Studying and Travelling in Japan

Hello again,

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

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

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

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

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

Till then, Sayoonara.

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

 

Japan – Settling In

Hello everyone,

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

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

(Kamikochi, a valley near Takayama)                                   (Fukuoka)

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

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

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

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

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

Until next time.

 

 

New Colombo Plan Internships in Tokyo and Seoul

 

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

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

(Temple in Kyoto)

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

 

(Go karting around Tokyo)

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

(SMBC headquarters in Tokyo)

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

(Herbert Smith Freehills office in Seoul)

Thinking about the New Colombo Plan?

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

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

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

2. Seriously consider undertaking a mentorship and a language program

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

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

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

4. Reach out to previous NCP scholars

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

5. Consider what you want to achieve from the scholarship

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

Good luck!

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

 

 

 

My Japan Travel Blog – Adjustment and Immersion

Andy Wong

Bachelor of Laws (Honours)

Meiji University, Japan (Semester 2, 2018)

Upon arriving at my dormitory in the Izumi International House, I was most excited to make new friends from all over the world. I’ve been able to meet lovely people from Spain, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Korea, America, Canada and many more. This diversity has allowed myself to further develop my interpersonal skills and overcome language barriers. Being able to connect with others from different cultures is always exciting as I’m able to learn more about their different cultures and make long-lasting relationships.

The first few days of adjusting to living in another country was different but not difficult. Being able to explore and immerse myself in this beautiful city has made even the struggles a wonderful experience. At times I would get lost and accidentally hop on the wrong train, but all of that was part of the cultural experience to live independently. With Tokyo being the capital of Japan, many locals understood English which made it easy to communicate in addition to their polite culture. The wonderful night life makes staying out irresistible as you never know what exciting new stores you may find.

Within our first week of arrival at the dormitory, all residents were invited to participate in the Omikoshi Festival where everyone was encouraged to carry the 400kg portable Shrine for 3km to the primary Kumano Shrine. Upon arrival we were greeted by many stalls which sold street food and was able to experience a variety of delicious street food.

A few days later, orientation at Meiji University had began. Since I am in the School of Global Japanese Studies, my faculty was at the Nakano campus where the structural integrity focuses on vertical architecture which made the buildings very tall. This allowed a large amount of facilities to be accessible without consuming a significant portion of the land. Since everything was stacked into one building, this made it very easy to travel through. If you needed to go from the sports gym to the administrative office, to the doctor’s clinic, all that could be achieved by simply using the elevator! The campus was beautiful and very modern which reminded me of the Garden’s Point campus.

After touring the campus, we greeted the support group which is a group of local Japanese students who are there to help guide us through the exchange experience. If there’s one thing I’ll remember, it’s that the Japanese love to party! There are many events for exchange students to participate in such as sightseeing tours, tea ceremonies, sporting events and many more.  The supporters are incredibly friendly and welcoming, making it easy to transition. I’m excited to attend their parties and to meet new people!

As classes do not commence until September 21st, I will be enjoying my time travelling to each ward and exploring all the artistic works and stores Tokyo has to offer. During my short time here so far, I have learnt that Japanese people are incredibly artistic ranging from their visual art to their music which ultimately influences their culture. Everywhere I look I see artistic opportunity which is an eye-opening experience, especially compared to Australia.

During my time here, I’m hoping to learn new skills which allow myself to become more open-minded and adaptive. Being in another country where I am not familiar or knowledgeable in their healthcare system, culture or mannerisms is a challenging but new experience for me. To be able to overcome these challenges, especially in a country where Japanese is not my native language, I believe will help me succeed not only in my personal life but professional life. I believe this journey will help me learn skills that I am unable to learn if I had not travelled overseas. Furthermore, I want to be able to make new friends from across the globe to share these experiences with. I believe the most important thing in life whether it be personal or professional is making strong and long-lasting relationships. Not only can you learn a lot from living in a different country from rules and culture, but you can learn the most from other people!

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

Excited would be an Understatement (Preparing for Exchange)

Hello everyone,

My name is Fraser and I am currently a third year Law/Justice student who is a little bit too excited (and undoubtedly very nervous) about his upcoming exchange to Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. During my semester abroad I will be studying Japanese full-time – which is just as well, since I only have a very preliminary knowledge of the Japanese language (In fact, this knowledge is close to non-existent).

When I told my friends and family that I had decided to live in Japan for the next six months the common response could be summed up in one sarcastically spoken statement, “Good luck with that.” To be fair, this reaction is rather warranted – it is foolhardy for someone who can barely speak Japanese to live in Japan, let alone study there! So, why would I make such an impulsive choice?

Put simply, it is because Japan is a mystery to me. I have never been there before and know little of their history or culture; and the unknown is rather exciting to me. Stepping off of a plane, in a place that you have never experienced the likes of before fills me with adrenaline. I know that this reasoning may not appeal to everyone (and undoubtedly some of you will see me as naive); but this is first and foremost an experience for me to broaden my mind in ways that I cannot do in the comfortable familiarity of Australia. And what better way to do that then to experience a lifestyle, culture and place that I have never known before?

So, as I wait for tomorrow’s nerve wracking flight to Japan, I should divulge how the pre-departure experience has been for me and some tips and tricks for anyone considering an exchange to the, ‘Land of the Rising Sun’.

Preparing for the exchange initially was a daunting task. It seemed that there was an insurmountable amount of work to be done ahead of me. Fortunately, the pre-departure checklist provided by QUT is a fantastic organisational tool and promotes a sequenced approach to exchange preparation. As a result, preparing for the exchange – on the formal paperwork side of things – presented little difficulties. One recommendation I can make is to constantly ask both the QUT faculty and your host university questions about any aspects of the process you are unsure of. They are there to help and seemed more than happy to answer the multitude of inane questions I posed to them.

Also, if you have never been to Japan before, like me, the most difficult aspect of the pre-departure process may be preparing for the inevitable ‘culture shock’. QUT also provides a lot of information on how to deal with culture shock; but for those considering an exchange to Japan, I must recommend that you watch the YouTube channel: Abroad in Japan. This site covers everything from must have experiences to Japanese language tips to the do’s and don’ts of Japanese culture. I found that this site has really helped with my anxiety and made me feel more prepared for a life in Japan.

If there is one thing I could recommend to those who are considering an exchange is to throw yourself out of your comfort zone. Don’t go for a safe or easy option, really try to push yourselves into the unknown and experience what you may never get the chance to experience again.

As for me, the next blog will either demonstrate that the decision to throw myself into the unknown was a good one or one that was mislead by bravado and excitement. But, whatever the outcome, I will learn something.

Sayonara everyone, till next time.

Day in the Life of a Japanese University Student (Rikkyo)

It has been just a little under 6 weeks since I embarked on my year long journey to Tokyo, where I am currently studying at the incredibly beautiful Rikkyo University. In the short time I have been here (which seems to have passed in the blink of an eye), I have leaped from my comfort zone in almost every aspect of my daily life; I eat a range of new foods, I have made a lot of new friends, explored incredibly beautiful places, and everyday I attempt to speak in a language I am still highly unsure of. Nevertheless, I approach every day with an attitude of eagerness, and hope to continue to do so throughout my exchange.

Just some of my explorations so far: Tokyo Tower, Hakone, Kawagoe.

 

I’m sure I will continue to share my experiences about general life in Japan, however, today I will give you a brief overview of what my daily life as a student looks like, so far.

 

Morning:

Typically, (unless karaoke from the night before is involved), I wake up early and lounge around my dorm. My dorm (RIR Shiinamachi, for those of you interested) is incredible, and I couldn’t have wished for a better location; I live just a brisk 15-minute walk from campus. I have breakfast in the cafeteria, where everyday, so far, there has been at least one item of food that I haven’t yet tried. I eat, chat with anyone who is there, and try to decipher the Japanese morning news, which, by the way, has an amazingly-brilliant number of wacky sound effects. Afterwards, I leave the dorm for the day at about 8AM, and get to University soon after. I usually spend the the time before class starts doing revision, practicing my Japanese, or doing some readings.

The view of the main building on campus. Every day I take so many photos of it! 

From 9:00AM = Classes:

Between 9AM – 5PM I attend class, each of which are 1 and a half hours long, and are distinguishable from my experience at QUT in a number of ways. Firstly, I don’t really have any lectures; all of my classes are analogous to “workshops”, and all have quite high participation marks built into the course structure (I’m talking 30/40%). The teacher (先生 – Sensei) goes through the topic in reference to the weekly readings, and then opens the floor for discussion or asks specific people questions. With the credit system here, I have to study 7 subjects, and some meet more than once a week, so I have 11 actual classes. However, the difficulty of the work is, in my opinion, significantly less intense than my subjects back home. The assignments and exams are not overly difficult, however the general study is A LOT more (I come 5 days a week, I have homework for every class, every week – often more than once a week, and this is on top of regular study).

A typical classroom. Very old school, and yes, they still use the blackboards. 

There are 6 periods in a day (you may not have class in every one, though) and conveniently a designated time for lunch! Between 12:15PM – 1:00PM, students burst from their classrooms and fill the campus’ multiple cafeterias (食堂 -Shokudō), and the convenience store nearby. The food is so cheap, generally under $5AUD, and is always good quality –  in true Japanese fashion.

If I ever have spare periods, you will probably find me in the library, which is wonderful and has an astonishing amount of resources to use/browse. You will always find a seat, and it is always super quiet; the Japanese cultural values of politeness and conscientiousness really flow through to every aspect of life.

 

6:00PM – Bedtime:

The neighbourhood bell (that’s right, a bell), chimes out at 6PM signalling that it’s DINNER TIME (side note: this isn’t actually the sole purpose of the bell, but for Shiinamachi dorm, it usually is). My friends and I walk down and grab our trays and tables, waiting to see what the new exciting dish will be. There are often Japanese game shows on, which we play/watch along with – sometimes to the point where everyone is screaming and laughing at the TV. I spend an hour or so down there, just chatting to everyone about the day. I will definitely miss chatting to everyone I have met here so far, as they are all only here for 1 semester. In the time after dinner and before I sleep, I usually just do what I did back home; I watch TV, talk with family, or study.

Some of the amazing dishes so far! I stole these photos from my friends, because I am always too hungry to take pictures first! 

So, although some things remain the same from my life back in Australia, many, many things have changed. And so far, I am really enjoying it. I love the people I am meeting, the new schedule I follow, the time I have to dedicate to my studies, and the areas around me I get to explore some more of everyday. If you have any questions about studying in Japan, or something you want to know about general life in Tokyo, please let me know!

Until next time! またね~

Preparing for a year abroad

Hi! My name is Tara, I’m currently in my second year of a bachelor in business, majoring in International Business & minoring in Japanese. Tomorrow I will land in Tokyo, Japan & will soon begin my exchange at Rikkyo University. As someone who has dreamt of going on exchange to Japan since the 6th grade (I wanted high school exchange at the time but same thing), I can’t believe that tomorrow my studying abroad will begin.

As my first blog post for this journey, I really don’t know where to begin.

I guess I’ll start with the packing aspect of this pre-departure. Preparing myself for a year overseas has proven to be much more of a greater task than I originally anticipated…in terms of a year’s worth of luggage, I’m constantly remembering things I have to buy. Being the paranoid person I am I have been searching “things to take on exchange” to get an idea of what to pack. Video after video, my list gets longer & the slight panic that I may be forgetting something increases. Currently I have two couches and a coffee table piled with ‘necessities’ (necessities plus the many things my mum believes I can’t live without). I’ve got things ranging from vitamins, my favourite snacks & foods (Iranian tea is essential), a mini sowing kid (mum’s doing), clothes, shoes, posters (I don’t think I’ll be allowed to put them up in my dorm but you never know) and printed out photos of my family & friends.

In terms of mentally preparing for this exchange, preparing myself for not seeing my close friends and family for such a long period has been quite alarming. Meeting up with friends has been a high priority the last month or so. The sorrowful tears that were shed as my two best friends and I said our final goodbyes was something I didn’t think would happen, we have gone months without seeing each other but I guess the fact that we won’t be able to meet up whenever we want is an odd feeling.

Despite this, I am so excited for what is to come. I can’t wait to get settled in my dorm, make friends, finish all my orientation sessions and finally start classes. I look forward to walking on campus and embracing it all. By following my host university on social media I have seen some sneak peaks of what my life will be like for the next year. Watching posts from Rikkyo University of their campus has really hyped me up for what is to come.

The thought of living in a completely different country for the span of a year is  somewhat frightening. Although a month ago I confidently said I’m not worried at all, slowly I’m coming to realise that this is a much bigger deal than I originally thought. But truth be told, my sheer excitement by far beats any worries I hold.

Studying a language is one thing but immersing oneself in the culture is an entire experience of its own. I am incredibly excited to see what experiences I will have, what kind of friends I make, how my Japanese (hopefully) improves and the thing I’m most curious about is, what kind of person I will become by the end of this journey.

Hopefully, in my next blog I will be settled down in my dorm & have gotten into a routine with my classes, so until next time..

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).