Just a bit of shameless bragging right now, but a few months ago I was approached by an Australian production company who had seen one of my videos I took in Japan years ago and uploaded to YouTube. They wanted to use a snippet in an advert, and they paid for me the use of it!
As part of my current round-the-world trip, I finally made it back to Japan. After a ridiculous four years away from that country that I love.
I wasn't originally planning to go back to Japan, because it's a relatively expensive country and I felt I should be spending my money on new countries and new experiences. But in the end my heart got the better of me, and I had to go back.
I don't regret it for a second. I've never had more friends in Tokyo than right now, and I stayed with several different friends, including a Japanese friend so I finally got to meet her family. It was a magical three weeks - full of reunions, visiting my old haunts and my university, and eating SO MUCH JAPANESE FOOD. It was incredible.
I've been away from it for two weeks now, and already my heart is yearning to go back. It was a kind of test for myself, to see if I still love the country as much as I did, and if it's a possible option for me to live there again.
My conclusion - it's a definite contender. Tokyo is such an electrifying city, and I've always loved it. I'm going to have to see how I feel when I go back to the UK in a couple of months. If moving to London is enough of a new adventure for me then I'm happy to stay in the UK. (My family might kill me if I go home after a year away and then immediately disappear again). But if the opportunity comes up in the future, I'd love to live in Japan again.
If you're interesting in following my travels around the world, I'm keeping a separate blog called Travelling Miles.
It's the best decision I've ever made, and I'm having the time of my life. If you're on the edge and can't decide whether to make the leap and go travelling, maybe my experiences will give you the push you need. It's so worth it.
Sorry for the radio silence from this blog over the last couple of years. I graduated, and life got dull! But very soon it's going to get very exciting!
My wanderlust is overpowering, and I'm leaving the UK again, this time on a solo round the world trip. In two weeks I leave for Brazil, and over the next year I plan to travel around South America, New Zealand, Australia and South East Asia.
To protect the Japanese sanctity of this blog, I decided to make a new one to document my next lot of adventures, on the hilariously named Travelling Miles. So if you're interested in keeping up with this newest journey, please have a look! There will be photos galore (regular readers of this blog will know I love visual aids!) and hopefully some good information and entertainment along the way.
It finally happened! The bittersweet day of graduation.
It was a few weeks ago, on the 9th July, and it was an amazing day. I was so proud to be there with everyone who I'd seen work so hard over the last four years and to be able to celebrate finishing with them. It was the last opportunity for everyone to be together before we all go our separate ways and spread out across the globe. So there were lots of sad goodbyes, and I was sure that I was going to cry on the day, but I didn't in the end - the half of me that was happy kept the tears away.
My parents and two brothers came up to Leeds with me, and I'd managed to get extra tickets for my brothers to come into the actual ceremony in the Great Hall, which I was really happy about. They were on the balcony above me, so had a really good view of the stage and the Hall.
Watching my friends and classmates walking up onto the stage and receiving their certificates really made me want to shout out for them, but I restrained myself. The whole thing was being filmed so I didn't want my wooping to be recorded in University of Leeds history.
As I walked up to receive my degree I was a bit nervous, but mostly just really proud that I'd made it. I didn't even hear them say all of my name. I was climbing the stairs to meet the Pro-Vice Chancellor in a slight daze. I shook her hand and smiled for the photo of me taking the certificate, and then walked off to the side. I couldn't resist beaming out at the crowd.
After the ceremony I had my professional photography done, which should arrive in another couple of weeks, and went to the strawberries, cream and champagne reception in the East Asian Studies departmental foyer. This is where most of my goodbyes took place, so was a bit emotional, but I got to say goodbye and a final thank you to my teachers and lecturers.
After that I took my family (my dad was acting photographer) on a tour of the campus to take photos of me in my gown in various places. As a side note, I loved the gown! It was so swishy and grand, I felt very important.
My family then dropped me off at my hotel in the city centre and I got ready for a graduation meal with some of my friends and their families. We went to Jamie's Italian in the centre of Leeds, which was very fancy and very nice. It was a four-hour meal though, with all the chatting and everything.
After saying goodbye to the parents, we went to meet some other friends at a nearby pub and then we went out in the evening. It was such a fun night, but was tinged with sadness at the end as I said goodbye to some of my best friends.
The next day was pretty hard. I had lunch with two of my housemates and a friend, and then had to leave Leeds, with no plans to go back. That was tough. I love that city so much! But I will definitely be back to visit, just never in the same capacity with the same people there. But I suppose that's just another step in life you have to take!
And now I'm back at home in Birmingham, earning some money and trying to figure out what I want to do with my life. It definitely involves travelling, because there are still so many places I want to visit while I'm young and free. And there are so many options and things I'm interested in pursuing, I need some time to soul-search and think through what will be best for me. One thing I know for sure - I need a break from academia! Although I may end up going back to Uni for a Masters, but I don't know what it would be in if I did.
If I do end up travelling, this blog will get more exciting again, but in the meantime I will update it with what I'm doing, even if it's very mundane! Hopefully there will be nothing mundane in my life - let's wait and see what happens!
Well here it is! The big scary final year. I can't believe that I've only got one year left. But more than that, I can't believe how busy I am!
My brother asked me over summer what was more work, A-level or University, and I said that up to third year, I still hadn't worked as hard as I worked for my A-levels. They have now been far surpassed! Final year (fourth year for me because of my year abroad) is so full of work I'm looking back to last year and wishing I had as much free time, even though it didn't feel like it at the time.
The things that are making me so busy are not only the work, which is comprised of a lot of Japanese readings to do for homework, including some really heavy stuff on theories of environmental governance (which is very interesting, but difficult), dissertation research, Japanese speeches, Japanese homework etc., but also the things I have to do outside of studying.
I'm doing a lot of extra-curricular activities this year, not just for my CV, but also because I really want to do them while I still have the chance. I'm School Rep for Non-European Languages, which means I attend meetings at all levels of the Uni (including the University Senate, which is incredible to be a part of) and fight for changes that students want to see. I'm also an Intercultural Ambassador, which involves event planning and management, and PR, for international events.
Then there's that horribly scary word - jobhunting. The advice I want to give to any penultimate year students - start thinking about what you want to do NOW! You won't have time in final year to think through it all properly, so do research as early as possible (going to career talks and your careers centre is really helpful), and try to get summer internships or something similar, and also try to do extra-curricular activities before final year, because the time constraints are tight!
Anyway, that's my busy life at the moment. Thankfully there haven't been any essays yet, but the first one will be set this week, so looking forward to that! But it's reading week next week, so I'll be able to work without interruption, or at least that's the plan!
This next post is on a much lighter note than the previous one about the March 2011 tsunami. This one is about my life! So probably a much less interesting post...
But basically my life over the last four months since the Christmas break has comprised of essays and deadlines! Third year is definitely a lot more work, and the level of dedication and intelligence required of us is higher. But I'm still enjoying it so that's got to be a good thing!
I had a Modern Japanese History essay about the role of the West in Japan's modernisation process in for last week, and that went okay, I think! This Easter I have a Creative Writing (my elective subject) portfolio to submit for my final piece, and a Critical Approaches to East Asian Studies essay about missionaries. So the topics I'm studying cover a wide range of information, which is good. Variety definitely helps when you're studying a subject in depth.
The problem is that I'm working at Cadbury World again this Easter, so I have very little free time! And two weeks after the essay deadlines I have three final exams, which will be tough.
But after that I'm free for the summer from the end of May! I'm hoping to do a bit of travel before working over the summer holiday. I want to see some places closer to home while I have the free time without commitments, otherwise I might never see them! I still haven't been to Ireland, and it's right next to me! Places I'm hoping to visit include Amsterdam and Greece, but we'll see if those plans come to fruition. It all depends on money I suppose.
Anyway, I suppose I should get back to my Creative Writing piece! Wish me luck...
The 11th March 2011 earthquake disaster occurred at 14:46 off the coast of Sendai. It was the biggest earthquake to hit Japan in recorded history, with a magnitude of 8.9. The last big earthquake to hit Japan was the 1995 Kobe earthquake, which did nothing like the damage Japan has seen in the last month.
I found out about it just before I went into a Listening class and, just like everyone else, I had no idea just how enormous the effects of it would be. I followed the news coverage closely, seeing each new video as it was released, and watched the death toll climb.
In the end I couldn't keep it up. I was torn between my interest in the event and the geography behind it (as long-term readers of this blog will know that I'm really interested in) and how sad it made me feel. Usually when I see terrible things on the news I'm quite emotionally unattached, so I was surprised when I realised just how affected I'd been. One video left me literally speechless after watching it. I couldn't imagine how powerful water could be before seeing this. In Britain we're so far removed from natural disasters, except for floods, that it's difficult to think about it.
Everything seemed to be getting so much worse over the days following the disaster; with the initial earthquake, then the devastating tsunami, followed by aftershocks and then the harrowing nuclear meltdown fears. I never thought that the Fukushima plant would meltdown, but of course the news played the worries up as much as it could.
I was in touch with my friends in Japan as soon as possible after I heard about it, and I got replies from all of them fairly quickly. I had a couple of friends who couldn't contact their families in the stricken areas for several days. I could not imagine how awful those days must have been, just waiting for any news about them. They were all fine in the end; it was the lack of communication that led to the lack of contact.
The death toll is difficult to find online, because all of the past articles with old figures are still there, but the last figure I heard was 27,000 people. My mind can't fathom that many people dying in just a few weeks.
Even Tokyo, quite far from the epicentre, will be suffering from planned blackouts into the summer, which will tough. Not least because of the heat and humidity.
It's difficult to find English news articles on it now, which is actually pretty disgusting, that it's dropped out of the public eye so quickly. It certainly hasn't dropped out of the minds of the Japanese people.
Japanese students studying abroad at Leeds have been really great, organising a stall raising money and managing it all day every day (they earned over £3,000 for the Red Cross appeal), and arranging lantern nights with food and drink stalls. It was a fantastic effort on everyone's part.
It's definitely an event that will not be forgotten for decades, and I don't think it should be. People need to be reminded of just how powerful nature is, and the nuclear repercussions will hopefully lead to increased safety procedures worldwide.