That uni of ours in the UK seems to be undergoing a technological revolution this year.

In 2004, the housing application process was fairly slow, full of forms to sign and useless bumph I didn’t really want.

This year, it has taken the form of two online forms, and two confirmation emails. I’ve paid my deposit, and set up my direct debit.

I’m very happy in that I got my first choice of accommodation – Broad Lane Court, the very place I lived in my first year. I also spent quite a bit of time there last year, as that’s where *Twinkle* was based. Judging by the flat and room number, I’m in the room directly below hers. This means that thankfully I’m not on the ground floor, so a repeat of 2005’s burglary is unlikely. It does, however, mean that my window opens onto prostitute alley. Last year we could clearly hear negotiations taking place on the street below.

The location is great, being just minutes from the Arts Tower, and, once it’s opened (next month) the new library, or rather “Information Commons” (which I note from the webcam is actually looking quite complete, unlike on the map below where it’s still a car park!)

Note the Arts Tower, which contains the School of East Asian Studies, has now been modelled in 3D and added to Google Earth. Great stuff!

Speaking of the Information Commons takes me onto my next surprise re. Sheffield Uni and technology – the new CILASS enterprise, which has been awarded government funding to further Inquiry Based Learning – including what I consider to be a fairly decent grant to my department to enable it to buy a bit of technology which will help it hop out of the 18th century. It also (hopefully) means the end to everyone fighting over the single OHP, and might even result in a heater for the teacher’s office. The newspapers soaked in animal fat that they currently use really stink our classrooms out.

Despite my being in Japan, I too am being brought into this project – we’re going to use the latest Wiggy Wiggy Software to enable me to be present at a symposium held in the brand new Information Commons next month. I think I have to talk about podcasts and Mumbles or something (the quality of which will have to increase significantly if I’m not to be too embarrassed to talk about it on the day). Basically, the idea is, is that you can’t get more Inquiry Based Learning than through a Year Abroad! Also, despite the technology having been around for donkeys years, symposiums at which people are present via live Wiggy Wiggy link from the other side of the world still sound quite exciting for us mere mortals.

Ah, but there’s more! Look what they have in store for future Year Abroad students!

Another amazing happening for the School of East Asian Studies this year has been the successful bid for £4 million of government funding, which has resulted in the establishment of the White Rose East Asia Centre in partnership with Leeds Uni. And there was me getting the impression that our department was suffering from a lack of investment. Ok, so from what I understand the WREAC is a separate entity from SEAS itself, but no doubt SEAS will benefit from the golden glow of its rich sister. Who knows, the lecturers might even be able to stop having to work in bars at weekends to supplement their incomes.

Oh, one other bit of news from Sheffield which I may have already mentioned, *Twinkle* and I put in a successful bid for a bit of money to help us start up a little business. It’s not much, but it’ll pay our basic expenses for the first year, which is great! Thank you Sheffield University!

Anyway, best get on.

xxx love joseph