travel stories

Hello everyone! First off, I would like to thank everyone who is reading my blog, and hope you find my posts somewhat entertaining and interesting as I document my times here in Scotland. For my first entry, I’m going to talk about getting around the city of Edinburgh, which has been quite different than my time in Iowa City.

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How was your week off for Thanksgiving? I hope you all had a good chance to visit with friends and family and also eat your fill of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, and of course, pie. Being here in Japan, I’ve obviously been unable to celebrate in the traditional way. However, throughout the month of November I’ve been keeping myself busy in a few other ways.

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Let me tell you all something. I’ve been here in Japan for a little over two months now. During this time I have seen some amazing things, made some great friends, and had some incredible experiences. But do you know what has really gotten me excited during my time in this wondrous land? If you haven’t been able to guess by the title, it’s the food…the absolutely wonderful food.

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Before I came to Japan, friends and family would always ask me fairly common questions. Because I am missing out on a few holidays back home this year, I usually get this one: “Do they celebrate Halloween in Japan.” Although Halloween is more typically a Western celebrated holiday, the answer is yes.

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As anyone who has visited a foreign country can tell you, they have usually seen a different way of doing things that make them wonder, ‘Why don’t they do that where I’m from?” Therefore, today I thought it would be fun to look back at the things I’ve noticed here in Japan and list some of the smaller things I think would be great to introduce into American society.

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Well, classes officially started last week and my schedule is significantly busier! Today I thought I would tell you a little bit about how classes work here at Nagasaki University of Foreign Studies and some of the things I have been up to with some of my new friends.

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A year ago, if I had asked myself where I thought I’d be in one year’s time, my first guess would not have been, “A dimly-lit internet cafe in the middle of Cork, Ireland.” Yet, here I find myself, sipping a latte and trying to find the words to describe the most exciting, terrifying, liberating experience of my life so far.

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Dia duit! That means hello in Irish. My name is Kelsey O’Donnell and I am junior at the University of Iowa studying International Studies and Anthropology. For my entire junior year, however, I am studying abroad in Cork, Ireland at University College Cork. While here, I am taking classes in History, Folklore, French, Literature, and Politics. I chose to study in Ireland because it is a beautiful country with friendly people. I knew that it would be a good choice for my first long-term stay abroad. University College Cork has a great international reputation and the campus is gorgeous.

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My sexual identity has never been an easy subject with me. I like to say it is similar to having your worst fear tattooed on your forehead. So, I was branded with “GAY” on my forehead. There were nights where I hated every part of myself because of this one little section of my being, but there were also nights that I felt amazing because of my differences. Going to a nation that the majority of popular opinion is opposed to gay marriage was daunting and it made me think about more than just my sexual identity.

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First, a question for my fellow study abroad students (or potential ones). Is there such thing as the perfect host family? Well, I think so, and they go by the names, Harumichi and Machico. However, they have requested I call them ‘Otousan’ and ‘Okaasan,’ or ‘Father’ and ‘Mother.’ To my fellow Americans back home who are unaware of Japanese culture, this may seem slightly odd. However, in Japan, this is actually seen as quite normal and also, to a degree, respectful. They are an elderly couple who have a few children of their own (who now live elsewhere) and have done everything they can to make me feel like part of the family.

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