My Learning Experiences in Tainan, Taiwan

Sean W., Bachelor of Industrial Design (Honours)

National Cheng Kung University Taiwan, Semester 1 2019

Coming from Australia, and not speaking any Chinese before arriving in Taiwan, I found the process quite easy to get the accommodation and basic university things sorted out. Class registration and department registration is a tedious paper-based process where you run around to every department giving copies of the same form and collecting stamps no one seems to understand! This is something that I hope they will be improving in the coming semesters.

Once settled into NCKU, I was offered some really amazing academic opportunities from the weekly College of Planning and Design lectures, the Industrial Design and Architecture final presentation/graduation exhibitions and the Aerospace research pathways lecture weekly series. At the same time there were also fun activities: attending the dragon boat festival, going to all-you-can-eat barbeque (its near the canal in the West District – you must go!) and experiencing the local alleys and markets scattered throughout Tainan.

As part of the ICID (Creative Industries) department, I joined two team projects with local and international students, organised and hosted the POINTS Data Visualisation Exhibition in April 2019 (http://news-en.secr.ncku.edu.tw/p/404-1038-193895.php?Lang=en), attended the International Conference of Planning and Design (https://2019icpd.com/about) at NCKU and was part of the Hong Kong-Tainan Design Thinking Workshop as part of Professor Yang’s annual university study tour (https://www.comp.hkbu.edu.hk/designworkshop/index.php).

Finally, the student societies at NCKU are numerous and so interesting! While many of them will be in Chinese, they all seemed willing to find someone who could Chinese-English as their way through to teaching you how to join in. Some really memorable clubs for me were the Architecture Society (C-Hub café!!! <3), the MAGI CLUB – NCKU’s maker club for students who want to build stuff for fun and the NCKU Pottery Club who were all so generous letting us get involved and helping us out when we were struggling.

Societies:

MAGI Club – NCKU Maker’s Club:

https://www.facebook.com/MagiTaiwan/?ref=br_rs

NCKU Pottery Club:

https://www.facebook.com/NCKU.pottery/

C-Hub Café:

https://www.facebook.com/chub.cafe/?__tn__=%2Cd%3C-R&eid=ARDXYOEDDrUX96pQ4pF2PfYR_-Ge-dW58emSqinGwzlNa7C69KjfKiKEDKVAeUhvxdszCHKJlvI1me6h

Thank you Tainan and thank you NCKU for giving me such an awesome exchange journey, I hope to see you soon!

Cheers,

Sean Wanna

My Thai Experience: Study Abroad Done Right

Elliot B.
Thammasat University, Thailand (Semester 1, 2019)

My last post on QUT Gone Global was back in January, so I apologize for not posting sooner. Back then, I had just settled in and begun my first week of classes at the Rangsit campus.

What I loved about studying at Rangsit was that each time I went into Bangkok, it felt just as exciting as the first time. If I was studying at the city campus, I would get used to living in Bangkok and the excitement would eventually subside. But by only getting to see Bangkok on the weekends, the thrill of driving through the city and walking around the different areas was still there, even near the end of my exchange.

I found university life in Thailand completely different to university in Australia. Thai universities feel a lot like school: you have lots of homework; you are asked to participate in class discussions; and you have the same classes with the same people. Most classes have between 30-50 students, but in one of my classes, Advanced News Reporting, there were only 10 students. This was great because I could really get to know everyone, and could develop a good relationship with my teacher. You also take between 6-7 subjects, so you get to know the other students very quickly because you see them so regularly.

My class for JM310 – Editorial and Article Writing

The highlights of my trip include spending Songkran in Chiang Mai. Songkran is the Thai New Year holiday, famous for water fights that are held all over the country. People of all ages wear colourful Hawaiian shirts, arm themselves with water guns and buckets, and spray water at each other. Chiang Mai is known as having one of the country’s biggest Songkran celebrations.

Drenched on the streets of Chiang Mai

Another highlight was getting to know so many Thai students. I’m a massive food lover, so I found getting along with Thai students super easy. We would talk about food all the time. One friend invited me over to his house to cook with his family and have dinner with them. We cooked up a huge feast of traditional Thai dishes including kai palo (sweet and sour pork soup), red curry of duck, dry-fried prawns in garlic and chili, and the best fried rice ever!

The huge meal we cooked!

One last highlight would have to be a trip with my closest exchange and Thai friends where we took to an island in Southern Thailand called Ko Phi Phi. We spent an incredible day on a boat and visited some beautiful beaches. These are memories I’ll never forget.

My friends and I on a boat somewhere in the Andaman Sea

I feel very fortunate to have had this amazing experience, and implore others to go on exchange. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

This student’s exchange is supported by funding from the Australian government’s New Colombo Plan. More information available here.

Dreams Come True: My Exchange to Kyoto, Japan at Ritsumeikan University

Chen Lang (Joyce) Yu, Bachelor of Design (Architectural Studies) (Honours) 

Host university: Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan

So it’s a bit of a childhood dream to go on exchange in Japan and study Japanese. Using the elective credits that I had with my architectural course, I was grateful to have been given the opportunity to go to Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. Kyoto is pretty much on every tourist’s list to visit if they came to Japan, the city is scattered with temples, shrines, museums and historical places that reminisce a time when Kyoto was the capital. Living here only served to reinforce that. There are endless little niches of culture, old and new, traditional and modern, living side by side each other and it’s quite incredible.

I applied for Ritsumeikan University for the SKP (Study in Kyoto) program that they offer for international students, specifically the IJL (Intensive Japanese Learning track). Coming here in late March, I was able to catch the cherry blossom season and it was spectacular.

Cherry Blossom in Kyoto

For the semester, I undertook Japanese lessons every day and each week; there would be so much content to be learned – grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation etc. I must admit, it was somewhat stressful, but at the same time I have learned a lot. From almost no Japanese language experience to being able to hold simple conversation with local Japanese students, the progress was slow but rewarding.

Luckily, Ritsumeikan University offers dormitory housing for international students, which saved me the hassle of looking for my own accommodation. By far the dorm life was one of the most rewarding experiences for me and my stay in Kyoto. I was able to meet and make friends with people from all over the world who also shared my enthusiasm for studying Japanese and learning its culture. These people have become some lifelong friends that I hope to be able to visit them in their part of the world.

Some of the lifelong friends I made in Kyoto

Spring time in Kyoto, Japan

Chen Lang (Joyce) Yu

Bachelor of Design (Architectural Studies) (Honours)

 Host university: Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan

So it’s a bit of a childhood dream to go on exchange in Japan and study Japanese. Using the elective credits that I had with my architectural course, I was grateful to have been given the opportunity to go to Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. Kyoto is pretty much on every tourist’s list to visit if they came to Japan, the city is scattered with temples, shrines, museums and historical places that reminisce of a time when Kyoto was the country’s imperial capital. Living here only served to reinforce that. There are endless little niches of culture, old and new, traditional and modern, living side by side each other and it’s quite incredible.

Heian Jingu Shrine

The beautiful Kamogawa that runs through the heart of Kyoto’s city centre

I applied to Ritsumeikan University for the SKP (Study in Kyoto) program that they offer for international students, specifically the IJL (Intensive Japanese Learning track). Coming here in late March, I was able to catch the cherry blossom season and it was quite spectacular. Unfortunately, these flowers don’t last long, about a week or two at most, so during this time we made the most going around places and enjoying the flower viewing (or Hanami).

Cherry blossom trees out in front of the university dorm

For the semester, I undertook Japanese lessons every day and each week there would be so much language content to be learned – grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation etc. I must admit, it was somewhat stressful, but at the same time I have learned a lot. Going from almost no Japanese language experience to being able to hold simple conversation with local Japanese students, the progress was slow but rewarding.

Luckily, Ritsumeikan University offers dormitory housing for international students, which saved me the hassle of looking for my own accommodation. By far the dorm life was one of the most rewarding experiences for me and my stay in Kyoto. I was able to meet and make friends with people from all over the world who also shared my enthusiasm for studying Japanese and learning its culture. These people have become some lifelong friends that I hope to be able to visit them in their part of the world.

Wonderful people from wonderful places around the world

 

 

Taiwan – The Third Edition

Path to Oyster Island

Taiwan just keeps throwing more and more cool surprises at me. The weekend of 7-9 June was the Dragon Boat Festival, celebrated in many countries across Asia, and with its heritage stemming from China. On this weekend the Professor for my class ‘Workshop on Sustainability’ takes a handful of students on a trip to Kinmen Island.

Kinmen is a county (state, as we’d call them in OZ) of Taiwan; however its geographical location puts it about 10 km from mainland China with 150km of ocean between it and the rest of Taiwan. The historical significance of this island is huge. It was occupied by Japan during the Second World War then, as a result of the Chinese civil war, Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang (KMT) Government occupied the island as they fled to Taiwan.  Claimed by both the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC), the island was a place of war and bombing for a long time. In the mid-90s the Taiwanese Government returned control to a local Kinmen government where it has since been a county of Taiwan. There is a lot to see on the island, and the whole weekend was jam-packed with nonstop visits to different forts and museums.

Zhaishan Tunnel

It was an hour’s flight from Taipei and upon landing our Professor met us, quickly ushering us to the bus and to our first stop. We met the Director of Social Services, Tung Shen, who is a Kinmen native, passionate about sharing and promoting the area. He had kindly sponsored our trip by providing one of the night’s accommodation and our transport all weekend. After thanking him we were off to lunch and to explore some old tunnel systems. Our second tunnel visit was the most impressive, Zhaishan Tunnel. It was built for U-boats to enter and since the war has been repurposed for orchestras on a number of occasions due to its acoustics.  That night we were invited to join a Dragon Boat Festival dinner hosted by Tung Shen. We had a large spread of local food and got to try the locally brewed, Taiwanese icon, Kaoliang liquor.

The TEAM

The next day was race day and we’d been given some old 2014 Kinmen Marathon merchandise to make us look like a team. Our class was all foreign students and none of us had ever stepped foot in a dragon boat. The Festival started with lots of local performances before getting into the races. We were entered in our first social race at 11:30. We studied all those who came before us trying to learn how dragon boating was done. Eventually, our time came.  We started off hyped but the excitement had dwindled into nervousness in the 25 minutes it took for us to get the boat in position at the starting line. When the race started our focus was consistency and synchronicity; our aim wasn’t to be the fastest, just to stay in a straight line. Halfway there we’d found ourselves picking up quite a bit of speed finishing in second place! Despite the 12 seconds behind first place, not being last gave us a burst of adrenalin and fueled us for round two. We had some lunch and met some cool locals while waiting, and at 3.00pm we boarded the boat and this time we were able to get the boat in position at the same rate as our contestants. The gun went off and so did we, the world zoned out and all we were thinking

Liberty Times

was “Row, Row, Row!” We got to the end seemingly at the same time as every other boat. Over the moon, we raced ashore to find our time was the fastest by less than 1 second! (That wasn’t enough to recover the 12 seconds we were behind in the first race). But the idea of winning the heat was awesome and it left our Professor speechless! However, he will now think twice before giving the motivation to students “if you win a race, I will give you 10 extra points towards your overall grade.” Our attendance as foreigners drew a bit of excitement and we starred in a few newspapers which was pretty cool!

 

That night we caught the ferry over and stayed on little Kinmen (otherwise known as Little K), which is an island about a quarter of the size just next to main Kinmen. Our accommodation was a tiny AirBNB within walking distance of the beach, a perfect place for us to celebrate our win and admire the beautiful sunset. The next day we explored and learned more about the forts and battles that took place on Little K and back on Kinmen until it was time for some to depart. However, I was not one of them. A mate and I stayed on another two nights to do a bit more exploring. Our accommodation was a homestay that our Professor lined up for us. They cooked us an awesome dinner and we exchanged small conversation over Google Translate. Hiring electric scooters (with a top speed of 25kmh) we pottered around the island, visited a folk village, and climbed The Mountain on the island. We also caught up again with some teachers that we met at the Dragon Boat Festival.

Kinmen is such a unique part of the world. The locals have a strong sense of identity, seeing themselves as Kinmenese before being Taiwanese or Chinese. The opportunity to go and have such an immersive experience is something I am truly grateful for. This mini trip inside my much larger adventure is definitely going to stand out as a highlight.

 

 

 

Kinmen Daily News (https://www.kmdn.gov.tw/1117/1271/1272/306893)

Liberty Times Net (https://news.ltn.com.tw/news/life/breakingnews/2815461)

Why Singapore?

Penelope F., Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Laws (Honours)
Singapore Management University, Singapore (Semester 1, 2017)

The most common question I’ve been asked over the last few months is, “Why Singapore?’ Why did I choose to spend 6 months studying and undertaking an internship there? I could answer this question in a million different ways but it mostly comes down to these two things:

Singapore is the gateway to Asia, and as an International Business and Law student wanting to pursue a career in International Trade it was the perfect exchange destination for me.  I wanted to go somewhere different and challenging, and Singapore offered all of this and more.

Secondly I was given the amazing opportunity to undertake a 2 month internship at the National Australia Bank (NAB) Singapore, in the Trade and Working Capital Team (TWC). The internship was offered by QUT and the Australian Government New Colombo Plan.

The beginning of my exchange journey started with me completing a semester at Singapore Management University or SMU. SMU is located in the heart of Singapore City (compared to other uni’s which are far away from the city). After what was an incredibly stressful few days of enrolling into classes, I began my journey at SMU studying international business subjects. The teaching methods at SMU were very different to QUT. All my classes had a 3 hour 45 minute tutorial each week, with lots of in class participation. While SMU was stressful at times, I was able to do a lot of travel during the semester to Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia.

After finishing my semester at SMU I then commenced a 2 month internship at NAB Singapore in the TWC Team. I had no idea what to expect of the internship, but it greatly surpassed my expectations. The team were incredibly welcoming and I learnt all about International Trade. I would strongly encourage anyone to apply for the internship, especially if you are interested in International Trade and/or Finance. As NAB has fewer than 100 employees in Singapore, I was able to see what each department did and how all the department’s interacted with TWC. It’s only since coming home that I realised how amazing of an opportunity the internship was. It’s opened so many new doors for me already and given me a great group of networks.

Overall my time in Singapore was one amazing journey. I strongly encourage students to consider Asia as an exchange destination and research the New Colombo Grants offered by QUT.

Taiwan, A Country of Warmth

Yuheng L., Bachelor of Business (Dean’s Honours)
Fu Jen Catholic University, Taiwan (Semester 2, 2017)

I have always imagined Taiwan to be a warm little country which is often neglected by the international society. Due to political reasons, Taiwan is isolated internationally. It is not part of the UN and has only 20 countries of diplomatic relations (FYI: China has 175). However, Taiwan is not an underdeveloped country of any sort. Taipei has a well-built metro system and there is a High-Speed Rail throughout the west coast of Taiwan. By car, it takes 4 hours to get from Taipei to Kaohsiung but it only takes an hour and a half on the HSR. It is very convenient to travel around Taiwan where many people travel around the island as a challenge (mostly on a bicycle) every year. For me personally, one of the places I loved the most was Tainan (South Taiwan). It is an amazing city with great food and a lot of historical sites, mostly from the era when they were ruled under the Japanese Empire. It has a lot of cultural characteristics unique from other cities.

Taiwan also has a comparatively low cost of living. Dining out can be very cheap (it can be very expensive too, if you choose to do so), where a meal could be around AUD $3-4. Their wages, however, is much lower than Australian standards. Their minimum legal hourly wage is roughly $6, which makes things much cheaper than Australia. I lived in the campus dormitory for the entire semester and it only cost me around AUD $380.

It was not long until I faced difficulties. Immediately on the day after my arrival, a lady shop owner began speaking Taiwanese Hokkien to me. Luckily, I was with my exchange buddy (whom FJU has arranged before my arrival) at that time and he was able to communicate with the owner on my behalf. I am very grateful for my exchange buddies and my dorm roommates who helped me out a lot upon my arrival. I immediately felt the warmth and helpfulness of the Taiwanese people on my first couple of days. Listening to my roommates’ stories was very interesting as they all came from different backgrounds, one being in the army for 5 years after high school, another being a Bruneian of Taiwanese descent. Having chats and laughter, with the occasional disagreement, every night was definitely a memorable experience – something that I won’t experience at home.

One of the things that I really enjoyed is joining the basketball team of my faculty. There are yearly tournaments between faculties and between departments. Our team trained regularly and apart from having fun, I believe it is a great way to develop relationships. It shows that the university culture there is quite different too. Sports and other club activities are a vital part of their university life, where people gather together. I could see evidence of a more collectivistic society based on their university culture. Apart from that, the close relationship between classmates is something special. It feels exactly like high school where classes are held in small classrooms rather than large lecture halls. The teachers know every student, therefore, as soon as she saw my unfamiliar face I was immediately asked to introduce myself. They welcomed me and invited me to have lunch together on the first day of class. I felt like I could blend in to their culture instantly with their friendliness.

There is no way I could talk about Taiwan without mentioning food. There is so much food around campus to the point I could even get hot food at midnight. The entire campus is approximately the size of the Kelvin Grove campus, however, there are 5 different blocks of canteens! Plus, with the number of restaurants outside of campus, there is absolutely no need to worry about what you need to bring for lunch.

Taiwan is a country with a lot of warmth. There is a common saying of ‘The Most Beautiful Scenery in Taiwan is its People.”, and I recognized that it is true throughout my journey. I have made great friends during these past few months and I surely miss the moments I had with them. If you are looking at going to the Asia-Pacific region, or if you would love to pick up the Chinese language, I would surely recommend Taiwan as an exchange destination.

Tokyo Game Show

Grace G., Bachelor of Engineering (Honors)
International Christian University, Japan (Semester 2, 2016)

As an engineering student at QUT, my primary motivation for studying overseas was to better understand how computer-human interaction differs between cultures. And now, having spent the Autumn trimester at the International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo I can honestly say this experience has impacted more than just my education, it has provided me with the skills and confidence to improve my own life as well. So I’d like to take this opportunity to share my experience and hopefully encourage you, my fellow students, to pursue an exchange period in Tokyo, Japan.

Firstly, let me start off by saying that ICU is an incredible school. The teachers are very knowledgeable and supportive, engaging with students and encouraging us to develop our own ideas and pursue subjects beyond the classroom. ICU differs from QUT in that it’s classes are much smaller, making it easier for teachers to tailor the learning experience to meet the needs of individual students. As far as the facilities go, the campus has a very convenient post office, gym and my dream library alongside a cafeteria, called ガッキ (‘Gakki’), which is a combination of the Japanese word ‘学生’ (‘Gakusei’ or ‘Student’) and the English word ‘Kitchen’. There is also on-campus housing, however there weren’t many rooms available when I applied, so I ended up living in a share house in beautiful Koganei. I consider myself extremely lucky to have lived in such a wonderful place. Koganei was very homely, which made it easier for me to grow an attachment to my new surroundings. However, there is less support available for exchange students living off-campus, which is only a problem when it comes time for ward office registration. Something I would recommend with hindsight is to look up an English translation of the appropriate forms before you go, as there is unlikely to be any English support available to you in your local ward office.

Now since returning home I’ve been asked a few times to choose my favourite memory from studying in Tokyo, and I continuously struggle to answer. I had so many wonderful experiences in Japan and choosing just one is not easy. However I do consider myself exceptionally lucky, that my exchange period just happened to coincide with the Tokyo Game Show. Whenever I think about the day I spent playing demos, admiring VR headsets and listening to presentations made by some of my personal heroes, I feel a surge of gratitude to both QUT and ICU for giving me this opportunity to experience new things and grow in ways I’d never imagined.

It was studying abroad that helped me to realise giving in to my fear of failure only ever guaranteed it, and success is in my power to define. There was a time when I didn’t think I was capable of studying abroad, but with the support of my family, friends and both QUT and ICU I was able to face my fears and enjoy an incredible semester.

So, I’ll leave you with this final piece of advice, if you’re considering going on exchange remember what it is you want from this experience and strive for it! Don’t let fear hold you back from the adventure that awaits you!

頑張れ

Time Of My Life In Nagoya

Christina Z., Bachelor of Creative Industries / Bachelor of Law (Honours)
Meijo University, Japan (Semester 2, 2018)

I never thought in my entire life that I would ever do karaoke. Before my exchange I was quite shy; a little quiet around people I didn’t know. Don’t get me wrong, I love singing, just not in front of other people. I was afraid that people might judge me and that I wasn’t good at it. However in Japan I found my voice, literally and figuratively. If it is one thing that Japanese people do well it is karaoke. It doesn’t matter if you are bad, average, or sound like Whitney Houston. It just matters that you put yourself out there and that you enjoyed the experience.

Meeting new friends!

Life on campus was fairly good for the most part, however being one of three Caucasian students in the whole school definitely made you stand out. It was a bit strange at first but you get used to the staring and such. Meijo University also set me up with a job in an area of the university that they call Global Plaza. This area was where students could come to study English and practice conversation. Through being a conversation partner I was able to make a lot of friends and get more involved with university life. The facilities were quite well kept, there were even tennis courts, a gymnasium and computer labs. Accommodation wise the room I stayed in comes with everything you will need – bathroom, kitchen, mini fridge, desk, and bed and storage space. It was small but honestly you don’t need that much space, and an added benefit was that you got to live alone too. It was great being so close to the university (a three minute walk), the train station, bank, restaurants and convenience stores. The study aspect of my exchange was surprisingly quite simple and definitely not as busy as QUT. I only had to go in once a week for one class and the assessments were generally not stressful.

Nagoya and surrounds

Placing myself in a completely new environment with different customs and a completely different culture was very eye-opening. People would always tell me that going on exchange changed their lives, and I would always nod along even if I didn’t quite believe them. Well, I should have. Now I can truly say that going to Japan and studying abroad has definitely changed me forever. I have met so many different people while I was over there. They came from places such as France, Austria, Turkey, America and even Korea. I have a lot of friends in different places now, and being away from them has taught me about how important making connections is. With them I got to experience the wonders of Japan; from New Year’s shrine visits, autumn leaves and hot springs, all the way to snowboarding, all you can drink izakaya’s, and the infamous 24 hour convenience stores. Japan is very big on their nightlife. Even in Nagoya people stay out quite late to socialise and drink. There is a reason why those convenience stores are open at all hours.

Friends at a local Pub

Another fantastic thing that happened was that I got to see snow for the very first time. I felt like a child when I woke up that morning and looked out my window. I didn’t even take time out to have a shower before I dressed and left my room. I spent two hours outside that day playing in the snow with my friend Stone. We made snowwomen, threw snow balls off the rooftop of our apartment building and overall just had a great time being 5 years old again.

First time seeing snow

Despite the big cultural differences I didn’t have the huge culture shock that everyone was expecting me to when I first arrived. However as I spent more time integrating into the culture there were a few things that surprised me. In my case, Japan had such a lack of cultural diversity that I found it hard to blend in. I would stand out wherever I went and people did treat you differently because they knew you weren’t from there. However that is not always a bad thing. Another thing I did not expect was the separation of sexes at a university level. Usually, that happens in primary school and sometimes high school but it dissipates as you get into university. In Japan, however, there are no co-ed sports teams, friends sit apart in class (boys with boys and girls with girls) and no one really hugs over here. Finally, Christmas is another occasion that has a completely different meaning in Japan than it does in Australia. Everyone still goes to work and school on Christmas Day, in fact, it is seen as a day for couples. However New Years is when everyone has time off and goes to be with their family.

Exploring Nagoya with friends

For anyone looking to go overseas and study, I would say to go without expectations and keep an open mind. That way you can really be involved in things you might not have thought you would be. I loved my life there and I was very sad to leave it behind, but I am so grateful I got to experience Japan.

 

 

 

 

 

Learning Japanese language and culture in Tokyo

Joshua C., ​Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Games and Interactive Environments
Meiji University Winter Japanese Language Program (February 2019)

Hi there! My name is Joshua Crowley and I am in my 4th year at QUT Studying a Bachelor of Games and Interactive Environments (Design) / Bachelor of Business (Marketing). I decided to undertake a short-term program to make my summer break a little more exciting than usual, and boy was it an adventure!

I decided to have my short-term program in Japan and to participate in the Meiji University Japanese Winter Language Program. I have always been an avid consumer of Japanese media, culture, and the language especially. I had basic knowledge of phrases and can read Hiragana and Katakana, but unfortunately my Kanji is not up to scratch. This program was a great way to get a foothold of how to tackle aspects of learning the language, and to make many friends from all around the world.

Where did I stay?

For this program, I decided to stay with a homestay family to get the full experience of Japanese hospitality, and to see the day to day commute when living outside of central Tokyo. I stayed with two homestay families, as I left Australia a little earlier before the program to visit my previous homestay again in Hiroshima. Hiroshima is a beautiful city, a must see!

My homestay family

My homestay in Tokyo was far from central Tokyo in the Chiba prefecture, which is roughly a 1-hour train ride to Meiji University. Public transport in Japan is very easy, but quite expensive. On average, I spent JP¥2000 per day (around $25) riding various trains, to get to and from my homestay as well as visiting various cities across Tokyo. It is important to budget well prior to departing Australia, and to investigate cheaper options such as the Japan Rail Pass or even regional passes for short term trips. Unfortunately, due to my travel itinerary it was not worth purchasing the pass. On the plus side, I had delicious dinners after a long day at uni, such as hotpot!

I miss hotpot for dinner

 

How was the language program?

On the first day of the program we all had to sit a Japanese language test, which tested our reading, writing and speaking ability. Depending on your performance during the test, you were placed in one of four classes, from introductory up to advanced. The classes themselves were very informative with enthusiastic teachers and student volunteers, eager to help in any way possible. However, the lessons were conducted at a fast pace and fully in Japanese with limited English and it was easy to get confused, so it is highly recommended to brush up on your Japanese before joining the program! These classes took place over a 2 ½ week period, with classes taking place mostly on weekday mornings, leaving the afternoons free for students to explore Tokyo and its surroundings.

My university for the program

We also participated in various cultural activities such as calligraphy classes, tea ceremonies, and dressing ourselves in Kimonos!

The cultural part of the program

Kimonos time!

Learning Japanese is a long process but is highly rewarding once you start to understand the grammatical and character-based systems. At the end of the program, I currently still am not able to hold a full conversation in Japanese but am able to now convey my message across through basic sentences.

Special memories?

Many lifelong friends were made throughout my month across Japan. In my spare time between classes, I took the opportunity to visit Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Yokohama, Sapporo, and various places around Tokyo. One highlight of my trip was experiencing -15°c temperatures whilst taking in the sights and sounds of the Sapporo Snow Festival held in the Hokkaido region. Amazing snow sculptures carved with insane amounts of detail scattered the streets of Sapporo, bringing in tourists from all over the world.

Sapporo Snow Festival

Sapporo Snow Festival

From humidity to snow and back again

Final Thoughts

Upon returning to Australia after only just a month, it took some time to readjust back to a humid climate, as well as settling back into a more relaxed Australian lifestyle. For those who have not been to Japan, I cannot recommend it highly enough as an exchange destination due to the amount of amazing people, food, and cultural norms that embodies Japanese society. I hope to undertake a full semester exchange in 2020, as I cannot wait to see what else Japan has in store.

See you soon, Japan!

Pokemon mania