Second Week

This was me and Henry’s first official week of work, so I was both scared and filled with anticipation


During our time here in Japan, Henry and I work as TAs at the Technos College. Our responsibilities typically include attending a couple classes a day and sitting in a community space the rest of the time. Today, I had 3 classes and I was surprised by the diversity of the staff. The teachers I helped today were from many different places like New York, England, and Bangladesh. All the classrooms were also very lively and a lot of students bombarded me with questions about America and myself and I had my questions about Japan answered too, in particular, I finally got an answer for where I can get a good cooking knife, so that will be a trip eventually. Being inside from 9 AM to 7 PM on top of the 30-minute bus ride from the sharehouse had Henry and I drained. Even the teachers were a bit shocked by these hours and said they would look into it. On the way back through Henry and I ran into a stand selling lacquerware items at the bus station which I may look into buying the next time I pass by.


Getting into work today I was welcomed with good news as Henry and I only needed to be in the building for 7 hours a day. The college also provided us with iPhones to use throughout the day. Today, we had to attend two classes and attend a welcoming from the English career students that Henry and I will be working closely with in the future. We got to meet all of them and we played charades, and Kahoot. After that we got to work on editing several students’ scripts they were preparing for the international week – a 2-week long event where people from Technos’s sister schools including IWU are taught about Japanese culture by members of the student body. About 60 people will be coming and will be escorted by students mainly through the Tokyo prefecture. The students we helped, in particular, will be leading them through the Yukata practice and also public bathing etiquette.

After preparing for the international week, we all headed to the international Week planning session. Henry and I were assigned to the sightseeing and scavenger hunt groups respectively. Only one person in my group was an English student, so things were a little tough, but we got a lot of work done. The sightseeing will mainly be taking place in the Akihabara area and we will visit a couple parks, statues, and a temple.

Finally, there was a reconvening of all the groups and a funny thing as one group confused Jackson 5 with Maroon 5 during their presentation. Everyone was dismissed at around 8 PM, so looks like I put in a bit of overtime today


Today I attended two classes – a basic grammar and a conversation one. The conversation one was the interesting one as I got put in a separate room with a student to talk one on one for the full hour. We talked about some grammar points, good food in the area, as well as a bit about our hometowns.

After that, Henry and I decided to take our lunch break at a cafe called Gusto the student I had the one on one with recommended. I ordered the Mentai cream pasta which I am still not sure I even know what it is.

After lunch all there was to do was go to the badminton club which a couple students helped me join. People here were really good and not a single one at the time was an English student which was a scary experience. I never really learned the rules of badminton so they all had to teach me by mainly just pointing at where to move. I also learned of it the day off so I had to play in my work clothes which is a big no-no in Japanese culture. I was let off the hook though since it was my first time and it’s not like I could play in my socks. We went for 2 hours and everyone in the club was very nice and understanding with me. I then checked out a Chinese place near the school and had the best boba of my life and for the first time some mapo tofu.


Thursdays are my busiest days because I have four classes. Two of them were Spanish classes which I had never TA’d for before. It was interesting to hear Spanish spoken with a Japanese accent and I got to learn some of the differences between Peru and Mexican Spanish since the teacher was from Peru. One surprising thing I have learned is that Japan has a surprisingly large Peruvian population. The teacher was nice and even reserved a Peruvian restaurant for everyone in the class that was interested in trying it. Nothing really noticeable happened besides that though.


Today all I had to do was to attend a two-hour public speaking class which was a bit scary for both myself and the other students. Being put on the spot and speaking in front of groups is something I get very anxious about. Besides my anxiety, it was a fun experience overall and the students were very talkative. They even suggested that Henry and I try Okonomiyaki, so we did just that after the end of class. We went to a small shop near the school and they gave me a weird look when I tried to order mochi and mentai in it. I guess it’s some sort of trend with young people since the lady who made mine said that is not real okonomiyaki. On the way back we also found a little display of a soba doll in a station

The Soba Doll


Henry and I went to Saitama today which is a prefecture north of Tokyo. I wanted to check out the Totoro forest which was huge according to google maps, and there was also supposed to be a beautiful lake there. Getting there was a bit tricky for us, Henry and I got on the wrong train a couple of times. I learned that this place is the highest producer of wheat in Japan, but sadly we weren’t able to find a place that sold udon noodles.

I wanted to go to Tokorozawa in particular which is a city that’s known for its nature. Right outside the station was a place that sold Sobakawa pillows which I had been looking for.

The Pillows

We also ran into a shrine while wandering around the area. It took us about an hour to walk to the forest but eventually, we made it. We spent at least 3 hours walking on the hiking trail, and now I get why this place is known for its nature. There were so many people jogging and biking. I did make the mistake though of not getting breakfast, so my energy was not where it needed to be.

The Shrine

We eventually made it to Tama Lake which took a lot of stairs to get to and it also had some monuments and sculptures around it. Me and Henry decided it was time for food so we got on a walking trail. We were on this for a couple of hours and each time we came across a restaurant it turned out to be closed. Eventually, we made it to a shrine with some restaurants around it, but they were all very expensive.

A while later, we found an Italian restaurant in the middle of a highway and settled for that. This was my only meal of the day, so I accepted the 40-dollar price tag for pasta, soup, and a slice of tira misu I got. By this time it was already 8 PM and there was not much lighting on the way back home. Things felt pretty creepy especially when going through the shrine.

We made it back to a station and I found a FC Tokyo statue thing which my friend is a fan of, so he got a kick out of it. Sleeping on the pillow was a weird experience since it felt like sleeping on a bunch of pellets. It didn’t feel good, but it also didn’t give me any back pain or soreness or anything. It also felt cool and never got warm.


Henry and I planned to meet up with a Japanese international student, Taiju, that went to Illinois Wesleyan University last year. He wanted to meet up in Nihonbashi which meant Henry and I had to make a transfer to Shibuya, so we planned for that. I tore my sneakers during our walk through Tokorozawa, so we started making our way to a discount shoe store. On the way, I stumbled upon a Thai festival with a bunch of people, but my feet were killing me, so I knew that I needed new sneakers ASAP.

Taiju suggested I go to an ABC Mart where I picked up some sneakers. I headed back to the Thai festival but now there were almost double the people and I could barely walk around. Lines were like twenty minutes at least at each stall, so I asked my friends what Thai food was worth getting. They suggested mango sticky rice, anything spicy, and papaya, but no papaya was in sight so I got the mango sticky rice, spicy chicken, and some shaved ice. This took me over an hour of just standing in line.

After this, it was time to go to Nihonbashi. I stepped out of the station and was surprised by how big the city was. I met Taiju at a convenience store where we stood around for like 20 minutes waiting for Henry so we just decided to walk around for a little. There were a bunch of expensive stores around here like Gucci and all of the malls felt fancy and even had elevator attendants and other people walking around dressed fancy.

We made our way to a rooftop garden which Taiju said was common in Japanese malls in bigger cities. Eventually, we went back to pick up Henry and went to a discount shoe store for my gym shoes. After that we went to a restaurant Taiju knew that had a good kaisen donburi- a rice bowl with seafood. We had to wait around 2 hours in line, but it was worth the wait cause we got some pretty high-quality sashimi, sea bream, and sea urchin for less than 15 dollars. After that, we went to an izakaya (Japanese bar with food) and I had some steak and taiyaki.

First Week


Today was a bit grueling given the jetlag as well as me and Henry having to report for work at 9 AM. Thankfully our apartment is located in front of 7 11 (which is way better than in America), so breakfast was no issue. The meeting was kinda basic and introductory with both of us being given our schedule, meeting some upper classmen, and learning that we apparently having work every weekday from 9::00 AM to 7:00 PM. It was way shorter than I expected, so with our free time me and Henry checked out a thrift store next to the school and on the advice of some students made our way to Shibuya even though we did get caught up in the rain.

The city was a bit intimidating to me, as it seemed far more intricate than any that I have been to in America. Every building was packed with stores and seemingly no empty floors. Me and Henry spent our time just walking aimlessly, but we did run into the famous Shibuya Scramble Crossing. Honestly it wasn’t that confusing besides the tourist who were recording themselves running through the crosswalks. I didn’t wanna be like one of them, so I did not take a video, but going through it is definitely an experience. I do think that the trains are honestly more hectic though during peak hours.

Walking around on the first night.

Eventually we got hungry and texted some of the students asking where we should get some food. They suggested some conveyer belt sushi place, but by the time we got to them there were waits an hour long. We ended up just going to a restaurant near our sharehouse instead and it was my first time eating a fresh shrimp. It was crazy seeing the entire thing just slide out of the shell


Today all me and Henry had lined up for today was a welcoming party in the evening. I decided to do a little exploring around the sharehouse to do some much need shopping. All I had bought up to this point was some plushies and snacks from Shibuya, and I realized I forgot to pack stuff like conditioner. First up though was cleaning my room and since I woke up at like 4 AM I just organized my room.

My room after I organized it.

After finishing up with my room I started my day by taking a walk in a park nearby. Here I saw a bunch of cool trees, plants, and even a mini shrine. Then I stumbled upon a grocery store and decided to check it out. The workers there were extremely nice and helped me find some stuff like natto. anman and nikuman which I had heard about from stuff like tiktok. I was hungry by then, so I also picked up a baked sweet potato which is apparently really popular here. They taste nothing like the ones from America and have a white color, creamy texture, and subtly sweet taste. On the way back home I found this drug store and was able to some conditioner and face wash which got a bit complicated since everything was in Japanese. My backpack was full at this point so I went back to the sharehouse and also ate the anman and nikuman that I bought at the store. These were sort of like huge dumplings that had a red bean or meat filling in them. Overall the taste was good and now Henry is pretty much addicted to them. I also tried the natto which is a type of fermented soy bean food. They were very sticky and had a taste reminiscent of blue cheese.

Japanese Park

After finishing up eating I decided to look for a shop that rented out bikes and ended up getting lost for an hour since it was apparently under construction. During this time though I found a pretty cool trail that I can go to once I end up finding a bike. Next to the construction there was also this thrift store where I bought a couple ties and gifts for my family. There was also this market street I stumbled upon where I got some omurice and ended up talking to the owner and a grandma for like half an hour. Mostly it was just about family and also the owner who has been to like 8 different countries with photos of all of them on the wall. The grandma also even gave me a little red bean candy which tasted interesting. Further down the street I saw a little fruit shop and bought a melon as well which the guy told me were in season right now. Above you can find a picture of my haul.

After all of that me and Henry made our way to the school for our welcome party which ended up this mix of a pinata game as well as a gameshow with us answering questions. It was pretty strange and scary, but also fun since. In the end I was able to give them all sorts of Mexican candy that I had brought from home. They did not have any food though, so me and Henry went to a restaurant afterwards near the sharehouse.


Today me and Henry decided to explore a bit more of downtown and so we decided to head to the Ghibli museum near Tokyo station. It took about 2 hours for us to figure out where we were and where to go. We ended up not even being able to get in since you must reserve your tickets one month in advance. Instead we just explored the park around the museum which had a shrine, cool trees and a little pond. We also ate at some ramen at a shop we found in an alley

The Park.


Today I just explored the town we are staying in. For breakfast I had some Nepali food at this place nearby. Apparently they give unlimeted naan and I talked with the owner for like 30 minutes and we bonded over being foreign and thankfully he spoke english which made things easier.

I then visited a store that was popular with students called donquixote. It reminded me of the Mexican fleamarkets that my family would go to and prices were absurdly cheap. In the middle of the town there were these giant mesh walls for a golf course that it was pretty crazy to see. Apparently golf is really big here especially among businessmen.

I came across a local co-op as well and had some milk which was very different than the stuff in the states. Tasted very fatty and a lot more variety in dairy as well like calpis soda which my friend from Uzbekistan used to tell me about.

Also stumbled upon this park with lots of animals like ducks, turtles, and fish. It was a little bit lonely though since I saw all these people playing volleyball and basketball and I was just alone.

The Park
Map of the Park.

Once it was time to get back home I hit the Soba place near home and had some for the first time. The shop also had some sea salt popsicle for like 50 cents so I got one since I never had one before.

Then I went to another thrift store for some gifts. I found a kids section, so I asked a mother there for some recommendations for my niece and she looked with me for 10 minutes and I got a couple

First Day


I’m not really sure what to put for this section since it’s a recap of our international flight that took like 17 hours.

The flight was scheduled for 6 AM, and my mom told me to make sure to get some sleep, but I ended up falling asleep like at 1 AM. The only reason this was an issue was because my family lives about an hour away from O’hare airport , and my sister wanted to get there about 3 hours early. The drive to O’hare was pretty quiet, and for such a big airport I was suprised how small This was my first flight since I was about 5 years old, and I am thankful she did this since we had issues with luggage for like an hour and it gave me time to settle in. Eventually I met up with Henry who I am doing this internship with, but pretty much all my pictures are unusable from this time. I actually forgot my gopro in the luggage and pretty ust had my passport, phone and switch with me.

For the flight we had a 3 hour layover in San Francisco, and on the way to there I pretty much slept the whole time. In the airport though I did some walking around, and it gave me sort of a surreal feeling. When I was about three years old my family moved to California and came back to Chicago when I was five years old. I always had these distant memories of mountains always either in the horizon or around and it was nice to sort of see them again. I also found a cool mural, but I was cutting it close to my flight at this point and went to walk back to the terminal. On the way there I got a juice that was like eight bucks for some reason and it was surprisingly spicy. It was worse for Henry though since apparently he was charged like 18 bucks for a salad and water.

I also slept for like half the flight to Japan, so I don’t have much to say about it. I was only really ever woken up when it was time to eat, and the food was surprisingly both included in the ticket and decent in quality. Other than that I just played my switch until we landed and took some videos of the coast and some other interesting like of how tiny the boats looked.

After we landed I was exhausted, but I still had to get my luggage go through customs and find the person picking us up. My phone no longer worked and just wanted to move into my room, but getting through all of this took close to an hour. Devesh, an IWU alumni, was still working at Technos College and guided us on our first afternoon in Japan. He took us by train to our apartment, and the chaotic nature of the public transportation is just something you can’t really explain in words. In the train everyone is all squished with no room to move especially since we were located so close to Tokyo city. At one point I was left behind staring at Devesh as the doors were closing. In the end I just got what was necessary out of my luggage left the rest on the floor and get some proper sleep (even though I had no blanket or pillow).


Picture of me earlier in the
year cause finals are really
hitting me rough right now

My names is Alexis and I’ll be participating in the Freeman Asia Program. Leaving the country much less Illinois has always seemed out of reach given my family’s socioeconomic disposition. This is why I am so grateful for the position I was awarded at Technos College in Tokyo, Japan. To start this off I thought that I would begin by thanking both Dr. Amoloza and Dr. Kojima for all the help they have given to me and other people pursuing the program in the past semester. I acknowledge that this program is some what of a privilege to be awarded at the undergrad level.

Image of Technos College

During my two month stay in Japan I will be a sort of teacher’s assistant for the English courses taught at the school. I have previous experience in sort of learning languages given my two minors in Japanese Studies as well as Hispanic Studies, but not really in teaching language. I was a TA for Japanese 101 last semester, but in that situation me and most of the students there grew up speaking English. Once I am at Technos I might not have the leeway I was given here. This has me both scared and excited for what is waiting for me in Japan

Hello World