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Brussels Info and my VISA at the Japanese Embassy

Quite late, but as promised, at the meeting I attended in Brussels we were given a dossier with information for us; housing, training planning, … everything we wanted to know from the beginning (except some of the participants, that they were still pending for the final accommodation). Nevertheless, the Center is very communicative and worried about us at all times; we got emergency numbers, contacts numbers and directions, tips, … it shows all the years that the program has being active and how much they are serious about everything going as smooth as possible.

Our esteemed Maarten handed us all a beautiful dossier of the Centre with all our papers:

  • Accommodation during the Japanese course and the training in the company: this was one of the things that I expected to hear, but I already knew the direction of the housing, as it was in the list of participating companies, so no surprises regarding this.
  • Internship training plan.
  • Various documents (Insurance, letters of acceptance, etc)
  • COE (Certificate of Eligibility) to complete the formalities for the visa.
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Features of my accommodation

It is going to be an adventure for me, I did not know if I would have a private bathroom or access to kitchen, well, neither, but I do not care, all of this will be used by me to open new horizons xD. I will make a 360 degree view of my room when I get there. The good thing to consider is the catering service, it is inexpensive, breakfasts and dinners, but it is more likely to be the Japanese style, and I’m not accustomed to rice and fish for breakfast ¯ \ _ (ツ) _ / ¯.

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A rather thick document with lots of necessary information.
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The precious dossier which gave the Centre.
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And the back of the dossier, as you can see, the center is not only this scholarship, it also consists of services provided to European companies, I advise you to visit its website if you are curious

Internship training plan, my apologies but no possibility of sharing this.

With all these papers I was only a step before I could get my visa to Japan. Since the Centre was responsible for issuing the COE (Certificate of elegibility – Certificate of Eligibility), which is backed by themselves (by the name of the Centre). That document is in charge of opening me the doors to Japan for a year, but this is only done at an Embassy of Japan, which is not in Cartagena, no, it is in Madrid and you have to physically go to get the visa. So I made an appointment by phone, luckily they told me that in summer there is an intensive work schedule and the visa for those who travel from afar to the embassy is done in the same day. Right away ​​I purchased tickets for Madrid (I have traveled to Madrid by train 3 times in two years).

On July 21 at … well, let’s say very early, I take the train to Madrid, because I had to be at the Embassy before 11 am for the paperwork.

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Station platform in Cartagena
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“The train to the darkness”

I got on the train, fell asleep and “voila!”, I woke up an hour before Atocha Station, the first one in Madrid from my direction (I am training for the “Japanese metro sleep super power”). Finally reaching Chamartin.

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Chamartin Station

“10:32 a.m., run to the subway!”

The metro thing was very funny, “The line I seek to be able to reach Gregorio Maranon station shall be around this same Chamartin station, I think”, wishful thinking. Luckily only lost five minutes to figure out it was not as I thought, and although I knew the line that is in Chamartin … it was not a train, it was the underground metro, and under Chamartin (Train station) was the Chamartin Station (Metro). Another small odyssey of 5 minutes to descend 4 mechanical escalators, buy a ticket and wait for the arrival of the metro. Here at least, not as in Brussels, there is a pretty and wonderful button to open the doors (Long life to the buttons!).

Reach the desired station after the 10 minutes that it took for the metro, and again, run to Serrano Street. (I like so much to run ….). Went to the embassy, ​​the security control and enter to the consulate.

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Main facade of “the rising sun”
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They have a nice waiting room
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No manga

Although I was not more than 10 minutes inside, they asked me for the papers and told me that in two hours the visa would be ready … so turn to visit Madrid in two and a half hours, finally!, the times I have been here were always at night and I had the JLPT exam the next day. So, decided to walk to the Sol place.

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Invasive frog from beyond
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The Cibeles statue
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With the majestic town hall

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The Plaza del Sol
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A famous poster in Sol, Tio Pepe
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A must visit
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(El oso y el madroño) The bear and the strawberry tree
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La ETSII, … hazte industrial (Youtube Video)
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The Japanese flag waving in the embassy

After the quick visit to the center, I returned to the embassy (Thanks to the embassy staff for being so nice!), And it was in my power, at last!, my VISA, no more paperwork. I went to a nearby restaurant to eat some Japanese noodles (ramen) and decided to walk back to Chamartin, I had plenty of time.

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Well, started to pour rain as I walked to Chamartin station.

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You were wet immediately, if you did not cover yourself with anything, like this girl and I did xD
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Torres Kio, shortly before arriving at Chamartin.

Above all, that day I exercised more than I’m used to, muscle aching for the rest of the week :)

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Little more to tell, I waited for my train and returned to Cartagena, and apparently the rain accompanied me.

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Before arriving to Cartagena
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Trip to Brussels (Day 2)

We left together in the morning from the hotel to the place where the briefing would be held (Some by metro because they took their luggage with them, and the rest by foot), a building in the ‘Bussines’ part of Brussels (Science 14 Atrium LINK), buildings full of other European organizations and embassies of most countries.


Upon arrival we finally met our dear staff of the Centre, Margherita and Maarten were waiting there. We walked into a room with tables with our names, the meeting was great, Margherita and Maarten were wonderful and we were provided tons of information (in terms of the information they provided us I shall discuss it in another post). We received the presence of the center’s director and the MEP in charge of the section in which the Centre depends on. We had a break to eat some snacks, we took advantage of that time to chat with our hosts and socialize with two Vulcanusians who weren’t at the hotel. After that we continued the meeting, and at the end we did a little test of Japanese (Surprise!, I did not study for this Japanese test), so I failed miserably. At the end we took a photo of the group and bid farewell to Margherita and Maarten, who were great with us, and maybe we find one of them in Tokyo.

When we left the building, some went straight to take the plane and the rest went to see the European Parliament for some pictures.

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The group in front of the European Parliament
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The Parliament and those taxis that where all over the place
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Parliament place

After the visit to the European Parliament we went back to the hotel to get changed and get some rest, when night fell we went out for dinner and ended up in the worst-kebab-sandwich in all Brussels. The group then keep on route back to Grand Place, but Alex and I returned to the hotel (My back was killing me xD), and I ended in the bed earlier than expected.

The next day I had to return early to Charleroi as my plane took off at 16:30h, and with going to the bus station, bus travel time, and etc … Before leaving I went in search of a McDonalds to get something to eat away because I did not had much time to find a place to eat at pace (And eating a waffle while looking for the McDonald). Fortunately I did not went to the airport alone, Triantafyllia (the only Greek girl of the group) had her flight at the same time as me, so we went together to the airport (I foresee many conversations regarding robotics with her, I’m sorry Triantafyllia ¯\_(ツ)_/¯).

And with that ended my trip to Brussels, in short, everyone was great and it is going to be a great experience, I have ton of photos, I will look how to add them, making a gallery or as well uploading them to Tumblr.

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Trip to Brussels (Day 1)

I must warn my dear readers, in the past five years I have not traveled, nothing, not even a tiny bit. With the exception of the 2 fleeting visits by train to Madrid to take the Japanese  language tests. So you can imagine I have seen little of the world and if I saw something, it was in my comfort zone.

This journey begins the 5th of July with an alarm going off at 4am. My father takes me to Alicante airport to catch my flight that departures at 7am.

It is the first time I travel with Ryanair, and on the Internet they talk shit about them regarding the hand luggage weighting, in the end nothing happened, just showed the ticket and my ID, wait for the doors to open, and within minutes I am inside the plane, a Boeing 747-800, single aisle with three seats on each side. Ryanair randomly assigned me a seat, no window or aisle seat, fortunately the plane is half empty and when the plane took off, the passenger at my right took a window seat, I follow the example and sat near a window. I enjoyed it while taking pictures.

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Alicante, where is the green?.
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¡Voilá! The green was in belgium
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A nice moon
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Let’s just say that I was interested in the finishing of the rivets, … things from work (>.<)

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After nearly two hours of flight, I landed in Charleroi, while exiting the plane I saw landing another plane of Ryanair, there was no other plane at the airport, so it had to be the plane of my vulcanusian companion Noelia and his Argentine friend Matías, arriving from Madrid. Vulcanus first participant in the flesh, after the first meeting we went directly to the shuttle to Brussels, arriving to our destination after another hour. Once in Brussels we took the metro because we had delayed a bit. [Useless mode ON] I’m not accustomed to usethe metro, in Cartagena there is only bus lines, and after buying the ticket (Thanks to Matías, the ticket-machine only accepted coins and I had no coins, I am so thoughtful …) after that we went separated ways, I towards the hotel, them to the Atomium. I had to pass through the typical control access to get to the metro platform … I could not find anywhere on the control access a place to insert the ticket, I passed the ticket along the door … I searched any openings in the access control … nothing; until I realized that two steps backwards before reaching the control access, there was a kind of device resembling a parking meter, which I did not even realized it was there, luckily no one was around. [/ Useless Mode OFF]

[Useless Mode ON (Again)] Something similar happened once I got in the metro (without knowing in which direction was going), there were only two stops before mine. The metro accelerated in two seconds to full speed, I almost fell. At the first stop I thought that I saw the doors open automatically and there was no button to push, in the second stop nobody got off and the doors did not open … Huh ?, how I was going to get off at the next stop? Fortunately a girl get off, and I discovered that the doors opened pulling manually … (O_o) [/ useless Mode OFF]

Arrived around 11:30 at the hotel, Ferenc, Patrick, Veronica, Edgaras and David were waiting at reception for the rest of us, I joining them after leaving my stuff in the room. The big hurdle, we would understand between almost 45 European people speaking in English ?, Yes, certainly we could and I enjoyed it. Little by little we were getting more vulcanusians and when we were getting hungry, we went out, looking for a place to eat, in short, we ended up in a Japanese restaurant, run by Chinese/Filipino/Asiatic people, but no Japanese. I went for the safest option, fried chicken and noodles.

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Tempura, what Joan ate, still not for me.
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I was late to take a photo of my food

After eating, we go on tour around the center of Brussels, but weather is a bit against us and it starts to rain in the afternoon, still managed to visit what we set out for, Manneken Pis, Grand Place, Maison Dandoy, galleries Saint Hubert …

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Manneken Pis is smaller than what anyone may tell you
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Chocolate shops, my downfall, good thing that I refrained myself
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Grand Place
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A match of I-don’t-know-what
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Galleries Saint Hubert – Expensive
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Nice urban art
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Gofre/Waffle, heavenly thing with ice-cream and strawberries that ate Patrick
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My waffle with chocolate, if I ever come back to Brussels, it will be mainly to enjoy this.
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Katarina tooks us to a Macarons shop (really expensive, everything in Brussels)

On the Grand Place there was a lot of people watching a kind of game where (As I observed) a team throws a small ball the farthest they can, the other team tries to hit it, returning it further, .. I think, but people were having great time.

After that, we stayed at the hotel, where another large group of vulcanusians who had arrived in our absence was playing billiards, after introductions and small talk during all afternoon, we agreed to have dinner in the same hotel, followed by a constant arrival of more vulcanusians during the meal, after that we went out to see Brussels at night (with the ulterior motive of finding a bar)

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Grand Place in the night

And after 20 hours of going from place to place and 4 four hours of sleep, I fell onto my bed at the hotel.

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The “Vulcanus in Japan Programme”

Here I will talk a little more about the “Vulcanus” program. There is a lot written in almost all EU languages ​​about this program, and certainly I am not going to contribute with anything new that is not already included on their official website, so I will refer you to your search in google and wikipedia. But still, I will give a brief presentation and my opinion:

The program consists of a one-year stay in Japan. The year is divided into four months of intensive study of the Japanese language in Naganuma School (Shibuya, Tokyo) about 5~6 hours each day starting at 9:00h, from Monday to Friday, and later 8 months working as an intern researcher in Japanese company at full-time (~8 hours). It is provided to you an accommodation by the host company for the entire stay; some companies are hundreds of kilometers from Tokyo, which is the reason that a temporary accommodation is provided during the course of Japanese, moving after the end of the course to a nearby workplace accommodation; other exception are those who have their workplace in Tokyo, their accommodation may be close to the workplace, but far from the language school (up to 1 hour and a half in train, or more … if you’re not lucky). The accommodation is free in itself, though perhaps there are payable invoices as light, water, or cleaning, depending on whether the company takes care of these bills, or not (usually the company takes over them). The current economic scholarship to date has 1,900,000 JPY (Japanese Yen), and that’s a fortune. Thus you should cover your living expenses, such as transport tickets, meals, clothes, electronic gadgets, various hobbies, travel … . This money is distributed throughout the year at installments of different intervals of time.

No doubt, Vulcanus is one of the biggest jewels in the crown of the scholarships and programs (together with CERN and some more), regardless of the destination. Each year, nearly 1,000 students apply from across all Europe, resulting fortunate among those about 10~50 students, depending on the year. It is open to college education and postgraduate, but as a requirement is to be in the last year.

Perhaps some dear reader will ask himself, [DRAMATIZATION ON] “Why Japan?, there are earthquakes, radiation, typhoons, volcanoes, giant godzilla sized cockroaches … Isn’t better to stay here? And without mentioning the Japanese language, with many strange symbols that no one understands them. Is it worth it? Is not enough to just play Pokemon here?”.[DRAMATIZATION OFF] And I will always answer with an absolute, “Yes.” And not only because of Japan being the destination country, is it more because this is a “one in life” opportunity offered by the program, one of those opportunities that do not show up again.

In Japan, despite the harshness of the land on which the Japanese live, it is generally considered that they have the most gregarious and civic values ​​that can asked from society, which is an example in many aspects, and less in others. Japan is a technologically advanced country, so, for an engineer/tech lover/geek, it is a paradise. Not to mention a culture, and entertainment industry, which are distinctive features that are not found elsewhere in the world.

The opportunity to study and work there is unique, and the “Vulcanus” program will provide it to all those who meet the requirements and have a great deal of luck. As a living example I can assure you that they are not just looking for spotless academy records (my average grade in engineering is 7.0/10.0 points), or an abroad experience (I did an internship in a company in my city) … many participants agree that your motivation and ability to reflect it in the motivation letter to the centre and the company decides everything. Although I must say that everything counts, the presentation/appearance of the documents, language certificates, academic record, experience abroad or work, activities to highlight, and properly exposing yourself and your qualities, values ​​and desires in the motivation letter. All this goes through two filters;

  1. Shortlisting by the EUJapan Centre (“Center” from now on): Of the thousands of applications that arrive each year, the Centre is responsible for selecting an undetermined number of candidates for each available position. Open positions vary each year, so one year there may be many positions for chemical or telecommunications engineers, and none for aeronautical or architects for example, so if you are unlucky a year, try again for better luck. The documentation to provide is a form in excel format and one in word (available on the website of the program to be filled in), a medical certificate, transcript of records, a letter of recommendation from a teacher or employer, resume, a University certificate showing the types of numerical and written scores used in the university system (ie: “Passed 5.0 – Approved,” etc.), and finally a motivation letter addressed to the selection committee from the center (on the latter I’ll talk more in depth in another post). Shortly before the deadline for submitting the documents, a file is uploaded on the Vulcanus website with a list of positions/companies who have given permission to be released to the public, so you can select a position as a suggestion for the committee (As they will consider your application for a certain number of positions that they select taking into account your profile, so you can suggest a position that may not be considered by them)
  2. Selection by the company: In mid-February, the outcome of the shortlisting is reported. Being shortlisted means you’re one between 100~150 lucky ones who can apply for the scholarship. The centre usually recommended to the shortlisted person a position of the existing ones. You can accept the position that recommends the centre or choose another, chossing it form a file with the actual list of participating companies with all the positions.  One position for your first choice and a secondary in case the first option was covered by another person. Once you have chosen your positions, within one week should be sent to the center the motivation letter that will be given to the selection committee of the company. Being the company the one doing the last selection. The responses from the companies for the first round selection are usually received during the month of April, if after the first round remain unfilled positions (Whether that no one applied to them, or that the company rejected all candidates), a second selection round will be carried out.

So I recommend you that it if you apply, do not leave the paperwork for the last days!

I recommend you to visit the unofficial Vulcanus program forum, where all necessary information is, and where you can formulate any questions regarding the program.

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The beginning of an Adventure

Welcome dear network surfer. I hope you can join me for a while.

I have been changing from blog to blog for 6 years already, but this time is different, I finally have something that moves me and motivates me to dedicate to this blog. 8 years ago I started to worry about my future, the way I should take in life, and Internet provided me with many answers and options. In the infinite network I found two blogs that marked me a lot in my choice; kirai and Flapy. The first, kirai (Hector), went from an internship at CERN to the “Vulcanus in Japan” for a year in Tokyo, working on a subsidiary of Mitsubishi, while showing his adventures and experiences with unusual detail, and all who were following the blog at that time felt a healthy envy. The second, Flapy (David), got a graduate scholarship “Monbukagakusho” at the Institute of Science and Technology of Nara, started his blog as a consequence, and the truth is he is doing really good, “gambiteo powah” .

Following my own way I have tried to emulate them in some ways to achieve similar results to theirs, like many Spaniards marked with their experience experience, and after several attempts and good luck, I’ve finally gotten it. I’m able to live my own adventure, and I want to record it in this blog. I was selected to participate in the “Vulcanus in Japan” program, so on the 31th of August I will travel 11,000 kilometers to Japan and will reside there, in Narashino – Chiba Prefecture (30 km from Tokyo) for a full year, learning the language and working in the Company that has decided to host me; “Hitachi”.

Now I’m at the stage of self-denial, “It cannot be possible that they selected me …. (Jaw dropped in a weird fashion)”, and surely I will go through other stages, but I have no doubt that the experience will be something unique, I’ll know a lot of people, and I will be exposed to all kinds of situations, an opportunity to open my horizons.

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I did this 3 years ago, at my first try with the Vulcanus, never knew when I would use it

I want to devote this entire first year of the blog to document the “Vulcanus” experience, all places and curiosities of Japan to visit and see, to serve and inspire future applicants like other blogs have done for me. (There are a ton of blogs, and I will make an detailed list of all blogs worth mentioning and that I’m aware of)

And although there are still months until the flight to those lands, I would like to thank many people for all their support over the years, I’ll leave out some as I’m forgetful and I hope they can forgive me, my dear contacts from UPCT International Relations, for your patience during three long years; my ideological patron Flapy and kirai, and all of those that followed them, throughout your time spent and shared experiences; to my great boss and all MTorres Operations Department, for teaching me and treat me so well this year, hope to return; to all my colleagues and countless friends, for putting up and encourage me; and Marta, for support me, for being such a great person, and always being there.

In the incoming months and until my departure to Japan on the last day of August, I will publish several posts about the program, about myself as well as other topics of possible interest.