Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Bumpy Road to Being a JENESYST Part 1: My First Trip to Japan

I've been meaning to write a post about my recent trip to Japan, but other things kept holding me back. I had academic papers to submit right after I came back home, and I had preparations to do for my new job. I also had to write a short report about the trip for the Japan Embassy. Honestly, the fact that I've been to Japan only sunk into my system several days after I've settled everything I needed to settle.

Now, it’s been a little over a week, and I’m missing everything already – the city, the people I met, the food, the technology, and everything else. Towards the middle of the entire trip, I started to feel the exhaustion since the schedule was really tight, and we were constantly on the move. For 10 days, we had to make about 5 hotel changes, and we had to wake up at 6AM every day. The midnight hot baths after a long, busy day did the trick for me, and I was able to re-energize myself for the following day. It was a bit tiring, to be honest. However, when things were about to end, that’s when I felt I should’ve made the most out of my stay. Not that I’m saying it wasn’t enjoyable. After all, only a chosen few get to experience what I did. I really had a blast despite my poor stamina (which I'm blaming on my poor eating habits and lack of exercise), and I’m really happy to have made new friends (and enemies? lol).

So, basically, the trip was unexpected. I never thought my childhood dreams of stepping into the Land of the Rising Sun would finally come true this year. I must’ve been a really good kid to be this blessed. Haha!

One day, while randomly browsing through my Facebook news feed for, well, nothing really, I saw a post from Ate Mitch (my singing buddy from that J-Melo episode and one of my closest friends ever) about a program called JENESYS 2.0: ASEAN-Japan Students and Youth Exchange Program.  It was a project initiated by the Japanese government to introduce their culture to the youth of Asia and Oceania by offering a free visit to their country. The best thing was that they would shoulder all the expenses. For this batch, the theme was Japan's Popular Culture, and the participants were subdivided into three categories - Fashion, Animation, and Entertainment. Ate Mitch said she was really interested to apply herself, but since she’s not in school anymore, she’s not qualified.

That was my cue. I mean seriously, there has to be a time when being a grad student becomes really handy, right? This is one of them. Haha!
JENESYS 2.0 Logo
The requirements for the application were actually pretty easy to acquire, but since I only learned about the program a week before the deadline, it was a race against time. I had to write a letter, fill out an application form, prepare a few documents, ask my professor for a recommendation, have my photos taken, and prepare a portfolio, among others.  When I finally had everything in place, I made sure to submit them at least a day before the actual deadline, so that if anything went wrong, at least I still had a day to make corrections. I become unexpectedly OC at times like that.

Frankly, I got really paranoid about my submission. “Did the email reach them?”, “How come there’s no acknowledgement or whatever?”, “What if my documents were incomplete?”, “What if the email address was incorrect?” Since I never told my parents about my application (so as not to raise expectations), I only had my friends to harass (Ask Jobelle about it).

A few days later, all my anxiety went away when I finally received a text message informing me about a panel interview. I never knew that there would be one, so I had to make quick preparations once again. The message emphasized that we had to bring our “portfolio.” We were required to submit one prior to the screening period, and it was actually the part that took most of my time preparing. A portfolio? I had no idea what to include. For those vying for a spot at Fashion or Animation Categories, a portfolio is pretty much a must-have. But for someone who’s applying for the Entertainment Category like myself, it was a huge blur. I mean, how do we show that we're "entertaining?" lol. I decided to just print a bunch of my research papers for grad school about Japanese music and pop culture in general. I also printed out some photos of when I attended some Japanese culture-related events. And, as much as I would have preferred to keep them all to myself for my future grandchildren to see (lol), I ended up sending some videos of me singing at the JPOP Anime Singing Contest Grand Finals. I knew that one day they would serve me well, and they did.

Behold the photos from said portfolio. Haha!
Cosplay Mania, 2009
The White Hat Charity, 2009
Nihongo Center Open House, 2009
JPOP Fest, 2012

JPOP Anime Singing Contest, 2009
JPOP Anime Singing Contest, 2013

To be quite honest. I did not feel good after the interview, and I thought I failed big time. We were all interviewed at the same time, and the other kids did really well. I'm not gonna talk in details about what exactly happened during the interview (Some parts were quite hilarious, actually), so future applicants won't have a head start *insert evil laugh here*. The selection committee said they would announce the names of the successful applicants in the afternoon of the same day, and I didn’t receive any call. You can just imagine how I acted the rest of the day. It was quite a spectacle. Haha.
The interview was on a Friday, and I got my acceptance notice on Tuesday the following week. At that time when I had completely given up and told myself I cannot be that lucky on my first shot (It was my first time to apply for anything Japan-related), the best miracle of the year happened.

Talk about drama... with a twist.

Watch out for Part 2 soon.

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