Day 21: Letter to My Twin Soka Brothers and Sisters [1/5] / by Sarah Kakusho

Dear 2010 Study Abroaders to Be,

Exactly 2 years ago, 2010ers from all over the world swarmed across the SUA campus for orientation. 2 years ago, we were only freshmen who had yet to experience what life at SUA was like. 2 years ago, 2010 Dynasty came to be. I love you guys.

I’ve decided every 10th day of the month, I will write a blog with some helpful tips for your coming study abroad experience. Stuff that I wish I had known when I came here. I was just going to write one at the end, but then I realized I don’t have a memory capacity that will remember everything till the end. Readers’ discretion: This is just solely based on my experience and experiences of other people in my program in Buenos Aires.

The Things They Don’t Tell You At Orientation [or maybe they do]:

  • One bag is sufficient to live out of, but two might be better. It’s better to under-pack two bags than to bring one bag.

  • Vacuum-seal bags help fit more in luggage, but it can also add more weight because there’s more space to put more stuff in.

  • If you went to the FNCC and got one of those pouches for your name tags, it’s a great money holder that you can hide under your shirt. Money belts are great also. Or wristbands that you can slide bills under. Or your sock, pretend your tying your shoe laces when you need the money.

  • Don’t exchange all of your dollars at the airport. Some places give you less than the exchange rate. There are other exchange offices to check out.

  • Check the weather conditions so you can pack accordingly. You don’t want to bring just t-shirts and a light jacket when it’s going to get down to 30ºF.

  • Buy a map and guide. It’ll help you find things to do, as well as help you get accustomed to some of the street names, especially if you know where you’ll be living.

  • Keep a journal. It’ll keep you sane for the first few weeks that you’re here.

  • Practice speaking. You can learn all the grammar and vocabulary you want, but in the end, you need to be able to speak to communicate. Read a book aloud, or just have a conversation with someone that knows the language daily.

  • Keep track of your money. How much you spend, how much you withdraw, how much is in your wallet, how much is in your bank. It’s slightly hard to know realistically how much you’re spending because it’s a different currency.

  • Ask the locals where the best affordable places to eat/drink/hang out are. The guide books only tell you the best, regardless of price. The locals always know best.

  • Avoid English whenever you can. People will come up to you knowing you know English and they’ll try to practice with you. It’s hard, but it’s the only way you can improve your language skills.

  • Call a radio taxi. I dunno if this only pertains to Buenos Aires, but never hail a taxi off the streets. It’s safer to call for one.

  • Get your host family a small gift that you can give them when you arrive. You’ll be staying for 5 months. It’d be nice to come bearing gifts.

  • Don’t forget to pack an umbrella, Q-tips, and hand sanitizer.

  • Check expiration dates. Very…important.

  • Take a couple of locks and keys with you. You can store anything important like emergency money and anything valuable in your suitcase and lock it so that no one will steal anything.

  • Be careful where you take your camera out. People are always looking to steal them.

  • Some restaurants charge for the use of utensils and bread service. This will be listed as “cubierto” on your bill.

  • Don’t leave your stuff when you leave to go the bathroom. Bush’s daughter when she came to visit Buenos Aires got robbed like that.

  • Bring a laundry bag to put all your dirty clothes in, so when you need to do your laundry, you can just lug that to the washers/driers.

  • Save your coins. If you plan on using public transportation, that’s usually all you can use.

  • Pre-paid cell phones are cheap, both in price and in quality. You’re only there temporarily so there’s really no need to get a fancy expensive one. Just one that calls out, receives calls, and has texting. People in my program have already lost or gotten theirs stolen.

  • Don’t be afraid to open up and reach out. My assistant program director told me that he’s seen many different types of people from different schools, but Soka always managed to have very friendly and open people. That’s saying something. So, be not afraid of not being able to clearly communicate. Those who want to hear you out will understand you.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. Well, if I forgot anything, it’ll be in next month’s Letter to My Twin Soka Brothers And Sisters. I downloaded a new song. It took almost 15 minutes to download, what with the internet connection fazing in and out. But, it was worth it. Here’s the message that it came with from the lead vocal of the band. I can’t believe week 3 is over, and week 4 is starting. A new adventure waits beyond the horizon.

GIFT. Sakurai's message: I wonder... “Which might be the most beautiful color? Which might be the most shining color?” This song starts with these words. Needless to say, at the Olympic Games, what is shining the most beautifully is the “gold medal.” However, I think that other than the radiance called “gold / silver / bronze,” which only the winners are awarded with, there exists, more importantly, a radiance which has more value. I believe that among the people who couldn't gain a victory, and among the people who give their best in their everyday lives where there’s usually no victory or defeat, each one possesses a radiance that does not lose to any medal. If this song can become a help for everyone to discover the radiance that lies within them there could be no greater joy for me. – translated by Mr_Children on

Chiheisen no saki ni tadoritsuite mo / Atarashii chiheisen ga hirogaru dake / “Mou yame ni shiyou ka?” / Jibun no mune ni kiku to / “Mada aruki tsuzuketai” to henji ga kikoeta yo / ... / Ichiban kirei na iro tte nan darou? / Ichiban hikatteru mono tte nan darou? / Boku wa dakishimeru / Kimi ga kureta GIFT wo / Itsumademo mune no oku de / Hora hikatterun dayo / Hikari tsuzuken dayo

“Even if we arrive at the edge of the horizon / A new horizon stretches on from there / I ask my heart / ‘Ready to call it quits?’ / And I heard it say back / That it wants to keep on going / … / What is the most beautiful color? / What is that which shines brightest? / I keep the gift you gave me, always, deep in my heart / See, how it shines now / It can still shine on” – “Gift” by Mr. Children, translated by Brian Stewart & Takako Sakuma

End – Week 3: Holding Onto Sanity