Friday, 10 July 2015

Brussels meeting

The Pre-departure brief (PDB) for the Vulcanus programme was held on Monday 6th of July in Brussels. Most of the participants arrived on Sunday, couple of people earlier. We all stayed in the same hotel so we had a good opportunity to meet and get to know each other already before the meeting. 45 people is quite a lot people to get to know in a couple of days, but I'm sure we'll have enough time while in Japan. On the first meeting everyone seems nice and laid back and I'm sure we'll get along well. :)

I arrived to Brussels around midday on Saturday and got lunch with the people who had already arrived. We later walked to the city center to see to see the Grand Place (and Manneken Pis, because it was nearby). Brussels is quite small and there's not that much to see. We actually went to the Grand Place or nearby many times during the three days I was there.

Grand Place square
Manneken Pis, one of the most famous sights of Brussels...
Belgium is famous for it's chocolate, which I bought as a souvenir, but also for waffles. I learned that there are actually a couple of types of Belgian waffles, Brussels waffle and Liege waffle. I got waffles twice while in Brussels and both times the Liege waffle as it seems tastier and softer. Delicious!

Liege waffle with chocolate ice cream from Waffle Factory. The other was a Liege waffle with warm chocolate and hazelnuts from Maison Dandoy.
On Monday we had the long awaited meeting. We went through a lot of info about our arrivals to Tokyo, how to get to the hotel and to the meeting, we got the schedule for autumn, personal information about our internship and dormitories, the COE form etc. Most of us got all information, but there are still some who are waiting for their dormitory addresses for example. The COE form is needed for the visa application and I already got my visa yesterday from the Japanese Embassy of Helsinki. They made it ready while I waited for max. 10 minutes.

Photo taken with Jose's camera, thanks for bringing it with you. :)

The most interesting info (for me) that I got: Where I will be living:

We got detailed information (address etc.) about the apartment, but I don't want to tell all that here. So you have to be satisfied with the following info. :)

My Tokyo apartment will be in Takadanobaba. The train trip to school with Yamanote line (apparently the busiest line in Tokyo) takes only 12 minutes. That means my travel time to school is only 0,5h which a really good time considering that some people on the programme have to commute even up to 1,5h per direction to the school. There will be at least 6 other Vulcanusians living there with me and we'll all have our own room.

My Hitachi apartment will be located 8km from my work. I'm considering getting a bike since taking the train doesn't seem the best option (have to walk 3,5km anyway). Might take the train on the snowy and rainy days though. We'll see, there's still a lot of time until I'll get to Hitachi. In Hitachi at least two Vulcanusians are going to live in the same dorm with me. Again it's a single room.

Both of these apartments are well equipped (see below data for my Tokyo apartment), I have internet provided for Tokyo (for Hitachi I apparently have to get it myself) and I don't have to pay for electricity, gas or water. Some people might have to pay for their electricity, or they might not have a bed or desk or they might have a shared kitchen or bathroom (and in at least one company dorm there seems to be no kitchen in the whole building...). So I'm super happy with my apartments thus far. :)

My Hitachi apartment has the same things except there's no telephone, but the apartment is 24m2 and I have a private washing machine.

At the end of the meeting we took a short test of Japanese. Those who couldn't finish the hiragana and katakana sheets are required to study them before coming to Japan. As for others who knew more Japanese, we are going to have max 30 minutes conversation with a Naganuma School teacher to determine our speaking and conversation level. Mine will be on Wed 22nd 9am Finnish time which equals to 3pm in Japan. Wish me luck!

My flight back was on Tuesday afternoon, so I had 24h left in Brussels after the meeting. For the rest of my stay I walked around the city, ate something not that special (+waffles and nice hotel breakfast) and drank some beer, all these with some other Vulcanusians. Belgium has some interesting beers as they also had a raspberry one (with 30% of raspberry juice). After that I wanted to get a real beer, even though I usually rarely drink beer.

I left my DSLR at home on purpose, so all of my photos are taken with my phone which usually doesn't take any good photos. This seems way better than usually though.

Nice trip, nice people and nice waffles. Next time most of the Vulcanus team sees each other will be in Japan. It still feels so far away even though I have less than 2 months left in Finland. Better to eat more rye bread and karelian pies.