Studying and Travelling in Japan

Hello again,

Instead of discussing general things about Japan this entry I thought I would detail specifically what studying and travelling within Japan is like. So, this entry will be more interesting to those who want to know more about these two aspects of Japan.

I must admit that studying Japanese has been very difficult. It’s a far more complicated language than I first expected. For example: symbols known as ‘kanji’ can have multiple meanings depending upon the context that they are used within and words that are pronounced the same can have different meanings depending on context and intonations. But, as an exchange student, I have found that work loads are not particularly strenuous and I have very few major assessments. However, this does depend on how good you are at Japanese as friends of mine studying at higher levels seem to have quite intense work loads.

Furthermore, a typical university week will generally involve 5 days of classes. You may get lucky and only receive 4 days, but this is a rare occurrence. Also, you must attend the majority of these classes (at least at my university, Ritsumeikan) otherwise you will fail; but don’t worry, you would have to skip a lot of classes for this situation to become a reality.

Unfortunately, as a result of this, opportunities to travel are limited and can often only be done on weekends. This is what I have done through out my stay here and it has worked out fairly well and has undoubtedly been worth the hassle. However, this means that in order to see all the places I wish to see I have to be as economical as possible with my travel and, unfortunately, travelling in Japan can be very expensive. In particular, the Shinkansens (or bullet trains) are outrageously expensive (but I must say, very convenient). So, for travel, I have been taking overnight buses to all locations. Although these are admittedly very uncomfortable they are cheap (the most important factor of all), especially when you buy a Willer Bus Pass, which is available for all foreigners entering Japan. This link provides all the information you need about the pass: willerexpress.com/st/3/en/e3/buspass/.

I hope that this information will prove to be important to those who are considering an exchange to Japan and if anyone who reads this has any questions about studying and travelling in Japan please leave a comment and I’ll answer it as soon as I can.

Till then, Sayoonara.

P.S. make sure you visit Japan in Autumn so that you can see sights such as this:

 

Japan – Settling In

Hello everyone,

I’ve been living in Japan for two months now and I’ve started to settle into a weekly routine. This has proven to be convenient and demonstrates that I have adapted to life here in a somewhat competent manner. Yet, I still miss the excitement of those first few weeks. It has made life here feel slightly more monotonous and the charm of living in a new country seems to have worn off.

I’ve been attempting to offset this feeling by travelling to different places and cities on weekends. For example, the past two weekends I have been to Takayama and Fukuoka. Both of which were interesting cities that contrast greatly with one another; from a quiet city within the Japanese Alps to a sprawling metropolis in the southern sub-tropical island of Kyushu.

(Kamikochi, a valley near Takayama)                                   (Fukuoka)

This travelling has been very rewarding and, come to think of it, the only travelling that I have completely organised by myself. This has been a good learning experience and provides me with a rewarding sense of independence; especially since I have travelled alone on both of these occasions.

I would thoroughly recommend that you work up the courage to travel alone on exchange. I have found that I engage more with my surroundings and have more meaningful experiences. You also learn to think more for yourself and do what you want to do, as opposed to relying on others to make decisions for you or doing things that you yourself find mundane and uninteresting. (Not to mention the amount of difficulties that come with attempting to organise other people)

On the topic of making friends whilst on exchange, it is surprisingly easy. Most people that you will meet on exchange are other international students who are as excited and nervous as you are at the beginning of the semester. As a result, people are, in most cases, more open to socialising in an attempt to off-set those feelings. Currently, I can say that I have met many people from many different places that I will remain in touch with once this exchange ends.

Also, studying in Japan hasn’t proved to be too intensive so far. Coming to Japan, many people would mention the stereotypical notion of Asian study habits and then suggest that this means that Japanese work loads will be ‘extreme’. However, I have found that I do more or less the same amount of work here than I did in Australia. There are more university classes, but this translates to less homework, which I personally find very pleasant.

All in all, life here is great, but inevitably, living overseas loses it’s initial charm after a while. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing and if you do experience a similar feeling do not despair. Even the smallest changes can get you out of a rut. I found that travelling got me out of mine, but I could be something as simple as trying new foods. Find the thing that excites you and do it.

Until next time.

 

 

New Colombo Plan Internships in Tokyo and Seoul

 

After completing my language training and study component in Seoul, I began the internship element of my New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarship. I undertook internships with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC) in Tokyo and Herbert Smith Freehills (HSF) in Seoul.

I had a short break between the conclusion of my exchange at Korea University and the beginning of my internship with SMBC. I took this opportunity to explore Japan as it was my first time there. I flew straight into Osaka and immediately realised how much my Korean language skills had progressed when I found myself in a country where I struggled to remember basic hello and goodbyes. After a short stop in Osaka I caught a train to Kyoto, which was full of culture and history. It was great to learn about Japan and enjoy Kyoto’s stunning temples and landscape – a little hot though at 41 degrees Celsius with little to no wind!

(Temple in Kyoto)

I then got my first experience with the legendary bullet train from the somewhat sleepy Kyoto to the bustling Tokyo with over 9 million people living in Tokyo’s 23 wards. Despite being packed in tightly, I got to travel around and see some of Tokyo’s best sites, meet up with other NCP scholars and even drive around the streets of Tokyo in a go kart dressed as Mario.

 

(Go karting around Tokyo)

Soon enough, it came time to start my internship at SMBC. As one of Japan’s three largest banks, they were more than accommodating by allowing me to see various legal and financing departments, as well as sit in on conferences and meetings. I had some trepidation surrounding what I would be doing and how the cross-cultural communication would work, but everyone I met, both in and out of the office, was warm and welcoming. It was truly a fantastic experience!

(SMBC headquarters in Tokyo)

I then flew back to Seoul just in time to begin my internship with HSF. I was thoroughly welcomed by everyone at HSF and looked forward to working with them every day. I truly believe that most of the value you get out of an internship correlates to how much you want to put in. At HSF that was certainly the case and the lawyers were always willing to help you and give you interesting and challenging work. I would highly recommend future Korean scholars who are interested in commercial law explore an internship with HSF. Overall, I was very fortunate to have two wonderful internship experiences thanks to the NCP scholarship.

(Herbert Smith Freehills office in Seoul)

Thinking about the New Colombo Plan?

I am a 2018 New Colombo Plan (NCP) Scholar who was based in Japan and South Korea. If you are considering applying for the NCP scholarship, I have outlined a few pointers from my time both as an NCP scholar and going through the application process.

1. Make sure that you have a focused proposed program before you write your application

If you have a thoroughly researched proposed program, it shows. A great thing about the NCP scholarship application process is that it makes you truly examine what you want to do and why you want to do it. If you have taken the time to create a well thought out program,  then you will have a much stronger application

2. Seriously consider undertaking a mentorship and a language program

Undertaking a mentorship and a language program will not only help you expand your global network and integrate into the culture, but it will also help you to get the most out of your experience. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Yonsei University and felt that it helped me settle into my new environment immensely.

3. Don’t limit your options before you are fully informed about all possibilities

The NCP scholarship allows students to study in a wide variety of countries, all of which have varying degrees of popularity, university choices, culture and opportunities. I would recommend that you take a serious look at all countries that the NCP allows students to travel to before narrowing down your options.

4. Reach out to previous NCP scholars

Before I went through the QUT interview stage for my application I reached out to two previous NCP scholars to know more about their program, the opportunities available to them as NCP scholars and any tips on the application process. Both scholars gave me great insight and helped me craft the best proposed program to achieve my goals. NCP scholars have all been through the application process, so I would highly recommend you try and get in contact with one or two.

5. Consider what you want to achieve from the scholarship

I would encourage you to take some time to think about the personal, educational and professional goals you want to achieve through the NCP scholarship and how the fulfillment of these goals will help the government accomplish its goals into the future.

Good luck!

(Attending the Embassy of Australia in Seoul as a 2018 NCP scholar)

 

 

 

Beginning Exchange Semester at Korea University

As part of the New Colombo Plan (NCP) scholarship, I completed a three-week Korean language intensive program at Yonsei University in Seoul before undertaking a semester exchange at Korea University (KU). At the end of my studies I undertook internships with Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in Tokyo and Herbert Smith Freehills in Seoul.

My time at South Korea was extraordinary. I arrived in winter and was able to enjoy a totally different climate to Brisbane. Just after I moved into the dormitories at KU we had a week of snow – which I thoroughly enjoyed. I then spent the last few weeks of winter taking advantage of the snow season skiing on the slopes of nearby Jisan Resort.

(First snowfall since moving to KU)

KU is an excellent university, offering a diverse range of subjects to exchange students taught by encouraging lecturers and support staff. During my time at KU I studied International Economic Law, Korean History & Culture, International Organisations, International Dispute Settlement, and I completed additional Korean language classes. KU has an encouraging atmosphere, allowing students to connect and gain an appreciation of Korean culture.  KU’s buddy program includes at least three social events held every week. I’ve found this to be a great way to meet other students and participate in activities that I ordinarily wouldn’t.

(Dressing in the traditional Hanbok 한복)

Additionally, KU’s rivalry with Yonsei University results in many events that the whole university participates in, including Ipselenti which is held in May and the Korea University vs. Yonsei University tournament. These are wonderful opportunities to get involved in the KU community, indulge in unique street food and practice university chants (including the infamous Yonsei Chicken song every KU student learns during orientation week).

For my semester exchange at KU I decided to apply for dormitory accommodation. There are two main dormitories. I was fortunate enough to stay at CJ International House. This dorm is more geared towards international students. There were three types of apartments available and you may end up in a single, double, or quad room. All apartments have ensuites and each floor has two kitchens available. I was lucky enough to live in an apartment on the sixth floor that had four single rooms, two ensuites and a living room.

(My dorm room in CJ International House)

I used my free time to explore Seoul and travel around Korea. If you find yourself in the region, I would highly recommend looking into a temple stay and taking a trip down to Busan or Jeju Island. Busan is a coastal city in the bottom right corner of Korea and is easily accessible by train from Seoul Station. I thoroughly enjoyed the difference in atmosphere and architecture between Seoul and Busan – plus I had a chance to have the live octopus dish!

(At Amnam Park in Busan)

Month 1 – Done and Dusted!

Even though I’ve hit my one month mark, I still struggle to believe I’m living in what has got to be one of the world’s most incredible cities. I feel as though my life has been flipped upside down a little, and in the midst of the excitement I’m sadly realizing my time here is going to absolutely fly by. In saying that, my settling-in experience hasn’t been totally flawless, so for those considering jetting-off to Shanghai Jiao Tong, I hope the information contained in this blog update ensures your transition is a little smoother than mine.

 

First point I want to make, all those stories you hear of pollution being terrible here? They’re not exaggerating. Initially, it will almost feel like you’re walking through a physical substance, and participating in any sort of sporting activity will leave you out of breath way faster than normal. The ever-present cigarette smoke doesn’t help much either. Secondly, before arriving I was always told how Shanghai is the Chinese city where East meets West. Traditional Chinese-style houses neighbor with those of a more classical French-style, and it’s just as easy to find a crepe as it is a dumpling. Whilst there is definitely some truth in this, the largest misconception I gained from these tales was that English was pretty commonly spoken across the city. This is definitely NOT the case, so if you’re arriving with little-to-no Mandarin skills, download Duolingo and brush up on those key phrases. You’ll need them. If nothing else, my pro-tip would to be print out your arrival address in Chinese to give to your driver. They will really appreciate it, and it’ll make your life just that bit easier.

 

On the topic of transport, taxi’s here are SUPER cheap, as is the metro. You’ll definitely benefit from a metro card so make that a number one priority when you arrive. The metro system here is also really easy to navigate, so don’t worry about getting lost. However, be warned that trains here, like Brisbane, don’t run all night. So, on those nights when you’re exploring the cities unbelievably amazing nightlife (make Bar Rouge your first stop!), and want to head home before 6am, take a MARKED taxi. Unmarked taxis are a massive scam here so be vigilant. Also, never catch a taxi from directly outside a club or bar. They’re generally about 4 times the price, so it’s worth your while to walk five minutes down the road. Another important note for when you’re out and about, always always always have a copy of your passport/visa on you. Whether it be a photo on your phone, a print out of a scan or the real thing (which I don’t recommend as pickpocketing is an issue here). Police officers here have the right to ask to see a copy at any time and any place. Refusal or inability to give them anything they ask may land you in hot water. To quote our security officer, ‘don’t use things like human rights as an excuse!’. You also need it to do things like travelling domestically, booking a hostel room in addition to orientation or registration at your university.

When you do begin university life, there will be an absolute stack of admin to do. My advice would be to write a list, and get it done as soon as possible. First things first, set up a WeChat account – you honestly can’t live here without it. You use it to pay vendors, shop online, contact tutors, be informed about class info etc. For that last one, WeChat basically takes the place of Blackboard, so it is really important. When you set up your banking, get to the bank early unless you want to spend 3 hours sitting in their lobby (you don’t). Don’t forget your TFN either! When you get a sim card, I recommend China Unicom. You get unlimited data for a very reasonable price, and it’s a reliable network country-wide. If you’re studying/living in the Xuhui campus, there’s a Unicom and BOC branch right outside one the main gates, so it’s pretty convenient. Speaking of, if you’re torn between living on Minhang or Xuhui, I would highly recommend Xuhui. Not only is Minhang really far away from downtown Shanghai, but because it’s so big it has become its own little city. What I’ve heard from people who live there, is that this means you become rather reluctant to leave and explore because everything you want is around you, and you end up missing out on all Shanghai has to offer. There is a shuttle bus that runs between the two, but it’s still a hassle. So, unless the majority of your classes are taught there, I would say book in Xuhui. Side note, if you do book in Xuhui, your options are; Lianxing building and Tao Li Yuan. The former is an older building, and only the rooms on the top level have been renovated. The latter is new, and all the rooms are much more modern. I’m stuck on Lianxing level one which isn’t that nice, but I’m only here for one semester so I’m willing to put up with it. It was also, like everything in this country, so incredibly cheap that it’s not really worth complaining about.

 

Last but not least, if you are here on an X2 visa (one semester), you cannot obtain a Residence Permit visa. This is contrary to what I had been told, so it was a bit of a disappointment. You can add one more entry to your visa if you want, but that’s it. Just a word of warning!

 

Well that wraps up my post for month one! If you have any specific dorm orientated questions don’t hesitate to ask because I found very little information myself when I was looking. Until next time!

Japan – First Impressions

Hello everyone,

It has now been about a month since I left Australia for the land of the rising sun and I am beginning to settle into life here. Classes have begun, I’ve made quite a few friends and I have experienced the devastation of a typhoon! Twice!!! But what have I learned from these initial experiences, and more specifically, what have I learned about Japan?

Well firstly, Japan is visually very stunning. Many of the temples in Kyoto fit in seamlessly with the surrounding gardens, which – in my opinion – are even more beautiful then the temples themselves.

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The Japanese clearly revere nature, so much so that they build fences around trees and construct supports for boughs and branches that bend too precariously!

Japanese people are also very friendly, helpful and incredibly polite. Many Japanese people will treat you with great kindness. An example of such kindness is if you become lost whilst out travelling you will be approached by a multitude of people asking if they can help you in any way possible.

The food is also incredible (as most would already suspect) and I have yet to be disappointed by a meal. Additionally, the food here is so cheap that, in fact, eating out is only slightly more expensive then making your own meals! And not being a particularly good chef myself (quite a shocking one actually) it would be safe to assume that I eat out far more often than I did in Australia.

These are all very pleasant aspects of Japan and it must be said that, in general, Japan is a very pleasant place to live. However, if there is one thing I could warn people about before they come to Japan it is the emphasis the population places on order and rules.

This doesn’t only entail abiding by the law (of which you should do regardless) but the multitude of social rules that govern day to day life in Japan. In fact, people who break more serious social rules or continue to break minor social rules are often stigmatised as deviants and treated as such. Personally, I do not like this aspect of Japanese culture, as it forces the populace to discard their individuality and focus on conforming to cultural ideals. But, if you would like you’re stay here to be a pleasant one you should undoubtedly respect these rules.

So, one tip that I can offer to people considering an exchange to Japan is to have a sense of the many social rules that govern the society before you come here. This often involves simply being polite and bowing; but there are more subtle rules, such as limiting physical contact even when exchanging money with shop clerks. For more information please check out the link posted below, which comes from the youtube channel I recommended in my previous post: Abroad in Japan.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0GCuvcTI090

Overall, I can say that in my short time here I have learnt a lot about Japan, but obviously there is still much more to know. The culture here is vastly different from Australia’s laid-back way of life. As a result, I have had my fair share of pleasant and unpleasant experiences during my stay. Nevertheless, I am acquainting myself with a completely different society here and I am learning new things and discovering new perspectives every day. In the end, that is all I want from this experience.

Sayonara.

A Cultural Explosion – My first few weeks in Hong Kong

Regina Collins

Bachelor of Law (Honours)/Bachelor of Media and Communication

Hong Kong Baptist University (Semester 2, 2018)

你好 (Nǐ hǎo) or Hello!

My name is Regina Collins and I’m in my third year of studying a Bachelor of Law (Honours)/Bachelor of Media and Communication at QUT. I have just started my Semester Exchange at Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) here in Hong Kong and it’s hard to believe it’s already been a month since I began this journey.

Hong Kong as an exchange destination is everything I hoped it would be – a true explosion of culture. No matter where you’re from, I believe that Hong Kong has a place for you and the rich variety of culture is what makes living here such a fascinating and eye-opening experience. I decided when applying for the QUT Study Abroad program that I wanted to live in an entirely new culture unlike anywhere I’ve lived before. And while I will say that Hong Kong has fit that description, there is a certain similarity to Australian culture that make this place instantly feel like a second home.

Adjusting to living in a sleepless city like Hong Kong did take a few days. By the end of week one, I had mastered the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) system and using my Octopus Card (which is, in a lot of ways, similar to that of a Go-Card in Queensland). I can now also navigate around my campus neighbourhood, know where the cheapest place to buy groceries is, and have a basic understanding of Hong Kong Currency in comparison to the Australian Dollar.

Having been here for a month now, I can definitely say I’m making the most of this incredible experience. A few of my favourite journeys so far have been catching the tram up to Victoria Peak, navigating through the Ladies’ Market in Mong Kok, taking the cable car up to the Big Buddha on Lantau Island, and of course, Hong Kong Disneyland.

Through this, I have formed memories with so many incredible people from around the world and began what I hope to be lifelong friendships.

At the end of the day, I still like l have so much to explore on this exchange and I look forward to seeing what else this beautiful, vibrant and cultural city has to offer. I intend to keep learning and thriving in such a unique environment and I’m so grateful to QUT and NCP for giving me this opportunity of a lifetime.

希望再次见到你 (Xīwàng zài jiàn dào nǐ) or Hope to see you again soon!

This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan

A Nordic Adventure: Arriving in Norway

 

When I finally arrived in Norway after months of research and excitement I realised three things very quickly. These were that; yes, there are teslas everywhere, yes, basically everyone speaks flawless English, and yes, everything really is that expensive. But as I spent 3 days exploring the Nordic capital Oslo, attempting to put my duo lingo to use I knew exchange in Norway was about to be one of, if not the most incredible thing I have ever done.

Oslo is a beautiful and exciting city but after months of build-up and a month of living out of a backpack, I was so ready to finally start my exchange. So it wasn’t an issue to wake up at 4 am on pick up day to catch my bus down south to Norway’s 5th biggest city, Kristiansand, home of Universitet i Agder (UiA) and my home for the next four months!

The bus ride through Norway’s famed countryside only continued to add to my excitement. On arrival in Kristiansand ‘buddies’ from the Erasmus student network were there to greet me and drive me to my accommodation. They set me up with my welcome pack promising a full schedule of social events and university orientation. And full hardly begins to describe the first two weeks.

From dinners and hikes to festivals and house parties, study start weeks could not have set me up for a better semester and I don’t believe a place have made me feel more welcome. Before I arrived I had a few concerns when I realised really how small Kristiansand and UiA are in comparison to Brisbane and QUT, but these concerns have not arisen since being here. In fact, despite being expensive, Kristiansand is the ideal student town. Tight-knit with small-town charm but all the necessities of a student city. In fact, Norway is said to be one of the most student-friendly countries in the world. Meal deals across town, free entry days to the local galleries, museums and even the water park as well as free student cruise trips to Denmark. These are just a few of the things a student card can get you in Kristiansand.

So far Norway has offered a very different university experience but it one I am so excited to experience fully. The people I have met in just the first few weeks already offer me new perspectives and I believe I have already learned and grown so much! I am so excited for what is in store for the rest of my Nordic adventure.

 

 

 

9 Time Zones and 16,000 km ~ One Very Long Trip to Oslo

Sarah Yates
Bachelor of Engineering (Medical)
Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Trondheim (S2, 2018)

I had great intentions about publishing this as soon as I arrived in my now home city of Trondheim. I honestly which I could say it was because I’ve been, you know, working really hard and applying myself at uni. Sadly the last two months of near constant climbing and hiking and cabin trips may have distracted me from actually writing anything! Such a shame. 😂

I’m not sure I really understood just how far Norway is until I spent nearly 30 hours trying to get there. International plane travel is an excellent opportunity to overthink how many times it is socially acceptable to try and get out of your seat in one trip. Once an hour? Every five hours? What’s the go here? I’m still confused.

My sister and I had to resort to using an ad to get that perfect insta background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had the opportunity to use my really good***** Norwegian within about 5 minutes of touching down in Oslo, as I needed to find the flytoget (airport train!) and the only helpful stranger I spoke to was probably the only non-English speaking resident of the whole city. With an embarrassing amount of sign language and a bizarre hybrid of English and Norwegian, this nice old man did eventually point me and my 30kg hiking bag in the right direction.

*****really not that good

I was lucky enough to be able to stay with a Norwegian family for my stay in Oslo, and I was completely adopted within about 5 minutes of meeting them. People do not exaggerate about Norwegians’ love of the outdoors – it is quite literally a national obsession. I woke up on my first morning to a map of Oslo’s forest Nordmarka, which was all of a 5 minute train ride away.

 

The Norwegian outdoors is not the Australian outdoors – in Norway, you can plan an entire walk based on which cabins sell the best hot chocolate. Brilliant. I spent the entire day wandering (kind of aimlessly) around this gorgeous place, between Sognsvann (a big lake close to Oslo) and Ullevålseter (one of the many, many DNT wooden cabins strewed around Norway). While the hot chocolate in Norway is legit FANTASTIC, I’ve got to warn you, “coffee” in this country is more like drinking straight up filtered dirt in a cup. But you can get unlimited refills! Which is just as well, because otherwise you’d be paying $6.50 for a cup of liquid sadness. Thanks, Norway. (Two months in this country and I’m disgusted to say I almost enjoy their coffee now.)

I also spent quite a lot of time exploring Oslo, which has got to be hands down one of the most gorgeous towns I have ever seen. The strangest thing is just how green everything is – really, really weird after Australia in the middle of a long drought. If you go to Oslo, it’s really worth going to Frognerparken, which is a big sculpture park in the middle of the town. Some of the sculptures are a bit ~weird~ (namely the massive pillar of naked bodies) but hey, it’s pretty cool.

 

You can also go and see for real viking ships at the Viking Ship Museum, which – I’m not going to lie to you – is pretty damn cool. About a 15 minute walk from here is the Norsk Folkemuseum, which has everything replica Norwegian villages to live folk dancing performances.

On my last night in Oslo, my host family made me the most Norwegian of all desserts – waffles and brunostBrunost, or “brown cheese”, is this really intense caramel cheese that Norwegians will eat literally all the time (including in the middle of lectures – I’ve even seen people crack out a cheese slicer mid-class). It’s a weird mix between being incredibly delicious and incredibly sickening and I’m honestly sure how I feel about it. The next morning I said goodbye to my host family and took the train along the Dovre Railway (!!) all the way up to Trondheim, where I’ve literally been having the time of my life.

Give me another two months and I’ll update you on that as well. 🤣