feelings were swirling around my head as I made my way to Tokyo on the shinkansen.


Looking back on it, I’m glad I had an open mind going into it. It helped me meet some great new friends, try things I never would have thought to do before, and make my time in Tokyo as fun as possible. CIEE’s program is beautifully structured – the first week is like an educational vacation, with lots of fun activities to help you get acclimated to living in Japan and getting around Tokyo. Once classes start, it feels like a sprint to the finish line, but with every night free (or filled with another great event planned by CIEE or Sophia University), you still have plenty of time to explore and enjoy the largest city in the world.


I met friends that I hope to hang onto for the rest of my life. My group came from all over America (New York, Minnesota, Tennessee, and Seattle), and we instantly bonded after meeting on the first day. We ate lunch together every day, explored Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Harajuku together, and even did karaoke! We all knew a little Japanese and got to practice with each other throughout the program. We also visited the arcades more than a few times – we’re all fans of rhythm games, so we spent a lot of time on the upper floors!


This trip and this program have changed me in ways I never even considered. I feel braver and more competent when traveling on my own; I am more curious when going to new places; I am more humble after meeting and speaking with native Japanese people; and, most importantly, I met people whom I never want to forget. In America, we’re fortunate to have huge amounts of diversity all around the country, but you never really appreciate how varied the world is until you see more of it. Coming to Japan and getting to meet and see Japanese natives has opened my eyes to how different we are, as well as how much we have in common. I can’t wait to come back!


Group Pic
Group Pic
Group Pic


Yokohama, River Cruise to Odaiba, and Farewells

Saturday, August 16 marked the end of the CIEE 2014 Summer Japanese Studies Program at Sophia University. We are proud of our students for having experienced and accomplished so much during these short four weeks. While balancing coursework with activities and excursions, we are confident that they learned a great deal not only about Japanese culture and society, but also about themselves.

In my last blog entry I wrote about our excursions to Nikko and the Studio Ghibli Museum at the beginning of the program. Since then there have been more activities and excursions, such as the daytrip to Yokohama on August 2. The first stop was Hakkeijima Sea Paradise, located at the tip of Yokohama Bay. It is one of the top aquariums in Japan and is home to the famous Aqua Stadium, where students enjoyed watching performances with dolphins and other sea animals. 

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Following Sea Paradise was a visit to the Cup Noodle Museum. It’s safe to say that just about every college student in the US has eaten their fair share of instant ramen, so it was interesting to learn how cup noodles were invented and how they became popular worldwide. The museum is fun and interactive; one of the main draws is the “My CUPNOODLES Factory” where you can design your own cup noodle package. After decorating your cup and choosing your flavor and toppings, you can watch your cup move down the assembly line and come out as your very own, original, and completely edible cup noodle.

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We wanted to finish the program in a unique and memorable way. On the evening of August 15 we held our farewell celebration on a ‘suijobus’ River Cruise to Odaiba, a modern manmade island abound with shopping, dining, and attractions. On the boat we ate snacks, played games, and handed out prizes and gifts. The weather that evening was fantastic, and the view of the setting sun behind the expansive Tokyo cityscape was truly stunning. As we approached Odaiba we were greeted by the 377 foot tall “Big Ferris Wheel” (Daikanransha), Rainbow Bridge, and the Fuji TV Building with its spaceship-like Spherical Observation Deck. We exchanged farewells after docking near the Ferris wheel. 

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By the end of the program many students were saying that they felt torn about leaving. While they were looking forward to reuniting with family and friends at home, they would also miss Japan and all the friends they made here during their adventures. We were also sad to see them go, but at the same time we are excited to see how our students will apply what they learned while studying abroad to future endeavors. To all of our 2014 Summer Program participants; thank you for spending your summer with us, and good luck with your studies and careers! Ganbatte kudasai!

(Read about Amanda's experience on the program here.)



Academics, Adventure & Anime in Tokyo, Japan

IMG_8413Four weeks ago I stumbled onto the first train that pulled into the station, with rudimentary map reading and Japanese skills, hoping not to get too lost. Within 10 minutes, a kindly gentleman (who
spoke no English) got off the train with me at the next station to show me which line to take, and to which stop. This has been my experience of Japan in a nutshell. The people are extremely やさしい (kind), and when there is no English signage or menu or map available, they are more than willing to help in whatever way they can. IMG_6974

As an avid anime fan and an enthusiast of Far East culture and history, Japan is the place to be! Not only is it very different from the US (in all the right ways), but also it's also unique within Asia. CIEE has been instrumental in facilitating my experience in Japan including outings, academics, and a wonderful homestay family.

Last week alone I saw my first Japanese Noh drama (a story of a mother who went mad with grief after she lost her son and husband, and is happy and reunited with her son by the end of the play), and I was educated in the art of the tea ceremony (this included learning the proper procedure to eat sweets and make tea, watching a demonstration ceremony performed, and getting a tour of the tea house and surrounding garden).  IMG_8109These activities are imbued with the essence and import of Japan’s history and culture; what better way to experience a country than through these!

Let me tell you about my two favorite classes (of all time). In the afternoons I take History of Edo and Tokyo. Our assignments often include interaction with the city in the form of field trips. We’ve seen the Imperial Palace, been to the Edo Tokyo Museum, Asakusa, and the Ichigaya Hachiman Shrine to take pictures and walk the area as “field research” for our papers. In the mornings, I take Japanese Popular culture, which broaches sub-topics of “otaku culture” such as anime, fujoshi, and the virtual life the younger Japanese generation through both historical and philosophical perspectives. On several occasions we’ve spent the period watching and analyzing anime such as “The Time of Eve” (2010). This week, I presented with five group members after going on my first anime pilgrimage. It included sites in Akihabara that have been featured in the anime “Steins Gate”. Seriously, it doesn’t get any better than this…or does it?

IMG_7072Having only taken one semester of Japanese, I was a little nervous to do a homestay (but also ecstatic at the thought). My host family lives in the Kanagawa Prefecture; I have a mama, a papa, and for three weeks I had a host sister who was an exchange student from Taiwan. My family has been so helpful in orienting me to Japanese lifestyle, daily customs, and language. They’ve taken me to Kamakura, Matsuri, and upon learning of my love of anime, they accompanied me to an exhibit of art and storyboard from the new Studio Ghibli film “When Marnie Was There” ,and took me to J-World in Ikebukuro. They’ve also looked after me as their own (which I’m grateful for…Tokyo can be overwhelming at times when
IMG_8077you don’t speak/read the language well). Last week, I misplaced my iPhone at Shinjuku station and my host mom and host sister moved heaven and earth to help me find it by retracing our steps through the evening and using findmyiphone. Spoiler: someone had turned it in to the station lost and found. Which I was also extremely grateful for…


Yōkoso, CIEE Summer Students!

On the weekend of August 18, 59 students from schools all over the US arrived safely to begin their summer adventure in Japan with CIEE and Sophia University. On the morning of the 19th we had an orientation session at the hotel, and then headed to Nikko. Located in the countryside roughly 78 miles (125 km) north of the capital, Nikko is a popular getaway for many people living in Tokyo. 

Our first stop in Nikko was the famous Toshogu Shrine, built in 1617 in honor of Tokugawa Ieyasu, one of the three ‘great unifiers’ of Japan. It is also the final resting place of the late shogun, whose dynasty ruled Japan for 265 years until 1868. The fifty-five buildings are decorated with lacquer, gold, vibrant colors, and elaborate relief carvings. Toshogu is designated as a World Heritage Site, and is considered to be one of the most beautiful shrines in the country. Although the weather wasn’t ideal, the students still enjoyed exploring the shrine complex. Toshogu 01Toshogu 02Toshogu 03

Later that day we checked into the Mikazuki ryokan, which is famous for its indoor onsen (hot spring). After taking some time to unwind we dressed in yukata (summer kimono) and enjoyed a beautiful and delicious Japanese dinner. This was followed by another orientation session and a few icebreaker activities.Dinner 03Dinner 02Dinner 05Dinner 04

The following day we visited Edo Wonderland, a recreated feudal town filled with ninja,samurai, and geisha! We watched action packed ninja demonstrations and beautiful geisha performances, played traditional Japanese games, and visited museums. After Edo Wonderland we visited Ryuzu no Taki Waterfall and Kegon no Taki Waterfall, and then headed back to Tokyo.

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Group photo in front of the entrance to Edo Wonderland

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Students posing with a ninja after an exciting performance

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Elliot was called up on stage to be a part of the geisha show!


After returning to Tokyo we had several more days of orientation and cultural activities, a city-wide scavenger hunt, and a mini-excursion to the Studio Ghibli Museum. Studio Ghibli has produced many wonderful, world-famous films including Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, and Howl’s Moving Castle. Our students were very excited to visit the museum, as many of them are big fans of Japanese animation and pop culture.

Classes started at Sophia University on Friday, July 25.


Studio Ghibli’s animated films are beloved by people of all ages around the world. Here students pose in front of the robot from the movie “Laputa: Castle in the Sky.”



This isn't goodbye, just a "see you later"

As this program comes to an end, I am forced to reflect on all the emotional blabber that has effected me and changed my mindset since I have been here.

Only 1 month and I already feel so connected to Japan as if it were my first home.  The culture and way of life is completely different from America yet I still find so many similarities.  I have gotten to speak directly to natives about life here, both the good and bad and have learned much more than what can be found in a travel brochure.

This entire experience is one I would reccomend that anyone take full advantage of.  Yeah school gets hard and in the way but there is really tons of time to really dive into the life and culture.

Here, I would like to offer my top 10 spots to visit in Japan (in no specific order) and for those who are like me, you may fall in love at first sight.

1) Matsumoto Castle - part of our excursion                                                                              











2)Wasabi Farm - Try the ice cream! - another excursion stop









3) Ghibli Museum - final excursion stop, near the hotel  -->3




4)  Tsunahachi Tempura - Shinjuku - try the ice cream! ---->










5) Don Ki - Ultimate store for crazy random items for cheap (also, see the 100- Yen store and 390 Yen stores in Harajuku for souveniers and clothes)





6)  Government Building - This is part of the Sophia Tour of Tokyo.  We went to the observation deck  -->






7) Mount Takao - Easy to get to, tiring to climb, but its baby fuji and you can see all the mountains from its peak.





8) Disney Sea - Just, AMAZING.  Make sure you stay for the firework show at 7! -->


9) Narukawa Art Museum - A bit far, out in Odawara by the Odakyu somewhere but if you can, GO! --> Famous piece of Japanese Art





10)  Mt. Fuji - need I say more?


Do's and Don'ts of Shrines

As you may know, or not.. Shrines are a big deal in Japan.  It ties into the foundation of their society and culture which is the belief in Shintoism.

Shintoism, or "Kami no Michi" from what I have gathered is defined as the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the people of Japan. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past.

This belief is not so much of a religion in the way we think of it, but as more of a cultural awareness and tradition.  In this tradition, there are many Kami which are things, places, and beings which are honored and seen as gods.  For each of these gods, there is a shine built for people to pray to that specific god for what they are most remembered for if known.

In my short time here, I have seen tons of shrines both big and small, famous and unknown so here is a quick guide for them.

1) How to spot a shrine

Every Shinto shrine has either a Torii gate


Or a Shimenawa


2) Don't drink the water!  The water is meant to purify your hands before praying at the shrine, not to drink though there may be some designated drinking fountains.  Simply use the ladle to pour water over your hands and your done.

3) Try and do research before going.  Shines may become very boring to an outsider if there is no story behind it.  The fact is, every shrine has a story and a reason why it was built.  Find these out and it will make it much more appealing



Ex:  On Mt. Takao, I learned that the monster-like figures at the shrine there were supposed to be a representation of the first Americans to venture to Japan!  They were foreign and scary, so the shrine was built for protection and strength.





4) Be respectful!  Weather you are on a guided tour, or just roaming around, please be mindful of areas you can and cannot take pictures of!  Remember, while you may be there for fun, others are there for serious matters and are actually praying so please show respect!

Hidden Shrine in Matsumoto Castle **  Shirne

The Fireworks! July 31st

For one of the biggest firework shows during the summer, I decided that it would be best if I went and viewed with my host family.

This show was held on July 31st at 7pm but of course, we had to get there much earlier in order to get a good enough spot amongst the thousands of people that would be going to see the show.

To prepare, my host mother offered to loan me on of her sister’s Yukatas from when they were children.  She knew that I had always wanted to try one on and was more than happy to assist me in the fine art of tying.  


Unfortunately, “Yukata is not made for those with such nice curves” according to my host mother lol so, after putting on the dress and before tying the bow, we had to make some adjustments.  It took 3 rolled towels, a piece of cardboard, and a few bandages before I was able to flatten out my sides to make for a pretty bow.  This however made it very hot to wear along with it already being hard to walk in.  Still I wanted to fully commit to the occasion.



After we were all finally dolled up and ready to go, we took a cool cab to the train station.  This cab’s doors open automatically for you before you enter.  I felt like such a tourist staring at the door in awe. 

Then we joined the hundreds of people on the trains to the Showa Kinen National Memorial Park.

These were by far the biggest and best fireworks I had ever seen.  Each had its own presenter who named the awards that each showcase had won in competition.  I was amazed.  It was much bigger than the rinky-dink shows thrown together in New York for the 4th of July.

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There were so many different designs and shapes from bows, to sunflowers.  Some that glittered and some that popped.  It kept us entertained.



















Festivals and fireworks are a huge part of the summer culture in Japan, so whenever you can, be sure to venture out to one and experience it yourself!

















Again, it is simply amazing! So do it!

Conquering Fujisan (Mt. Fuji)

Since I arrived in Tokyo, set free to travel and do everything my heart desires, I have been living by the best piece of advice our advisor Shannon has given us.  She basically told us that if there is something on our bucket list or “things to do in Japan” list that some people might not be interested in, still does it!  Wee may regret it if we don't. 

This quickly started my list of things I want to do before I leave Japan.  At the top of this list was the ambitious goal of climbing Mount Fuji.

(For those who may not know, Mount Fuji is the highest mountain in all of Japan at a whopping 3,776.24 m tall.)


We had been told that a few of the spring students climbed so I knew I could do it, just needed to figure out with whom, when, and how.  Here is the dramatic story of how I conquered the mountain.

The Plan 

As time passed and people lost interest in climbing with me, I finally decided to go during my last weekend in Tokyo.  I would have to start making my way to the mountain after class on Saturday to see the Sunday morning sunrise and make it back down in time to rest for class on Monday (or so I thought) Of COURSE this was not only during climbing season of the summer, but the peak day of Obon week which is a holiday time dedicated to ancestors which pushes many Japanese people to venture home and to climb Mt. Fuji!  Yet still, I will climb.

I asked a few of the students that have climbed before to get the details on what I would need for a night climb and it came down to this which I barely had to spend money for 


-       Hiking Boots! (An expensive necessity even though I saw some natives hiking in Nike’s and Vans O.O)

-       Thick socks (or multiple layers) for the cold

-       Food (Onigiri is best since it is a great source of energy)

-       WATER!  (Went through so many bottles on the mountain)

-       Flashlight/head lamp

-       Rain jacket/poncho

-       Regular Jacket, sweaters, layers of clothing

-       CASH MONEY!  Bring as much as you can!  No cards are accepted.

Most of these items I borrowed from friends and my host parents so I was good to go.  Now I just needed someone to go with.  Day of the trip, I found out that none of the people I planned on climbing with wanted to go but luckily one student volunteered to go with me.

Were Off!.. I think

We get to the Shinjuku bus station and to my surprise; the ticket booth does not accept cards!  I mean, its in Shinjuku, was I wrong for thinking they were somewhat advanced?  Well there went most of my spending cash for the mountain.  Since they only sell tickets One-way, the person I was climbing with agreed to pay for my return ticket since I wouldn't have enough cash and I would repay him once we found an ATM.


So, we get to the 5th station of the mountain by bus and what now?  Its starts raining!  We asked everyone what this meant and no one could give us an answer.  It would be dangerous to climb but at the same time, it was evening (8 pm) and all bus ticket booths were closed.  Since there was no guarantee of a safe trip up the mountain, or of seeing sunrise, the guy I came with decided it was best that we just figure out a way home by train.  It was the logical choice but I guess I am not the most logical person.  Still, I climbed.

 The Climb Up

I quickly found an Australian couple that was more than happy to climb with me which meant I could still fulfill my dream of conquering this mountain.  Luckily, they also had extra water and rain gear that I could borrow since I forgot to pack it.

From the mountain as we started, we could see the final fireworks of the summer going off in the distance.  It was a great way to kick things off but quickly, our excitement wore off as the first few steps afterwards seemed like the toughest steps I’ve taken, on such a steep incline.  Here we weren’t even at the start of the Yoshida trail yet.  We could foresee that Mt. Fuji would be something we would have to earn with unbelievable amounts of energy, motivation, and bravery.

At night, the trail is beautiful since all you can see is what your flashlight shows, and the trail of headlights and stations all of the way up the mountain.  These lights were our motivation.  Lights ahead were our goal, and lights behind were our past accomplishments.  All of which played a part in the mental struggle it took to make it to the top.  We were demanding that our bodys endure thin-air, and hard excersice of every muscle which was a shock but we did it.  Still, we climbed.

Luckily, there were many people, from all over the world there to support us.  After many hours, breaks, naps on rocks, rain showers, and more breaks, we finally made it to the 8th station (final station before the summit).  Here is where we were able to watch a great sunrise, which came and went quickly as clouds apparently wanted to see the sunrise too and blocked our view. 


Now, we had to muster up the strength to go back down. 

The Climb Down 

By about 12pm, we finally made it back to the 5th station which you think would mark the end of this story but nope, not for this lucky girl! 

I had completely forgotten about the aforementioned deal with my friend that he would pay for my ticket back down.  So there I was, with 600 yen to my name and a 2,600-yen bus ready to leave without me.

After playing charades with the ticket booth women, I finally spoke with an English-speaking teen who told me that I could take a bus to Kawaguchigo station, which would be about 2 hours, and use an ATM there to pay for the bus I would have to take to get there and also for trains to get home.  Easy enough?

Kawaguchigo Station

Well of course, we finally get there and they show me a Japanese bank, which obviously won’t accept American cards! So, this determined bus worker walked me 4 blocks away to a 7-11.  Mind you, I JUST climbed Mt. Fuji, so every extra step is like another mountain.  Here, I found that the minimum amount of money you can take out at a time is 20,000 yen, which are roughly $200 and more than what I have in my bank account.  Still, this woman is looking for me to find a way to pay for the bus.

We walk back to the station to the tourist center where I can speak with an English-speaking woman about my case and she can offer no help except to tell me that they can’t let me go until I pay for the bus (not like I had money or directions to go very far anyway).

Luckily, the couple I had climbed the mountain with appeared at the station like a gift from heaven.  I was then able to use their phone to call the CIEE advisors for help.  Wakana Okamoto, our assistant advisor picked up quickly and started brainstorming ways to help.  We couldn’t transfer money because it would take 2 days, and couldn’t use my sluice because we were in the middle of nowhere and I didn’t have enough on it.  So, Wakana being the most amazing person she is, along with her husband, DROVE 3 hours to the Kawaguchigo Station to pick me up and drop me off home.  It was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.  I was rescued!

I finally made it home around 8pm extremely exhausted.  Dinner was waiting for me at the table and the rest of the night is now a blur.  All I do know is that I made it safely, and I conquered Mt. Fuji.

Moral of this story, DON'T give up on your goals, DO bring tons of cash wherever you go and ALWAYS know that when you need it most, there are great advisors that can and will help you in any emergency, not out of duty, but because they care.



Study abroad would truly not have been possible for me without financial aid so I suggest you take a gander at this post!

Just  a word of advice for future CIEE Tokyo participants and financial aid!


-The requirements are pretty general and apply to almost everyone

-Pretty much everyone who applies gets funding

2. Hold a fund raising going away party to raise spending money!

   - Japan is expensive, and you are going to need the full estimated spending budget to really enjoy yourself

- I did it! And I raised over the estimated spending budget!

-If you invite roughly 20 people (mentors, supportive professors, and well to do friends) and they give about $50 a person, that is easily $1,000!

3. Keep informed about your home school's deadlines for financial aid and scholarships

-Chances are, your school will have at least one, if not multiple scholarships that can be applied to study abroad.


Remember, you are still a student, and no-one expects you to come up with the full amount all by yourself. Use your resources around you including your home institution, scholarship sites, and CIEE scholarships.

My host family - Risk gone right

Hello again all!  Now that you know a bit about me, I can tell al about my challenges and great experiences I have had here in Tokyo. 

When I first came to Tokyo, I was very nervous because very few people chose to do homestays.  My line of thought when applying was that I would be able to get the full effect of Japanese life by living in a Japanese home.  After hearing of horror stories from past CIEE students of curfews, miscommunications, and just bad matches, I began to get worried.

The Meeting:

We didn’t find out information about our families till we got here.  Even though I read over our package explaining our host family members’ names, likes, and hobbies about a million times, I couldn't help to be nervous.  Meeting with my host mother for the first time in the CIEE office felt as if I were an orphan, getting adopted by a new family.  The night before, I had bought a whole new outfit just for the occasion so I could make a good first impression.

When walking in the room and seeing my host mother, all I could think is “wow, she looks so nice!”  And she was!  I then went on to gain a host uncle, aunt, father, and 2 year-old little sister named Haruka.  They made my beef stew, out of a can because they wanted me to feel comfortable with American food, which I thought was the sweetest thing!

After that, all the American ways of living were out of the window lol 


Daily Life:

I have a room that is way bigger than the one I have in the US and sleep on a futon on top of a shag rug, which is pretty comfortable.  Every morning, we get up at 6:30 for breakfast and to see my Otoosan (father) off to work.  Literally, we stand by the door and wave as he walks out like a cute little family.  If I am around, naptime is from 2-4 and then there’s snack time (which I love! Lol).  Dinner is at 7:30 and is always something new and delicious.  If I am not going to make it for dinner, I can just call ahead and let my mother know and its okay so no worries. 

The bond grows strong:


 Family time!

The first outing we had together as a family came very quickly.  We went to Tsunahachi Tempura, which is a famous restaurant known for the best Tempura around (Tempura (天ぷら or 天麩羅 tenpura) is a Japanese dish of seafood or vegetables that have been battered and deep fried.)  They even paid for me to try the dessert, which was Tempura ice cream with a strawberry sauce.  The BEST thing I have ever tasted!  Here is where I realized that my parents are awesome!  They are so funny and I can talk to them about anything.  We went around Shinjuku and shopped for a while before coming home, and from then on I knew


Since my host parents now brag about me to the entire family about how hard working and nice I am, the whole family wants to meet me.  I had the great honor to go with my host family to Odawara and to meet my host father’s parents.  I felt very lucky to have gotten such a good deal, having been really accepted into this family.  My grandmother owns her own shop where she sells jewelry, bags, antiques, and random trinkets she collects from around the world.  This shop is connected to her home, which is just as beautifully decorated with exotic pieces.

After lunch, we took a trip to the same Shinto shrine that my host parents got married in.  Since it was the day of the dog (the dog symbolized productivity and is plays a major role in delivery preparation), I got to whiteness first-hand a ritual prayer for easy-birth for my unborn host little brother.  It was great to be part of such a meaningful ceremony.

Then, we went to the most amazing Narukawa Art Museum which from its café, you can view Mt. Fuji and a lake full of ships and swan boats.  It was amazing and the art was astonishing.  I recommend this place to anyone brave enough to venture that far out. 


More food!

We made a few more stops and finally went back to the pretty house.  Here we had a sushi dinner. This would be my first time eating real Sushi and I was excited!  My host family didn’t think I would be able to eat it all and like everything but when I did, I was offered a permanent place in the family lol. They all stared and simultaneously said, “You know you don’t have to go back to America right?”  It was great.  As a bonus, my host mother let me choose any Italian bag or bow she had in her shop, which brought me to tears.  Blog2_dinner

 Couldnt have dreamed it better

Since I have been here, my host family has taken me to see the best fireworks I have every seen, shopping around, and have provided more than what they have to for me.  I never imagined I would see these “strangers” as a real family.  I love them dearly and know I will come back soon to stay with them again.  Deciding to take this great leap of faith to live with them has been one of the best choices I have made and I cannot thank CIEE enough for finding such a perfect match!