Interning in Indonesia

Catherine Johnson, Bachelor of Business

Short-term program: ACICIS – Business Professional Practicum (BPP) 2017, Indonesia

I started my trip excited yet apprehensive about what would await me in Indonesia, as it was my first time in Indonesia also my first time traveling to Asia. I undertook the Business Professional Practicum (BPP), which is a six-week program consisting of a two-week intensive Indonesian language course and business seminars at Atma Jaya University, followed by a four-week internship. The Australian Consortium runs the program for ‘In-Country’ Indonesian Studies (ACICIS) and you receive 12 credit points if you successfully complete the assessment.

When I arrived in Indonesia, I was definitely aware of the cultural difference and I found it exciting, not at all overwhelming. The first main difference I noticed was that the buildings in Jakarta are huge and it is a very busy and chaotic city, however, this is expected since it is a mega-city with a population of 15 million by day and 11 million by night. Because of the enormous population, the traffic did not even come close to Brisbane’s “traffic”. I found an app called Go-Jek – a cheap motorcycle taxi service which was great for when I was in a rush and wanted to weave through the traffic and reach my destination faster!

Go-Jeck Taxis

Something else I noticed about Jakarta is that at all hours of the day, there are locals on the streets, just chatting to each other or having food at a “warung” (street stall). I think it is great that locals can just walk outside and have someone to talk to. I also believe this is one of the reasons the crime and violence rate in Indonesia is so low and why Indonesians are some of the happiest people in the world – there are stats on it!

Another aspect about Jakarta, and Indonesia in general, is that it’s very rare for local Indonesians to come across foreigners, so as a result locals often tried to talk to me or in more touristy areas, I had people come up and ask for photos. However, it was harmless and generally people were just being friendly so it is nothing to be worried about if you consider going to Indonesia.

The field trips were a great part of the program as we were given the chance to visit the Indonesia Stock Exchange (IDX) and Google. These field trips gave me a real insight into Indonesian workplaces and we were able to ask questions and discuss certain topics. For example, what staff at the stock exchange do on a day-to-day basis and what strategies they are implementing to increase foreign investment and foreign listings at the IDX. Similarly, at Google had the opportunity to speak with the Strategic Partner Manager about the work that Google focuses on in Indonesia specifically.

Google Indonesia

Atma Jaya University, where the language course and industry-led seminars are held, is based in Central Jakarta and has 14 000 students. During the two weeks of my studies at Atma Jaya the local students were on holiday so the campus was relatively quiet. The facilities were less modern and the campus was smaller than QUT Gardens Point, despite that, it didn’t fail to impress me as it was clean, in the heart of the city and the students were all very approachable and friendly. The language course was helpful as I learned basic Indonesian to help with catching taxis, ordering and paying for food etc, and the classes only had about 7-10 students each so it accommodated a very interactive learning environment. I also had a lovely student volunteer from Atma Jaya, who was my buddy throughout my time in Indonesia in case I needed help with anything. She helped me set up my SIM card, find accommodation, recommend places to visit and she even went out of her way and took me and a few other Australians around Jakarta for the day. The support of Atma Jaya students was great and made the transition to living in Jakarta much easier than it otherwise would have been.

Atma Jaya University Campus

My Bahasa Indonesia language class at Atma Jaya University

The cost of living in Jakarta is much cheaper than in Brisbane. For example, I was able to get lunch from the canteen at Atma Jaya for 10,000 rupiah which equates to about $1 in Australia. The accommodation was also a lot cheaper, for 1 month in Jakarta it cost the equivalent to 1.5 or 2 weeks rent in Brisbane. The clothes and food that were sold in shopping centres (and there’s a lot of shopping centres in Jakarta!) was slightly cheaper than in Brisbane, but not nearly as cheap compared with eating street food or when buying clothes from a market. Water is very cheap in Indonesia and it is a necessity to buy as the tap water is unsafe to drink.

I managed to go and explore Indonesia on 4 different weekends. Firstly, I went to Bogor which is 60km south of Jakarta. I caught a train with some other Australians and 2 local Atma Jaya students from Jakarta to Bogor so it was a very cheap day-trip. I also went to Yogyakarta one weekend. I had to book a plane ticket to get there but it was definitely worth it as there was lots to do and see. On another weekend, a colleague from the IDX kindly drove me and the other Australian IDX interns to Bandung and showed us around. On my last full day in Indonesia, my IDX colleagues organised for me and the other interns to go white water rafting!

The internship at the Indonesia Stock Exchange would definitely be the highlight of my trip. I interned with 3 other Australians that were undertaking the same program as me and it was always great to have familiar faces around the office. I had a mentor who was very helpful and provided work that related to my accounting degree while also gaining an understanding of different areas of the IDX. It was great to be shown around the IDX facilities, including the IDX TV studio, the library and the main hall where the “opening bell” sounds each day at 9am for when stocks begin trading.

The colleagues within the team I worked were very inclusive and always willing to help with any questions I had. I noticed that food is a big part of the work culture in Indonesia, so there was always new food I’d never eaten before, so that was an added bonus! If you undertake this program you will find that interning in a new workplace, especially a country other than Australia, allows you to appreciate and be aware of the differences in work cultures, therefore become more adaptable and flexible to future jobs.

Prambanan Temple in Yogyakarta

White Water Rafting

First day at the Indonesia Stock Exchange

IDX Incubator

My colleagues during the internship

Last day at the Indonesia Stock Exchange

All in all, I’ve come back to Australia with an incredible appreciation for Indonesia, as well as life-long friends from Australia and Indonesia. My trip to Indonesia exceeded all of my expectations – the amazing people encompassed by the multitude of places to explore made it an enriching and rewarding experience, and is now a country that I will definitely come back to. I highly recommend the ACICIS programs that are offered, especially the Business Professional Practicum, as it provides a unique opportunity to travel abroad with financial support from the New Colombo Plan, meet likeminded people, experience an overseas workplace that aligns with your studies, all while gaining credit points towards your QUT degree.

 

Cultures of Singapore

Aakanksha, B. Bachelor of Information Technology/Bachelor of Mathematics

Nanyan Technological University (Singapore) (Semester 2, 2016)

In the heart of South-East Asia, Singapore has more to offer than its incredible airport. Spending five months at the Nanyang Technological University as an overseas exchange student, I have learnt an immense amount about Singapore and myself. Singapore has most definitely established itself as being one of the most advanced cities in Asia, if not the world. So much so, it is the preferred location for many leading companies to have their regional APAC headquarters.

If regional culture is what you want to experience, Singapore is where you should end your search. Singapore is home to four main ethnic groups: Chinese, Malay, Indian and Others (which everyone else falls into and is roughly 3.3%). As a result, of these four very different groups, it seems like there is holiday or festival every few weeks. While on exchange, I experienced: Singapore National Day, Diwali and the Hungry Ghost Festival, with each festivity bringing its own traditions. Being originally from India, it was awesome seeing how big a celebration Diwali is outside India. Going to “Little India” on this day, I felt like I was back in any Indian city.

If you are a foodie, or if you just want food that is cheap and tastes good, you can’t go wrong in Singapore. From hawker centres to high end restaurants you will never go hungry. NTU campus had over 19 food courts each having various cuisines. In most cases you may only need to spend $10-$20 a day, even if you are on campus. Cost of living in Singapore can vary. In terms of food and transport, it is significantly cheaper than Australia. The maximum you could pay for a trip would roughly be $4; this would only happen if you go from one end of Singapore to the other (which I had to do when going from NTU all the way to the airport). Transport within Singapore isn’t the only thing that is cheap, even going overseas is. For example, I was able to make a trip to Thailand to see Krabi and the beautiful Phi Phi Islands, which was most definitely a highlight.

Accommodation within Singapore can be very expensive. I was lucky enough to get accommodation on campus and had to pay a full semester rate that was equivalent to that of an apartment for only one month. If you don’t want to stay on campus I strongly recommend finding somewhere close to campus and share an apartment with other exchange students. An advantage of staying on campus is that you save a great deal of time on travel. The NTU campus is located in Jurong, which is located one end of the island. If you want to go the main city, it can take up to an hour by MRT.   

There is one word to describe life on campus at NTU: awesome. As QUT does not offer the choice to live on campus, this was something that I was seriously looking forward to. It is not only the flexibility of being able to walk to class, but the ability to forge friendships with local and international students. With these friends you can go to hall and campus events and even overseas trips. After spending so much time together, you know you have formed friends for a life time.

Saving the serious for last, academics in Singapore is challenging, especially if you are taking core subjects (I was taking four). The thing that is drastically different to QUT is the fact that Singapore grades on a “bell curve”. This means that your grade is scaled according to everybody else’s in the class. I didn’t let this effect me too much and studied hard to ensure I did my best.

If you want to be challenged academically, the opportunity to experience different regional cultures, eat great food, travel within South East Asia at amazingly low fares, Singapore is your place!

 

Fashion in Hong Kong

Nhu, C. Bachelor of Design (Fashion)

Hong Kong Polythechnic University (Semester 2, 2016)

I studied fashion design at The Hong Kong Polythechnic University in second semester of my second year. The Institute of Textiles and Clothing in PolyU is significantly different to QUT fashion studios as they have a larger number in students, more facilities however the teaching was not as intimate. The institute offered eye-opening subjects such as knitting, colouration, intimate apparel, shoe design, denim design and so on. The teaching staff were also very experienced and supportive especially the pattern maker, knitting technician, colouration and finishing professor that taught me.

During my semester abroad, I made myself at home at the PolyU student accommodation. I paid approximately $1 600 for the whole semester which was significantly cheaper than living outside of the student dorms. It was one of the best decisions I made over in HK as I built strong friendships with my roommate, other exchange students and the workers within the building. It was also near the university, only taking 10 minutes by foot.  Within the student accommodation it provided functional, studying and leisure facilities including a communal gym, swimming pool, snooker pool room, game room, table tennis, dance room, kitchen, laundry room, study rooms and printers.

The cost of living was not as bad as I was expecting. I roughly spent $8000-9000 during the whole 4months (including flights, flights booked in HK, accommodation). Hong Kong is full of culture, mixing both Western and Eastern qualities. I didn’t experience much of a culture shock as my ethnical background is Chinese and Vietnamese.  Hong Kong was my home, the hustle and bustle of the night life and the sensational scenery as you escape the city will forever keep me wanting more. I met and became close friends with many of the locals and exchange students who’ve broadened my perspective on life and design.

My advice for students who are still undecided whether to go or not, I say go!! It’s true when past exchange students say it’s one of the most memorable and best experience. For the future exchange students, my advice is to learn as much as you can and take advantage of your host university’s curriculum but also don’t forget to make time for exploring your host country, be part of their culture, make both local and exchange friends, visit nearby countries and take up every opportunity!

Its what you make it

Nicola, B.
Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Semester 2, 2016)

The biggest shock when arriving at PolyU was that very little was online.  All the students prefer face-to-face contact and therefore no lectures are recorded, all questions are asked in class or you meet up with your lecturer/tutor, all assignments are still printed out and handed in and they are only just starting to build up blackboard. The students were all very motivated, spent so much extra time in the library and all group work was discussed in person. I really enjoyed my time on campus at PolyU.  They had so many events and different activities always happening on campus.  They may not have as many clubs but they put so much energy into the clubs and the different stalls they had set up were just amazing!  Many of my classes were quite interactive with one having 40 students going on a field trip to a company that organises a simulation where you can experience what it is like living in aged care.  This was a lot of fun and certainly an experience.

The halls accommodation was a bit of an adjustment having to life in such small quarters as well as with a roommate.  It was super close to the university, to public transport and to plenty of restaurants which made it worthwhile.  Most nights at about 7pm there would be a message from an international student organising to go for dinner that night so there was always an opportunity to be social.

Hong Kong is a very cheap place, particularly in relation to Australia.  Whilst some things were more expensive than anticipated, travelling around Hong Kong and to other countries close by was very easy and very cheap.  A real shock for me was the amount of people living in Hong Kong.  I knew it was a small country with a large population but I really was not expecting it to be as busy as it was.  Public transport would get so packed and at night  just walking down the sidewalk sometimes would be difficult with all the people around.  In saying that though, it is also a place that has many hiking routes and places to escape.  Many weekends involved exploring a different part and finding those quite places where everything is calm.  I was very lucky that I was put with some truly lovely local students that took me places, made suggestions and gave me any advice I needed.  Before I left for Hong Kong I had a lot of people tell me there was English everywhere and while English was on most signs and most people had broken English, it was not as common as I had anticipated.  This caused some difficulties while I was over there, particularly with some of the local students but for the most part could usually work around the language barrier.

The major highlight of my exchange was simply the friendships I formed while over there.  I certainly miss lots of people but I know have friendships all around the world and there is a certain special feeling in that.  While it was amazing to see the country and experience so many new adventures, it would not have been the same without new friends around me experiencing it too.  I suggest to anyone that is going on an exchange to just say yes to everything and just really make the most of everything that the experience is.  As the popular saying goes “it is what you make it” and I truly felt my exchange experience was a once in a lifetime opportunity with so many lasting memories.

Victoria Bridge, PolyU & Disneyland Hong Kong

Oh, What A Feeling

Hey again! It’s me, Izzie – back with my final instalment of my Tokyo diaries. The crew have been back home for a while now, so it’s been nice to reminisce on our trip and all of our incredible experiences. If you haven’t seen my previous posts about Tokyo, feel free to check them out here and here.

One of the activities that our host company, Mitsui & Co. organised for us was a trip to Toyota City and its historical museum just outside of Nagoya, Japan. As expected, we were pretty excited about the opportunity – Toyota is legendary when it comes to manufacturing standards and innovation (BSB115, anyone?)

We boarded our bullet train at around 7:30am, setting in for a scenic trip from Tokyo to Nagoya. Suffice to say, my favourite part of the entire bullet train experience was the presence of the trolley ladies selling a seemingly infinite amount of snacks. You can take the girl out of the Hogwarts Express, but you can’t take the Hogwarts Express out of the girl (or something like that).

After a sneaky bus ride to Toyota City, we’d finally made it for our day trip. And yes, the Toyota headquarters, factories, and plants make up an entire city – it’s insane! We got to have a play with some of the new Toyota and Lexus models coming out soon, and check out some behind the scenes looks at things like motor engines, smart city plans, and more.

Unfortunately, we weren’t allowed to film or photograph our experience in the Toyota plant, but it was absolutely incredible. The workers and robotics average roughly 10 minutes in time to build a car, with each car having over 30,000 parts. Talk about efficiency! This is where we saw JIT inventory systems come to life, for all of you Management majors out there. It was pretty fascinating stuff, and we had a blast seeing the cars being built on the assembly lines.

We then journeyed to the Toyota Automobile Museum, where we learnt all about the history of Toyota and its supplementary brands. Did you know that Toyota officially started its business in cotton looming? Me neither! Toyota’s journey is one of countless innovation, jumping from one manufacturing industry to another. It was awesome to be able to honour the history of the company and understand its legacy in Japanese culture.

And with that, my posts from Tokyo have come to a close! It’s been a great time blogging about the Mitsui Immersion Program. Thanks for having a read, and I can’t encourage you enough to apply for next year’s program cohort. It’s a once in a lifetime experience! Feel free to hit me up in the comments if you have any questions about Japan, or the program itself.

Meeting New Japanese Friends!

Hey there, it’s me again – live from Tokyo! The past week has been an absolute blast at our internship; all six QUT students are absolutely loving our time in Japan (for some context about our trip, feel free to read more here).

The company we’re on our program with (Mitsui & Co., one of the largest general trading organisations globally) has organised many awesome events and sessions for us, students, to participate in. We’ve had some incredible visits so far to museums, traditional Japanese restaurants, and a lot more.

However, a few days ago, we had a very special visit. On Thursday 29 of June, we had twelve students from the Tokyo University of Foreign Studies come along to our building and chat with us about life and education here. They were all studying a degree based on Oceanic relations (think trade, but specifically in the Indo-Pacific region), which I thought was super cool.

We started off our morning with some very simple icebreakers, such as playing ‘human bingo’ (long story short – you write down things like your favourite food or favourite movie, and have to find other people in the room that have written the same thing to ‘bingo’) and making marshmallow towers out of spaghetti pasta.

However, we then transitioned to what’s called a ‘World Café’ set up. Three round table discussions were had based on three different themes:

  • What will the world look like in 2047?
  • How can Japan and Australia jointly contribute to this vision?
  • How will you personally develop in your career to help achieve such a future?

It sounds pretty serious, but we had some fun too. We all drew out our ideas on some butchers paper – from commercialized space travel to hybrid fruit crops developed for third world nations. It was awesome to think ‘big picture’ and discuss the future with our new Japanese friends, and built a tangible bridge between the two cultures and how we could work together to realise our own futures. 

But business aside, we’ve now all added each other on Facebook, followed each other on Instagram, and even went out for ramen a couple nights ago (if you don’t know what ramen is, do yourself a favour whip out Google stat). It’s been lovely to make such friendships with students like us – just in another part of the world! I’m sure we’ll all be able to see each other in the future, on Earth, or anywhere else conceivable in the galaxy! (Okay, that’s probably a little far fetched for 2047. A girl can dream).

 

Welcome to Japan

Konnichiwa from Tokyo! It’s great to be here. My name is Izzie, and I’m one of six QUT students currently in Japan interning with one of the world’s most historical trading companies – Mitsui & Co. Headquartered in Tokyo, the company likes to joke that they trade in everything from ramen to steel; and it’s completely true. In terms of Western corporations, we simply have nothing like it.

    < < check out our office!

Part of our internship has included a lot of intercultural talks and discussions – what were our expectations of Japan? What were our preconceived thoughts about Japanese businesspeople?

Unsurprisingly, the answers from all six of us (and the other six students we’re travelling with from Deakin University in Melbourne) were fairly similar. We all expected Japan to be clean, neat, and orderly – with the Japanese being very polite and respectful.

However, there’s an interesting dichotomy at play here (watch out – I’m about to go full Marketing student nerd on you). In a place that is so organised in layout, where people are almost overwhelmingly considerate, the overall aspect and design of inner city aesthetics are crazy.

Take, for example, Shibuya crossing. An iconic part of Tokyo, the crossing sees hundreds of thousands pass through its streets every single day. On our first visit one night after work, we all scrambled up on some benches at the crossing and simply ‘people watched’ for about 20 minutes. For a place that’s so systematic, it’s intriguing to see the tidy streets flood with a beautiful mess of people, all headed for completely different destinations, deeds, and dreams.

 

Another example is the advertising here. Blasted over speakerphones and displayed on electronic screens, ads are bright, colourful, and incredibly animated. The overall look and feel here takes a swift departure from Western realism and enters the Japanese realm of caricature (anime, or manga, anyone?) It’s not uncommon to see characters from Nintendo’s ‘Animal Crossing’ plastered on train advertisements, or Ghibli’s ‘Totoro’ used in a street poster. At first, it can be a lot to take in – but it’s incredibly interesting to reflect on when thinking about the perceived Japanese tidiness and collective introversion.

Personally, I’m trying to welcome it all with open arms. So far, Tokyo is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced – so I’ll be sure to keep you posted on any other musings or experiences. Stay tuned!

Interning with Japanese Football League

Morgan K, Bachelor Business – International

Internship with the Japanese Football League (June – July 2017)

New Colombo Plan mobility and internship grant recipient 

In the second semester of 2016 I took the opportunity within my BS08 degree to exchange to Rikkyo University, Ikebukuro, Japan.  This study aboard experience will last for 11 months. For my exchange I was lucky enough to be awarded the New Colombo Plan mobility grant. The New Colombo Plan is an Australian Government initiative to support Australian undergraduate students to study aboard and take internships within the Asian Pacific Region. This opportunity has allowed me the prospect of undertaking an internship whist studying full time.

Outside J. League headquarters office

I am presently interning within the Japanese Football League (J. League), in the Sales Management and Marketing division. As my major is within International Business, I have always wanted to see first-hand how business is conducted in Japan. The internship position interested me as this organisation is world renowned, would allow me the opportunity to learn first-hand about management and operation of the professional football league and how to engage a multitude of stakeholders.

The J. League is a multifaceted organisation whose mission is to enhance the level of Japanese football by the diffusion of the game through Professional football. Therefore, helping foster a sporting culture which contributes to the broader international exchange and friendships.

Throughout my internship I was based in the J. League office in Tokyo only a 15-minute journey from Ikebukuro station. I undertook this internship opportunity part time as still completing studies at Rikkyo University full time. The J. League division where very flexible and enabled me to intern two days a week allowing me to balance my busy student schedule in association to the tasks given to me.

Ajinomoto Stadium half time break watching the friendly match

This opportunity has allowed me to use my analytical skills taught to me throughout my degree in this work environment. The tasks given to me to date include the opportunity to see a live match between Japan versus Syria and write a report on match day experience, research tasks into sporting industries and analysis of present market forces. I have always had an active interest within sports and have played soccer throughout high school and enjoy cheering for our national side the Socceroo’s. The J. League internship to date has allowed me to see, engage and give my input into this rapidly changing dynamic environment.

On my second day into the internship I was given an amazing research task opportunity. Whereby I could see live, Japan’s national team, Samurai Blue verses the Syria national team in a friendly match at Ajinomoto Stadium. It was an amazing experience whereas 43,000 people were in attendance, the roar and chants of the fans, organisation of the event and stadium facilities where beyond my expectations and gave me a unique insight into the Japanese sporting culture.

By taking this extraordinary opportunity it has given me a new awareness into the tireless, passionate and hardworking dedication by the staff in the J. League. I have a new found respect and admiration and am personally looking forward to the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in August between Australia and Japan.

Find out more about how to apply for a New Colombo Plan mobility grant at QUT here.

Japan > Australia*

*in these particular areas.
There is no denying that Japanese culture and Australian culture are poles apart. Where Australia is laid-back and simple, Japan is wonderfully weird and over-the-top. Where Australia is endearingly rough-around-the-edges, Japan is pristine and polished. And while I love Straya, I’m taking the opportunity to outline some key areas where we can probably (definitely) learn (read: copy) a thing or two from our Japanese friends.
Vending machines
They are literally everywhere, and they sell everything, from soft drinks, to both hot and iced coffee, to instant noodles, cigarettes, alcohol, icecream, umbrellas and neckties. It’s revolutionary. There is literally one vending machine per 23 people in Japan! In my 1.1km walk to uni alone, I pass more than 16 vending machines; approximately one every 70 metres.
Convenience stores
7-11 here is like that tent from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; it’s tiny, but it can, and does, hold literally everything you could ever need. Freshly baked breads and home-style meals are delivered each morning, they’re practically a fully-fledged liquor store, and the cheap machine coffee doesn’t even taste like death. You can even pay your bills in store! Plus, again, they’re everywhere.
Transport
It’s totally normal to bike or walk everywhere, and when you do need to use public transport, it’s quick, clean and punctual, the exact anti-thesis of Translink.
Sorting rubbish
Sure, sorting your rubbish into burnables, plastics, PET bottles, cans and glass can be pretty bloody annoying, but it’s fairly easy to do and environmentally friendly so I can get behind that.
Hi-tech toilets
I’ve literally forgotten what a cold toilet seat feels like. Look, are all those extras necessary? Of course not. But they’re convenient.
Harmony between history, nature, and urbanity
I literally walk past a temple everyday on the way to uni. It’s not uncommon to see a small Shinto Shrine on the roof of multi-storey offices, nor is it unusual to see a Buddhist temple’s towering pagoda peeking out from behind tall buildings. Kyoto is home to over 2,000 temples and shrines, as well as 17 UNESCO World Heritage Listed sites, all of which are within about an hour of where I live. I’ve been here 3 months and am still continually astounded by this city’s ability to have its history and culture coexisting so seamlessly and beautifully with its urbanity.
Cool side note story: I had the unreal privilege of dragging myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 4am to signal the start of morning prayers by ringing the bell at Nishihonganji Temple, one of the 17 World Heritage sites, a ritual usually only performed by the head monk. A small group of my friends and I were only permitted to do so as a part of celebrations around the passing down of the temple’s custodianship from father to son, an event that only occurs maybe once every 50 years. It was such a serene and awe-inspiring experience, and the most quintessentially Japanese thing I’ve ever done.
It’s so clean*
I never see litter (although I have no idea how, considering it’s near impossible to find a bloody rubbish bin), I’ve forgotten what mud looks like, and I have my suspicions that leaves here spontaneously combust if they’re not swept up within 5 minutes of hitting the ground (though I’m yet to prove this theory, because the leaf sweepers here do a fantastic job).
*This does not apply to my dorm kitchen. A chicken coup is more hygienic.
Amusement parks
Dreamworld is the biggest theme park in Australia, and doesn’t even hold a candle to the kinds of amusement parks they have here. I recently went to Universal Studios Japan, in Osaka, and the attractions there are fully immersive (Harry Potter World and the Hogwarts Castle were UNREAL), and expertly marry production with adrenaline-inducing rides, unlike anything we have in Australia. It was legitimately one of the best days of my life, in no small part because I touched a minion’s butt (it was an accident, but I’m not apologising really).
Mayonnaise
It’s the best. Don’t start me.
Eating out is cheap
I can get an epic bowl of ramen for 800¥, or plethora of ridiculously sized meal sets for under 1000¥, where the same could easily cost me double at home. Ingredients, on the other hand, will cost you an arm and a leg, and quite possibly your soul.
Free WIFI
Again, everywhere. I live for it.
While I do love all of these wacky Japanese things, I am keen to return home to the good-ole Australian sense of humour, Western confectionery (they are OBSESSED with red bean paste here, and anko is one of my least favourite things ever, right up there with manspreading and the shrinking size of Pringles chips), PayPass, non-compulsory class attendance, and of course…
 …sensible smoking legislation.

Sincerely,

Tiffanie.

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!