Marissa’s Japan Adventure blog post #3

COIL Day!!! Today was the entire reason for our trip to Japan- the COIL International Symposium hosted at Kansai University in Osaka. Japanese people really have a way of making you feel important. When we arrived in Osaka, they had sent someone from the travel agency to pick us up from the train station- sign and all! And then when we got to the University on the morning of the symposium, they had a conference room for us with gift bags, name tags and coffee!

A warm welcome from Kansai University!

A warm welcome from Kansai University!


COIL Symposium

Reserved seating for the Americans!

Reserved seating for the Americans!


The day started off with a couple of talks about Japan and the COIL program in the morning, followed by a Japanese style lunch. In the afternoon portion, it was our turn to present all of our hard work and show the audience of university administrators, professors, and business men and women what COIL is all about. Our professor and the Kansai professor that we worked with spoke about the COIL program we used in our class, the assignments we had and how they were able to incorporate it in to their coursework. During this part, myself, Ally, and some of the Kansai students got up to explain the benefits and personal challenges we had experienced over the semester. Originally, our student testimonials we not supposed to be very long, but it turns out that the audience had the most questions for us out of anyone speaking all day! They really wanted to hear from the students and what we honestly thought of the program. They asked us about each of the assignments, how we stayed motivated to do it, whether or not we think what we learned would help us in the future business world. It was great to feel like people wanted our perspective the most, because if they decided to incorporate the COIL program into their classes and universities, then they wanted to know how students would react and feel about it.

COIL Presentation

Oswego/Kansai teams after our presentation


The cross-cultural competence class we worked with at Kansai was made up of students from Japan, and teaching assistants from the U.K. and Australia, so this really was a completely intercultural experience. After we finished the presentation the Kansai students gave us a full tour around the campus and then took us on the train to Shinsiabashi, a huge shopping area that is basically the Times Square of Osaka. We had pan fried Japanese noodles called “yakisoba,” which I have discovered is one of my favorite things to eat here. I also love the shrimp tempura and dumplings! Some of the girls got “Takoyacki” which is fried octopus! Tacko means octopus and yacki means fried. So there you go. I was truly too full from dinner but I will definitely try one soon! They are also really big into fish here, way more than us, which I like, but I have yet to try “shashimi” or raw fish. Surprisingly, they don’t really eat any sushi here, as the foreign exchange students we have met say it’s more of a special occasion food! And here I am thinking they eat sushi for breakfast, lunch and dinner over here in Japan, boy was I misled. But they do like to have fish with breakfast… quite a bit of it.


Shrimp Tempura

I really like to try different foods, and love what they offer for lunch and dinner, but as for breakfast? Well, I really need my American food, as do the rest of the people in our group it seems. So I’ve been acting in true college student form and making do with what I have. Every morning before we get on the train to go somewhere, we stop to get food for breakfast, and I buy pancakes in a plastic package, and a small syrup container. I get a tiny ice cream spoon and pour the syrup in the pancake package. And you’re good to go! Now I realize how desperate this sounds (and looks), but a girl needs her pancakes in the morning.

Stay tuned…

-Marissa Sarbak  

Marissa’s Japan adventure Blog post #2

Day 2: Osaka

Everyone. is. so. nice. SERIOUSLY EVERYONE. Take our waitress for example- I asked her how to say “water” in Japanese and because she wasn’t too sure of her English, she found someone to help her and she drew a picture to explain it to me! She really went out of her way to try and help me, something I’ve noticed many people here do, especially in Osaka. We are also having a difficult time with the trains here because everything is basically written in Japanese characters… and no one in our group can read any of it. Problematic, yes I know. Every single person I have asked directions from on the trains can’t speak a word of English, yet they all go completely out of their way to try and help you! We have had people walk us right over to the platform we needed because they couldn’t figure out how to say it in English. Slightly different from the train stations in New York, huh?!

photo 2

Now today was the day we got to actually meet the Japanese students, so needless to say I was pretty excited! In all honestly, I was kind of nervous as well, because I didn’t know what they thought of our students, or Americans in general. As a culture, Japanese people are pretty polite and they are not blatant at all in what they say (generally unlike many Americans). Sometimes this is kind of nerve-racking because you aren’t sure whether they actually like you or if they are just being nice… I am much more equipped to deal with people who tell it like it is I think! However, I could not get over the overwhelmingly positive response we got from the Kansai students!! It was such a relief. They aren’t really a hugging kind of culture… it is actually part of their culture to bow when they meet people. But after we introduced ourselves formally they came running over to meet us and hug us! I physically couldn’t stop smiling because it was such a warm feeling. Everyone was also so excited to talk to us and practice their English!

With some of the Kansai students today at the university!

Kansai University

Kansai University

Ally and I were invited to stay and have dinner with the students on campus, and they were so awesome that we ended up staying for two hours talking, getting to know one another and our cultures, and just having a good time. Best part of the day? The Kansai students wrote my name for me in Japanese characters!! What I didn’t know is that there are actually two different ways to write it in Japanese, and a third way to write it in Chinese Kanji. (what they call the characters.) So here is a picture of all three! COOL RIGHT?!?! They made my day!


It was pretty incredible to see how infectious all of the smiling and laughing was as we got to know each other and the different things about our cultures. It really goes to show that no matter what language you speak, some emotions are just universally understood! Stay tuned…


Marissa Sarbak

Marissa’s Japan trip Dec. 4th, 2014

Hi everybody!

WE MADE IT. WE ARE ACTUALLY IN JAPAN!!! (That deserves three exclamation points because it has been quite the journey.) A 45 minute drive to Syracuse, an hour flight to Detroit, a 13 hour flight to Tokyo (where the lovely little child next to me spilt his entire cup of apple juice on my yoga pants to begin the trip), but it’s okay, I wasn’t mad because he was pretty adorable and slept almost the whole flight (lucky him), an hour trip on the train into the city of Tokyo, a night’s rest, and a 3 hour train ride to Osaka early this morning before we FINALLY made it. But let me tell you- it was totally worth it.

If you are reading this blog, you probably would like a little bit of a background about me first (and why I’m missing finals week!) so here you go:

My name is Marissa Sarbak and I’m a senior studying Communication and Social Interaction at SUNY Oswego. I LOVE to travel and experience different cultures and meet people from all over! I’m studying in school to be a reporter, and would love to work for the Travel Channel at some point in the future. I’ve been really fortunate enough to do some traveling in my life already, and I’ve been to parts of Europe, but this is my first time ever to Asia!

I’m currently taking the COM 422/Intercultural Communication COIL class this semester, (which stands for Collaborative Online International Learning). We teamed up with students at Kansai University in Osaka, Japan, to work on a project focused on global issues, and were consequently invited to present our work and our experiences with the COIL program at an International Symposium at the University in Japan! After a long process of trying to get everything figured out, myself, my friend Ally (also in the class), our professor Amy, and all of our mom’s (who wanted to join us for the experience!) made it.

Like I said, we landed in Tokyo last night, and by the time we actually got into the city and got settled in the hotel, everyone was ready to pass out. Amy and myself were really hungry so we headed out to the streets to see if we could grab something quick to eat. After walking around aimlessly and unsuccessfully for about 30 minutes, we finally came to the realization that takeout food doesn’t seem to be a thing in Japan. So we actually went to the corner store and bought cups of noodles in a package. Yes, the first food I had in Japan was actually the same $1 packaged noodles we get in U.S. grocery stores. Not exactly authentic Japanese cuisine… (I am not proud of this choice, trust me) but we were just so hungry!

We didn’t really get to see Tokyo at all yet because we had to catch an early train this morning to Osaka, but we will be going back there for the end portion of our trip so I’m not worried. I’m still a little jetlagged but I’m about to head out for dinner (real Japanese food this time I promise), so I’ll post a blog about today’s adventures when I get back. As we say in the broadcasting world, stay tuned!

PassportPictures from the flight!