In Japan there are several types of VISAS (obvious comment here) with diferent limitations. At that time, I went with a student VISA which also gives you the posibility of job hunting. For the student and work VISA you must get a formal invitation from a sponsor or a company and then go to the embassy and exchange it for the VISA.
So from IAESTE Japan I received a Certificate of Eligibility which I was supposed to take to the Japanese embassy and exchange it for a formal VISA on my passport. It was the first time I went to an embassy, everything was so weird with security concerns. I remember we had to leave some of our things at the entrance and than a lady spoke to us very suspiciously looking and asked about IAESTE and what it was.
Last point on the to do list i was given was accommodation. IAESTE together with the Tohoku University would find lodging for me, a house for which I would pay from my monthly income. At this point I was so confused and lost that I was really pleased I didn’t have to worry about this.
I remember I spent hours looking at the house in Google maps’ street view. I was looking for grocery shops, (little did I know about convinience stores), markets, roads, transportations, bike lanes. I though who was gonna be my neighbour, how would I go to the city centre everyday, what bus would I take. I was so excited about everything.
But as time passed, something really cool happened. Another student that got an IAESTE internship for the same laboratory contacted me and told me that he had already stayed in that house. He told me that it was far away from the center, expensive and unfurnished and he recommended me the students residence where he was staying.
Not only did this colleague recommended it, he made sure they had a place for me and arranged for the reservation of the room. So I left that house behind and started to search more about this dormitory.
This ended as being the best thing that ever happened to me.
In my oppinion, student residences are perfect when you are in a foreign country. From my experience I can tell you that it is the best way you can meet people. Not only was most of my social life in Japan thanks to the people in that dorm, at this moment, so many things would not have happened to me if it weren’t for this. This was most definitely a life changing moment.
Credit and Debit Cards
Well, regarding this, I can speak mostly for Portuguese people. For what I understood, every time you withdraw money with your debit and credit card you are charged extra fees. In Japan payments are mostly made in cash so I was and you will be making a lot withdraws.
I found out that the Portuguese bank CGD has a special card you can use abroad without being charged these fees. To get this card, you need to know the address where you will be living and present proof of residence. They will use this address as mail address, so it is best that you provide a real address. You can check this here.
Also, so that you do not panic like I did, my card only worked at 7 eleven machines. But I want to do another post on this later.
So at this point, I already covered the basics. Looking back, I was so excited, confused and lost that I really just approached this as a to do list: this, and this and this. I didn’t have much time to take things in calmly and process them appropriately.
This was all done in August, the month where most Portugal does not work and everything is really slow, and I would have to leave on September 6 I think. I got nervous because everything took so long and I was really panicking that the time would come and they would decide that I would not go after all.