Cultural lessons from the Japanese

Katrine K, Bachelor of Nursing

University Life in Japan: Kimono, Matcha and You at Sonoda Women’s University (December 2016)

Konnichiwa! My name is Katrine, and I’m a third year student studying the Bachelor of Nursing. In the first two weeks of the December holidays, I have been very fortunate to be given the opportunity to participate in a cultural exchange program hosted by the Sonoda Women’s University in Amagasaki, Japan. Not only did this unforgettable experience enrich my awareness of cultural diversity, but the kindness and warmth of the Japanese people made it possible to form friendships with almost anyone I encountered; whether that be at university or on the streets of Osaka! Throughout this program, I have been incredibly lucky to experience many unique and wonderful moments.

One memorable highlight of my trip however, would have to be the week-end I stayed with the Fujii family in Ojiro. Although I could speak or understand little Japanese, my host father, mother, sister and visiting locals were extremely sympathetic and accommodating to my needs and often tried their best to speak in English to ease my anxiety and restlessness. I thought this gesture was very thoughtful and generous of them and once again empathised the kindliness of the Japanese people. From the moment I arrived, my host family offered me food, snow boots, manga, fresh clothes, and my very own tatami room! I was also surprised and deeply touched at the lengths of preparation they put into arranging my bedroom. I never expected to have a mini decorated Christmas tree with flickering lights standing before me when I entered to unpack my bags! These experiences made me reflect on a time when my classmates and I had a cultural lesson with Keiji. He stated that Japanese people generally have a “you”-centred attitude or a “guessing culture”. This meant that they will often try to guess what the other person is feeling in order to accommodate their needs, believing this showed humanity. As a foreigner, I found the Japanese culture in this context quite refreshing and surprisingly relatable. I eagerly wanted to learn more about their culture as I too, coming from a nursing background, believe passionately in upholding similar values.

While living in Ojiro, I went on many insightful and exciting adventures! This included visiting the captivating sand sculptures at the Sand Museum and conquering the Tottori sand dunes through freezing winds. Another memorable highlight of staying in Ojiro was the opportunity to design and sculpt my own jewellery from stone.  The stone used to make our pendants were known as “magatama”, and were traditionally made from jade, glass or rocks. What I enjoyed most about this experience was not only learning of its historical value and appeal since the Jomon period, but the connection magatama had to religious practices including shamanism and Shinto. In addition to its spiritual significance, I found the crafting of magatama a challenging, but truly rewarding experience that I will never forget!

During the time when my classmates and I were not living in Ojiro, we inhabited the cosy grounds of Sonoda Woman’s University to learn Japanese or explored the historic highlights of Amagasaki where we took part in cultural activities. While at Sonoda Woman’s University however, I immediately noticed how small and homely the campus was in comparison to the blocky high rises that occupied the grounds of QUT. Unsurprisingly, nearly all of the students (which were no more than 200!) noticed our presence and gave us their utmost attention. My allocated group were particularly fortunate to receive a dynamic culture class presented by the university’s students themselves which I had the pleasure of attending. One unforgettable moment from our experiences was taking part in the traditional Japanese game, “suikawari”, and then learning about the meticulous process in which “katsuobushi” is made. Katsuobushi, in particular, made the most impression on me as I never expected dried fermented fish to appear as an oddly shaped rock or a chunky piece of wood that would later become an essential ingredient used in traditional Japanese foods, such as dashi. In addition, the kindliness and welcoming mannerisms of the students were, again, infectious and I felt a great sense of belonging and acceptance when I was asked to introduce myself to the class and share with them the cultural practices I engaged in while living in Australia.

My cultural experiences in Japan have been endless, and I felt so grateful for the time the Sonoda University staff gave us to make it such a pleasant experience! I would also like to say how very thankful I am to the teachers who managed, without fail, to remain optimistic and deeply passionate about teaching Japanese. I’m very proud to say that I’m now quite confident in ordering food in restaurants, thanks to a large appetite for Curry House CoCo and the multiple visits I’ve had to the “taiyaki” (fish-shaped pastries filled with custard or red bean paste) stand near Amagasaki station. I would highly recommend this exchange program for anyone, both young and old!

Spend your summer exploring Seoul

Jiwon L, Bachelor of Design (Honours)

Korea University – International Winter Campus (Dec 2016– Jan 2017)

Korea University is one of the highest ranked universities in the world in a variety study areas. The campus is filled with historical and incredible gothic-style architecture. As an architecture student, looking around the campus was a great opportunity to experience the sights and also outside of campus there were so many great high-rise buildings I wouldn’t be able to find back in Brisbane, Australia.

Staying at Korea University’s dormitory was very enjoyable, meeting new friends from other cultures. I have built such a strong relationship with my roommates, so we went out to travel Seoul together outside the campus.  We went to Dongdaemoon to see one of my favourite architect’s work, Zaha Hadid, during the weekends and other cities and enjoyed the culture of Seoul. As Seoul is one of the top cities that has highly developed transport, it was very easy to travel inner cities without spending a lot of money.

I have met very warm and welcoming friends from different places and cultures and sharing this experience with them was such a wonderful experience that I am not likely to have in life again. If you are a student who loves travel and exploring busy cities, Korea University in Seoul is the perfect place to be.

Reimagining India, the experience of a lifetime

Samuel G, Bachelor of Engineering / Bachelor of Business

IndoGenius: Reimagining India Experiential Learning Program (February 2017)

New Colombo Plan mobility grant recipient

The ‘Reimaging India Experiential Learning Program’, conducted by IndoGenius, expertly introduced me to Indian culture, politics, entrepreneurship, innovation, history, economics and a variety of other business aspects. The program immersed me in experiences that broadened my perception of what it means to be alive, reprogramming many of the Western ideologies I have grown accustomed to. Some personal and professional benefits I have taken from this program include: a deepened understanding of myself, the development of various cultural competencies, the growth of my emotional intelligence and finally the improvement of my ability to communicate across cultures. I am certain that my experiences in India will influence my future decision making after university. I now have ideas of moving to India to work and travel, creating a social enterprise that increases quality of life in developing countries and even smaller things like taking up yoga and meditating regularly. Some highlights of my experience in India are shown below. 

Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh

This man noticed my fascination towards his pet monkey that was sitting so politely on his shoulder. I asked if I could take a picture of him and his monkey, but he insisted that I take the monkey and get a picture with him myself. The monkey was awesome. He enjoyed eating a few flowers from my necklace also!

Agra, Uttar Pradesh

This was one very enjoyable afternoon by the pool at the Trident Agra Resort. Team Indogenius knew how to travel with style. I relaxed in the pool, watching the sun set with a few of the other students. 

The Lotus Temple, New Delhi

The sun was setting here over the Lotus Temple in New Delhi – a place where people of all beliefs can come to worship, meditate and reconnect with themselves. It was an honour to partake in a guided meditation here.

Dharavi Slum, Mumbai

The feeling of community and connectedness was incredibly strong in Dharavi. The people did not have much, but they at least had each other. The resilience, determination and willpower of the people living in this community was truly inspiring and motivating. Further, some 10,000 companies are operating in this space generating a yearly revenue of approximately US$1 billion.

Bicycle tour before sunrise, Mumbai

This was a great opportunity to experience India by bike, which is fitting considering it is the country with the most bikes in the world. We rode to some notable sights – the most incredible of them all was a small Islamic shrine where there were dozens of people lined up (before 6am) to worship and give offerings to their respective gods. These are places of incredible spirituality and openness, places that allow for one to strengthen the mind.

Havan Fire Ceremony, New Delhi

Experiencing the Havan was truly a spiritual journey for my mind. I was able to shut off the outside world, the material world, going deeper into myself. This allowed for a deeper reflective and meditative state, where I was able to let be what has been, and start to live my life more in the present.

New Delhi

We blocked the street as we danced alongside our marching band to the temple (featured previously) where we experienced the Havan ceremony. Koustav, who is wearing the dark green Kurta and blue scarf, guided our dance and direction, navigating the traffic like a pro.

Old Delhi, Delhi

Meet Ben, Casey and half of Alex. These are three of the many incredible people I met on this journey. The relationships I formed throughout the program have been forged for life. Especially considering I am likely to move to India and work for this program. Like I said, a life-changing journey.

The time I spent on the Reimagining India program was some of the most conscious and aware moments of my life. I was truly present in all situations, brought upon this newfound concept of focus. The personal benefits of such experiences are endless, examples include a deepened ability: to think critically, to think abstractly, to listen actively, speak consciously, to live in the present and to overall just embrace life, living it to the absolute fullest.

I would like to thank the Indogenius team, New Colombo Plan, QUT Business School and QUT International Short-Term Mobility for making these two life changing weeks possible.

Applications for the 2017 Indogenius program are now open! Apply here.

The Beginning of an Adventure

Destination: PHILIPPINES!

Two weeks ago now, I left Australia to officially begin the next chapter, the adventure of a lifetime.

Let me tell you a bit about myself. I’m Lauren, 19 years old, travel lover, tea enthusiast and extremely passionate about human rights and international affairs. I’m currently in my third year studying a Bachelor of Justice and I’ve just moved to MANILA in the Philippines!

The view from my apartment

I am incredibly lucky to have been awarded a 2017 New Colombo Plan Scholarship to undertake study and internships across the Indo-Pacific Region for up to 18 months!!

At the moment, my Scholarship starts out in Manila, with a two month internship at The Asia Foundation in their Law and Human Rights team, before I head to Indonesia to begin studying International Relations at Parahyangan Catholic University. I’ll tell you more about that in a later blog.

New Colombo Plan Scholarship Awards Presentation

It’s not all smooth sailing…

Leaving Australia, and in particular, leaving my family was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. The reality that I will be away from home for such an extended period of time really hit me hard.

After saying goodbye

As I collected my boarding pass and started walking to the departure gate, I started to realise that leaving on this journey wasn’t just any adventure. This time, I was not going to be coming home in a matter of weeks or months and seeing my family again. Here I was thinking I could be cool, calm and collected, instead in a bawling mess.  All I could think was how lucky I am to have people in my life that make saying goodbye so difficult.

The first few days were a rollercoaster of emotions, an anarchic mix of doubt, angst and euphoria, but mostly, fear of the unknown. At times, I’ve felt alone and so far out of my depth, just wishing I was back at home in my own bed. However, as I’ve started to become acquainted with Manila and explore this unique, beautifully chaotic city I am beginning to feel more and more at home.

So far, my first two weeks have consisted of, settling into my internship at The Asia Foundation, organising my accommodation and urging myself to wander the city.

I’ve found it a little strange adapting to the work environment here in the Philippines. The work is challenging with tough deadlines, and high expectations. Basically, I was thrown in the deep end, right from the day one.

Dinner with the LAHR Team

There’s no denying that taking that first step can be hard, but that first grim instance is so worth every single phenomenal experience you will have.

If I could give you any advice, it would be to just take a risk, and dive right in! Never pass up an opportunity because it’s a little daunting or because you’re scared of the unknown – the challenge part of the adventure!

Until next time, paalam!

Please feel free to connect with me if you have any questions regarding exchange, the Philippines, Indonesia, internships, the New Colombo Plan – anything, I would love to hear from you!

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Engineering Design Summit in Cambodia

Himanthi M, Bachelor of Engineering

Engineers Without Borders: Cambodia Design Summit (February 2017)

The experiences and opportunities that were on offer were once in a lifetime. The opportunity to live in a remote Cambodian village really opened my eyes to realities of people’s lives around the world. The trip also allowed me to discover Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh. This bustling city is a central hub. There are so many great restaurants to try the local cuisine. The program took us to many new places every meal which gave us the chance to discover new parts of the cities we visited.

The weather did get quite warm on some days but most of the time the monsoon rain came in the afternoon which cooled the weather and the nights were comfortable. The accommodation provided by the program was really great and high quality. They were well organised and provided our needs. It was great staying with all the people who were on the summit and it meant that there were always group activities happening. Also activities were included in program cost which included dolphin watching, cultural experiences and historical tours.

The shopping was great in the local markets in Phnom Penh and the provincial towns. The prices were negotiable so don’t be afraid to bargain. The design summit focused on human design. We also had lectures on sustainable design, intercultural skills workshops, communication and the design process. The like-minded people and the contacts developed on the trip were so valuable.  Lifelong friendships were formed.This experience is invaluable and I definitely would recommend the EWB Design Summit for all engineering students.

Tradition and Technology in Japan

Diana O, Bachelor of Creative Industries

Ritsumeikan University Japanese Winter Program (Jan – Feb 2017)

It was at the beginning of summer when I decided I needed a change, so QUT’s short-term mobility program in Japan was the perfect opportunity to do something productive in holidays while continuing my Japanese studies. Ritsumeikan University is located on the north side of Kyoto, close to Kinkakuji Temple; the campus offers a brand new library, computer labs, convenient stores, numerous vending machines, and several co-op restaurants that are cheap and offer delicious food. Generally a lunch at the co-op restaurant is between 5 to 8 AUD.

Ritsumeikan University

As part of the Ritsumeikan Winter Japanese Program, I stayed at Taishogun International Dorm, which belongs to the university. The accommodation is only a 15 minutes walk to Ritsumeikan. The dorm is a modern, close to affordable restaurants, supermarkets, Emmachi Train station and buses. Living in a dorm is an essential part of the experience as you live and share most of your time with the other students. This was a wonderful opportunity to make new friends and meet people from other cultures.

Taishogun International Dorm

When you do an intensive language program there is a lot of content covered in a small period of time. This short-term program runs for 5 weeks, so you need to continuously study throughout the program in order to keep up with the content. Additionally we had Japanese cultural studies, 3 times a week, which were my favorite as we had the opportunity to meet Geiko-san and Maiko-san (Geishas), do pottery, cook Japanese food, play traditional Wadaiko drums and so much more.

Cultural Class: Japanese Cuisine, Geiko san and Maiko San

Living in Kyoto was fantastic. Kyoto is considered Japan’s cultural capital; it has over 2000 shrines and temples plus 17 Unesco world heritage sites. In a magical way the city is able to blend tradition and technology seamlessly, thus making Kyoto one of the most exciting places to visit in Japan. Thanks to the excellent transport system, I was able to take day trips to Osaka, Nara, Kobe, etc. My time in Kyoto gave me the opportunity to take risks, experience another culture, explore new things and make new friends. If given the chance I will do the short-term program again.

If you are interested in undertaking a short-term program during the QUT semester breaks, check out the QUT Global Portal for more information.

Surabaya: 5 Foods & What They Say About Indonesia Culture

Katie T: Bachelor of Property Economics
University of Surabaya, Indonesia (Semester 2, 2016)
New Colombo Plan Mobility Student

  1. Nasi Campur (pronounced Nasi champur)
    I’m starting with a dish meaning ‘mixed rice’ as it was one of the first dishes I had during my exchange in Surabaya. It is a dish which you can usually order and add whatever sides you like, be it fried egg, boiled egg, fried boiled egg, tempe or grilled fish – the list goes on. However, the core of the dish is their staple, rice – it wouldn’t be a meal without it according to many Surabayans. Like Nasi Campur itself, Surabaya is a city mixed with different cultures. Many of the students I studied with came to study in Surabaya from the small towns that border it, or from other Indonesian islands. Within the student body there is also a mix of ethnic backgrounds, languages and classes. That said, there staple traits they all share: politeness, hospitality and a willingness to meet new people.

    No spoons or forks for this one! I learned to eat with my hands for some traditional dishes

  2. Sate (pronounced sar-tay)
    To be honest, I’m mostly including sate because it’s delicious. It’s most common as grilled chicken skewers, but I also had goat in Lombok, and got to experience pork sate as cooked by my classmate’s grandmother in her hometown in north Sulawesi. I didn’t try the rabbit one sold just on my street. The first time I had sate was when the girl who lived next to me in the guesthouse suggested we go to the market for dinner. So I hopped on the back of her scooter and headed over to the street stall. Unfortunately, it was also the plan of many others who had ducked out and waited pyjama-clad with their friends on the side of the road. The thirty-minute wait seemed a lot longer with the delicious smell lingering around us! Sate is great as it’s so easy to share with people, which is great in a culture where everyone wants to show off their great food and meet new people.

    An unusual but delicious tucker

  3.  Mi Ayam (pronounced me-ai-yum)
    One of my favourite street stalls was a stroll down the busy street from my apartment. It had a banner as simple as ‘Mi Ayam’ or ‘chicken noodle’. Nothing mysterious about this shop: they sold a pot of Mi Ayam and a side of a sweet drink as protocol. What’s great about this dish is there’s only one type of ‘Mi Ayam’ which is a balance of chicken, soy sauce and a handful of spices. It’s a fair game for restaurants and food stalls that way, a game of who can balance the taste best. There’s no one arguing that the avocado mash a different dish to the smashed Avo on baked sourdough.

    Wet season would sometimes make the walk to the stall quite a challenge

  4. SambalI
    Wouldn’t be doing Indonesia justice if I didn’t mention the thing they do best – sambal. This paste is added to just about every dish and I can tell you it’s a lot more exciting than salt and pepper. In most restaurants in Surabaya, this will be a simple side of freshly ground chilies, shrimp paste and lime. However, as I travelled around Indonesia I learned that the meaning of ‘sambal’ changed. For example, in the island of Sulawesi, the spice was more intense and it had taken on more fresh seafood, which is the main diet in that region. Bali also has its version of sambal, with lemongrass and lime. Across the 17,000 islands of Indonesia, there are many different versions of this paste to check out!

    Glad I could bring myself to try the deep-fried banana with sambal in Manado

  5. Indomie – mi goreng
    We’re all students here – who hasn’t dived into a quick packet of mi goreng and even added and egg as a challenge for your kitchen skills? This meal is included with gratefulness to the Indonesian producer of two-minute noodles. I have had this dish since childhood in Australia, but the very same package can taste different in Indonesia. I had a bowl of mi goreng at the top of a mountain in Batu, sitting on a mat with friends I made during my internship. Music was blasting through speakers in the background and there was a selection of instant coffees hanging from the wall.

    So many more flavours to find in grocery and convenience stores. Try the green (ijo) one while over there!

    There are so many of these little cafes across Indonesia that are, like the dish, so very simple, but it’s the relaxed and friendly people that add to the experience.

    Resting in the mountains before lunch with my new friends in Batu, Malang

My Internship Experience

Hi, my name is Tiffanie and I’m scared of sharks, women who wear white pants, snakes, tall people, running out of hand sanitiser, sea cucumbers, crying children, weak handshakes, cane toads, 4s, accidentally swallowing gum, the Caboolture line and my own shadow (no, I’m not scared of spiders – don’t be ridiculous).

So you’d be correct in assuming that, upon hearing I’d managed to organise an internship, I was mildly terrified. What if I hated the work? What if I hated the people? What if I broke something important? What if I offended all their clients? What if I was wasting my time and money?

You see, realistically, the internship had very little to do with what I’m studying. I’m a second year journalism student, and I undertook my internship with a Queensland based trade organisation, who have offices worldwide (including in Tokyo, where I worked). These two fields have about as much in common as a hedgehog and a spoon. And yet, during my albeit short stint in the office, I was able to acquire and/or practice skills that are universally desired in the job market.

            The view from the office that I worked in

I primarily performed administration and research tasks applicable to the Queensland education, resources and agriculture sectors while in the office. I did everything from filing and making cups of tea, to attending an event at the Australian embassy, and researching opportunities for the practical application of drones in Queensland. However, through it all, I was able to develop and practice skills and qualities that are essential in any workplace, such as; teamwork, communication, attention to detail, organisation and time management.

Within 48 hours of starting my internship, all my fears were calmed. The work I was tasked with, although not something I’d usually do, was interesting; the people I worked with were welcoming and willing to work with me, even though I had no previous experience and my Japanese skills were severely lacking; and, above all else, this experience was not even close to a waste of my time and money.

For anyone considering undertaking an internship, whether domestically or abroad, I could not recommend it more. If you throw yourself into it and make the most of every opportunity to learn, you’ll come out the side with learning outcomes that are applicable to literally any field. Honestly, if I enjoyed it, you’re bound to also. At the very least, you come out of it with an experience to add to your CV and impress future employers with.

Sincerely,
Tiffanie.

A Semester in Tokyo

Chanelle J, Bachelor of Business

Rikkyo University, Japan (Semester 1, 2016)

New Colombo Plan mobility grant recipient

My decision to do exchange in Tokyo was influenced by my love of Japanese design and architecture, and also because I was interested to learn more about the culture. I was excited for a challenge to live in a country with a different language and way of life to me. And what a challenge it was, but I loved every minute of it!

n the top of Mt. Fuji with friends from Rikkyo University

Rikkyo university in Ikebukuro is a beautiful campus, though much smaller than QUT. The gym, swimming pool, tennis, basketball facilities are amazing and free for students to use. The orientation process to use these facilities is a bit tedious, especially for non-Japanese speakers, but well worth it!

The university system is very different to what I was used to. Attendance is compulsory and counts towards your final grade. We were required to do a minimum of 7 subjects to be on a student visa. This was a lot more work than I was used to at QUT, however the assessment items were much smaller.

The international office staff were very helpful and organized many free events for exchange students. I always felt like I had somewhere to go for help and someone to talk if I had a problem. Every day would bring new challenges, like receiving mail in the post I couldn’t understand, so it was a lifesaver to be able to take this to the international office for help.

Rikkyo, Ikebukuro Campus in the rain

 

I chose to live in an apartment in Zoshigaya, which is about 15min walk away from Rikkyo. I really enjoyed this location because I didn’t have to rely on the train. I bought a 2nd hand bike to get around the city. I recommend this to everyone!

Renting an apartment by myself was a huge expense at approximately $2000 AUD. It came completely fitted out with everything I needed for my stay, which is very different to the dormitories where you need to buy everything. If I had my time again I would prefer to stay somewhere cheaper.

Exploring Kawagoe, a traditional Japanese town

 

My living expenses (excluding rent) were around $1500 per month. It is really cheap to eat out and drink. There is a very cheap cafeteria style dining hall at university where you could get basic Japanese food for around $4 to $5.

My highlights were climbing Mt. Fuji, Go-Karting around Akihabara and shopping for vintage clothes in Shimokitazawa.

Overall, I loved my experience at Rikkyo and would recommend it to everyone!

Bullet Trains, Godzilla and Temples – The Real Japanese Experience

Elise L, Bachelor of Business/Bachelor of Fine Arts

Ritsumeikan University (Semester 2, 2016)

New Colombo Plan mobility grant recipient

In the Fall Semester of 2016 I studied at Ritsumeikan University in Osaka, Japan. I was part of the short term ‘Study In Kyoto’ program (SKP), but because I study in the Business Track my home campus and life was actually in Osaka.

Ritsumeikan University, Osaka Ibaraki Campus, from the ninth floor

I lived in a studio apartment (in the same building as many other SKPers) about forty minutes by train from uni. OIC campus was only completed in 2015, so dormitories are still under construction. Our apartments were small (22m2) but had everything we needed and I really came to love that little space. Being based in Osaka, we also had places like Kyoto, Kobe, and Nara only an hour away by train! Cost of living in Osaka seems moderate – rent is quite high and travel can be expensive (a ride on the bullet train can cost hundreds of dollars…), but food is very cheap and it is easy to walk to many places.

Home base – Aya Mikuni apartments

SKP students were assigned a Japanese student buddy, and they helped us with the little complexities of day-to-day life – how do you pay your bills when you can’t read them? How do you call the maintenance guy when you don’t speak Japanese and he doesn’t speak English? Our buddies helped us to function as residents rather than tourists, as well as taking us sightseeing and making us feel very welcome.

Shinjuku, Tokyo, feat. Godzilla

I spent more time on campus at Ritsumeikan than I ever have at QUT, and the timetable was more intensive than I’m used to – going from part-time study to 10 x 90 minute classes a week was a bit of a shock to the system! I studied Japanese too, and I’d highly recommend it – the things we learned were very practical for everyday life. There are also many university events to attend – we volunteered in a Haunted House at the Halloween festival, and we supported the university team at their American football games (go Panthers!). I attended the first World Community Power Conference in Fukushima, which was fascinating, and also visited the Toyota factory in Aichi.

My top 3 tips for studying in Japan:
1. Say yes (hai/はい)!
A piece of advice that my Dad gave me when I moved from our small country town to the big city of Brisbane. Whether it’s a student excursion on offer, or grabbing dinner with new people, say yes. If you don’t enjoy it you don’t have to do it again, but at least you tried!

2. Learn the language!
Downloading an app, buying a phrasebook or enrolling in classes like I did – language was the biggest barrier I encountered in Japan. By the time I left, I was able to have very simple conversations, and that felt like a huge achievement when I couldn’t even read my own mail.

3. Get an ICOCA card
A bit like a gocard in Brisbane, except you can’t get a discount as an international student (boo). It streamlines your travel process (no queueing for tickets), works across the whole country, and you can pay for a travel pass –  I had unlimited travel between my university station and the central Osaka station (with my home station being in between) which was worthwhile. Just don’t lose your card!

Japan is an amazing country and I feel like I barely scratched the surface, despite travelling as much as my budget allowed. My exchange actually postponed my graduation by a year, but I’d do it all again in a heartbeat – in fact, I’ve already booked my flights to go back!

The famous red tori gates of Fushimi Inari shrine, Kyoto