Dormitory Life in Japan

久しぶり(hisashiburi). Or in English, it’s been a while.
Semester one is long over and somehow, today Semester 2 officially begins of my study abroad here in Tokyo, Japan. It is hard to believe that I’m at the half-way point in my exchange, it feels like so much has happened yet I clearly remember the first day I moved into my dorm. There is so much to share, dorm life, studies in Japan, travel! With this I’ll divide my experiences into two, first Part 1 – dormitory life and being away from home.

To be honest with you, during my first semester of my exchange I felt no homesickness, this doesn’t mean I didn’t miss my family, but I was so absorbed with everyday life that nothing could overcome the excitement. However, after a brief visit back home to Australia in the Summer Holidays, I feel myself experiencing this very much delayed homesickness. Frequent calls with family help a lot and falling back into my routine assist in occupying my thoughts.

My everyday routine has become so normal at this point that returning from Australia back to my dorm for this semester, I remember thinking at the airport, wow I’m home! At this point, my cosy little room in my dormitory has really become a second home to me. Catching the trains back I couldn’t wait to get off at my little train station in Saitama and walk to my dorm. Keep in mind that my room has become so homey that I don’t know how I’m going to manage bringing all my goodies purchased back to Australia!

On a different note, an aspect of this exchange that I was not expecting was the goodbyes I had to say during my stay here. Whether I was a 6 month or full year exchange student. The goodbyes were always inevitable. At my dormitory called “Rikkyo Global House”, living with over 60 other students, I found myself making many friends. I made friendships in the last 5-6 months which I can proudly say will last me a lifetime. In my dormitory in particular, all my facilities are shared, with my only private space being my room with my bed, study desk, shelves and a sink to wash up. Due to this, every step in my daily routine is filled with interactions with the people in my dorm. Living on the 5th floor I have to go down to the first floor to cook my meals, have my showers and do my laundry. A simple day at home is filled with many human interactions, which at first was very intimidating, but soon became the reason for us becoming one big family. Spending my every moment of the day, including studying, with friends became natural and comfortable to the point that being alone felt odd.

The hard part of this was that most of these friends I made, chose to make the duration of their exchange as one semester rather than the two semesters, which I had chosen to take. This resulted in us having to part our ways. To be honest, I struggled at first with being left behind in the dorm as all the members of my newly made family left. But as I looked back on our time together and my reasons for coming on this exchange, I quickly picked myself up and am continuing with my determination to continue improving my Japanese studies and making the most of this exchange. Now I have made connections all over the world and whether I want to visit Switzerland, America, England, Indonesia and many more countries, I have a place to stay and arms that I know will be open to take me in on my travels. Not only this, but with a majority of us exchange students at Rikkyo being business students, this contributes to my worldwide networking which I believe will be of assistance to me in my International Business major. My eyes have been opened to all our cultural and language differences, and with this I feel like I have improved as a person.

With one semester left, I can already genuinely say I would never trade this experience and the things I have gained from this exchange for anything in the world.

A snapshot of my Singapore experience (so far)

Rusil W, Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) / Bachelor of Science

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (Semester 1 & 2, 2018)

In a bit under a week I’ll be flying back to Singapore for my second semester at Nanyang Technological University (NTU). To be honest, I don’t think I’ve really finished processing my first semester. But I’ll do my best to summarise it here.

To start, the first few weeks felt almost surreal. Coming from the very compact Gardens Point Campus, NTU – with ~20 student residential halls, ~15 canteens and 2 supermarkets (just to name a few things) – feels like its own self-contained town. These facilities exist because the majority of NTU students live on campus during the week,which results in a significantly different student life. Dinner at the canteens would be shared with (for less than $5 might I add). The student club culture also seems far more invested because everyone is on campus. In Mid-February, lion dance performances for Chinese New Year could be heard from my room, and in mid-April, cheerleading practice could be heard into the late hours of the night.

The semester started off with a trip with some other exchange students to Pulau Ubin – a small island off Singapore which hasn’t been encroached by the concrete jungle. It acts as a kind of heritage area for the what the main island was like before major urbanization. This provided a great first opportunity to meet other exchange students from across the world – Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan, China … too many for me to remember.

 

Most of the other exchange students I met primarily used Singapore as a gateway for travel throughout South-East Asia – using mid-sem break, public holidays, and even time between finals to visit countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Now, while I can’t begin to express my envy as I heard one friend’s plans to visit Vietnam between open book exams, Singapore isn’t just a travel hub. It’s also a cultural one.

People always think of Australia as a cultural mixing pot because of its very immigrant-based history, and Singapore is like that too, in a way. The island has three main ethnic groups: Chinese, Malay and Indian. While the Chinese population is clearly dominant, it’s fairly easy to experience all three cultures in various ways. This includes physical places like Chinatown and Little India, celebrations like Chinese New Year, and the food (most importantly).

In fact, Singapore is probably the best place I can think of for an east meets west experience (besides maybe Hong Kong). This lets you sate virtually any cultural desire – which in my case was music. In just one semester, I managed to see two on campus concerts, a Singapore Symphony Orchestra concert (for only $10!!!!) and Fallout Boy – while eyeing performances by MIYAVI (a Japanese rockstar), the St Petersburg Ballet, and a showcase of works by Monet and Renoir.

Before starting exchange, a semester abroad sounds like a lot, but while there the time just flashes past. I’m glad to have another semester to do some things I missed, catch up with some friends, and make even more new ones.

 

Salam sejahtera! Snippets from my Surabaya experience.

Scott C, Bachelor of Property Economics
Universitas Surabaya, Indonesia
Semester 1, 2018

First of all, Surabaya has a very culturally rich history and the locals are very proud of this, its best that you at least try to familiarise yourself with some of the historical events and culture customs, as this will help you understand Surabaya’s Identity. You will find most people in Surabaya upon meeting foreign people will be very curious and will ask for pictures and may want to ask you a lot questions, don’t worry or suspect anything, generally this is to do with the fact that they usually don’t get a lot of tourists (especially in the more rural areas), so naturally they are very curious. Sometimes, you can get the reverse because they are shy, this is easy to overcome, a good ice breaker is simply introducing yourself in Indonesian, “Nama Saya *insert your name*”, roughly translates to, “name my”, they most likely will laugh at your terrible attempt and then become more talkative. Try to learn some basic Indonesian, as this will become helpful in negotiations with taxi drivers, store vendors and so on, otherwise you may be given the “tourist prices”, but if you speak a little Indonesian they will likely become a more negotiable.

Photo taken: Borobudur Yogyakarta

Getting started

Getting your phone connected in Indonesia is relatively straight forward, if your accommodation is close to UBAYA (assuming you are on exchange), there is a mall called “Marina Plaza”, this mall mainly sells phones and data sims. Data sims are very widely used in Indonesia, and they are probably the easiest to obtain and recharge. Basically most of the people use Whatsapp to call and text, which the data sim is able to be used for. Regular plans can offer actual calling and texting options, but are very expensive in comparison. $50k Rupiah, should get 5GB of data, which will likely last you over a month. It will allow access to Facebook, YouTube and so on. You are able to recharge the data sims at either alfa-marts or indo-marts, they will require your phone number and clearly state that you are topping up your data, otherwise they might give you a call and text recharge, which is not what you want, most of the time they will understand, but the odd occasion they don’t, just use Google translate, 9 times out of 10 that will solve most miscommunication issues.

On that note, there are also another two apps worth downloading: GoJek and Grab. Grab is a taxi service that is similar to Uber, usually there is a fixed price and this service can be either linked to your debit/credit card or they have a cash option. GoJek is probably one of the most important apps (it will take some time to set this app up properly), as it not only allows you to order taxis (similar process to Grab), but also you can order food. The food options are limitless and cater for most tastes, please note though that there is a delivery charge and also in comparison to local food cost, it is quite expensive.

Photo taken: Heroes Monument

Things to see and do

If you feel like doing some touristy stuff, there is the Heroes Monument and Museum, which celebrates Indonesian independence from colonial rule and the integral part Surabaya played in this war. Ciputra Waterpark and Mount Bromo which isn’t too far from Surabaya are also great attractions. These are the main ones, but there is also a lot more to do and the more locals you meet the more options you will have. There are a lot of old temples and mosques, which date back hundreds of years, that are only minutes outside of the city. It’s suggested that you try to take part in as many events that you get invited to as possible, as it will allow you to mingle with local people and students, which results in invitations to other events.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos taken: Borobudar Yogyakarta and Bromo Volcano

Accommodation

In regards to accommodation, here are some points to look out for:

  • Be wary of additional taxes, as these apply to services such as electricity, water and rent, so be polite and ask them to write down or explain the taxes in English and always ask for receipt.
  • You will be required to provide 3-months rent up-front plus bond.
  • Most student accommodation will have a provider for internet, generally it is easier to just go with that option, as the packages are fairly cheap.
  • They do not complete a proper entry report, so make sure and check that everything works.
  • Do not be afraid to ask them to repair pre-existing damages.
  • Not all apartments come with heated water.
  • Not all apartments will have a stove top.
  • Do not expect apartments to have cutlery.
  • There is Wi-Fi in all lobbies.
  • Most staff will speak little English, so Google translate is initially your new best friend until you speak some basics.
  • Water dispensers are a must, not all apartments have them, shouldn’t cost more than $12-$20.
  • Be religiously sensitive, most of the staff and locals in the area are Muslim, so be careful what you say and do, so try to inform yourself about the local customs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo taken: Hand of the Yogyakarta

Settling in to Simon Fraser, Canada

Mikaela H
Bachelor of Business (Marketing) / Bachelor of Creative Industries (Fashion Communication)
Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada

 

For semester one of 2017 I partook in an exchange at Simon Fraser University (SFU) in Vancouver, Canada. Doing university at SFU was different from the get go with the semester starting on the 4th of January. For Canada, this was the middle of winter and for Vancouver this usually means a fair bit of rain and snow so make sure you pack your thermals because it gets pretty cold!

It’s cold from the beginning – pack your thermals!

In terms of accommodation I applied for on-campus student accommodation at SFU’s Burnaby campus. The building I stayed in for this consisted of dormitory style buildings in which you had your own room in a hallway of rooms beside each other with a shared bathroom, kitchen and lounge room. If given the chance with exchange anywhere I would highly recommend trying to stay on-campus because I found it a lot easier to make friends as a lot of the people there are in the same boat as you.

The friends I met while staying on campus

 

Overall, I had an amazing exchange, did so many things I’ve never done before like snowboarding as well making some long lasting friendships with people from all over the world as well as Canada.

The time of your life in Trento

Joshua C
Bachelor of Engineering
University of Trento, Italy

The major strengths of the university is its exchange student associations that really do go out of their way to include new comers and let them see the fascinating places within and outside of Trento and better yet hold weekly events to ensure that everyone throughout the exchange form a group in a sense and make new connections globally. The university also offers student accommodation which is another huge way for students to connect foreign and domestic. In this regards I was able to meet wonderful people all around the world and from Italy and found new friends that throughout the exchanged helped me and made things bright and very fun for me.

The wonderful people living in student accommodation with me

The floor had a tradition of having a ‘Big Party’ at the beginning of the semester to welcome the new floor mates giving a great opportunity to formally introduce yourself and sensing the atmosphere that will be ever present in the floor. The photo above is everyone on the floor .The students each studied something different which I felt was a strong point as it would intrigue my curiosity in not only what they personally studied but how it worked in their own country and here in Trento.

The accommodation in depth functioned as a floor being a single unit. Each person had their own separate room with bathroom, bed, wardrobe, balcony, study desk and bedside lamp. The floor had a single kitchen and bathroom and balcony in which the cooking area was shared having lockers for each individuals cooking equipment and food and sharing fridges with a certain amount of people.

The view of the mountains from my accommodation

 

Continuing on for what the accommodation had to offer is that there were gyms, sports ground, music area and even a Unibar that was open breakfast to dinner all days. There was even a rock climbing centre around the corner which I personally enjoyed whenever I could go. The student accommodations are located 25minute walk from the city centre however was backed up right next to a train station which was super convenient.

Learning and living at Leeds

Jordan W
(BCI student Majoring in Drama, Minors in Scenography and Literature)
Leeds University, UK

 

Leeds University is built on-top of a mountain that looks over the town. It is known to be one of the prestigious universities of England known as the Red Brick Universities. Don’t let this fool you. It’s very much a community, with teachers and academics giving you insight into the living and academics of the institution.

Here, the teachers do throw you in the deep-end. But if you have a level-head ask a lot questions and confer with your tutor teacher specifically tasked with helping your academic needs, you will have a great time. The assignments are much larger than QUT which is around 2500 – 5000 words, so be prepared for more rigorous researching and studying which you can do at three separate libraries on campus, the Laidlaw, Brotherton and Parkinson libraries.

The Brotherton Library

The campus has numerous dorms surrounding it. I stayed in Storm Jameson Court West that was considered the ritzy part of campus, I did not know this at the time. I only wanted a place with an ensuite bathroom. It was a gated complex with its own reception area with two computers, multiple desk areas for work and a free pool table. It made it very fun in with roommates late at night with a cup of hot cocoa.

I enjoyed my time here at the dorm, I was on a floor with seven other occupants, one a friend of mine from QUT which made the trying times without vegemite that much easier to complain about. I had three fellow roommates from the New York City / State area, a Nigerian, and one Londoner who accompanied me on so many journeys around Leeds and the places surrounding such as York, which was magnificent with its old castle wall and cathedrals.

Just some of the friends you will make on exchange

The U.K has so much to offer and so does Leeds University, it is situated in the heart of a town where it is built around student life. Any student will have fun here studying. The dorm life is what you’ll remember, have long chats into the night with fellow strangers as you turn into family.

Living in Iceland

Accommodation

When I was accepted into Reykjavik University I was told that accommodation is pretty hard to find, because Iceland has such a high tourist population in recent years. There is no housing at the university unfortunately but they did help out a bit. They booked some rooms at a  hostel for some students to claim, and told us about some websites like bland.is (similar to Gumtree). I ended up joining a bunch of Facebook groups and asking around. This led me to chatting with a few locals who helped me find a share apartment.

I was honestly so happy that I found somewhere to live, within walking distance of the university and with my own room; I didn’t realise how great it was until I got here. It’s close to the famous church Hallgrímskirkja, and about a ten minute walk from the city centre and the harbour. I think I have completely lucked out on my apartment! It’s adorable and really close to town and to the water. I can see the ocean, the mountains and even some snow on the top from my kitchen. Not to mention that it is cheaper than where I lived in Brisbane next to the city.

University

Reykjavik University held 2 days of orientation sessions for all the exchange students. This year there is a record number of about 100, which is double last year. These orientation days were very helpful.

The university is very different to QUT. For instance, the whole university is only one building! I mean it’s a good thing because no one will want to go outside to change classrooms once it starts snowing, but it still seems so small. The classes are also much smaller, with only about 30 students in each course. Now, coming from engineering, my first year had about 1000 students and now were down to about 140 in Electrical Engineering. So it’s a bit of a dramatic change, but it feels more personal.

In the second week of university they held an international day. About 2 – 5 students from each country cooked traditional food from their home country to share with the local students. I baked a giant batch of ANZAC biscuits but they were all gone by the end of the day, and we also served fairy bread (the essence of our childhood) and Vegemite on bread for those brave enough to try! Some of my favourite reactions to Vegemite were “It tastes like I’m eating broth”,”It tastes like seawater” and “It tastes like something I never want to try again”.

 

Getting Around

I’ve been quite lucky with my location so I have been just walking around downtown and through the city. Most tours often pick up from somewhere in the city too.

The bus is also available and is what I’m planning on taking it when it starts getting too cold to walk. There is a student card you can get but it’s only available for a year, so I am just going to get the 3 month card, which turns out cheaper than just getting a ticket every time. Having a card allows you to take any bus in the Reykjavik area whenever you like. I also like the bus’ here better; they have little screens saying the next stop at the front, which is very helpful.

Taxis are also available but I think are a bit expensive. I caught one from the airport and it was super expensive but I was desperate to be clean after flying for so long. So I am planning on catching the bus to the airport when I go home.

 

 

 

 

Life at the University of Glasgow

Ashleigh: University of Glasgow, Scotland – Semester 1, 2016

I went on exchange to Glasgow for two semesters. While overseas for eleven months I travelled and learned a lot about different cultures, different ways of teaching and, most importantly, I learned a lot about myself as a person.

Scotland/United Kingdom is a great place to go as you have a very similar cultural background, but you’re close to so many different countries which have different lifestyles and are just incredible to see! Cost-wise, travel itself was pretty cheap once I arrived. As long as you’re flexible with dates and times and can get away with just cabin baggage and you’re willing to stay in hostels, you can have a weekend away for no more than $150! Of the eleven months I was away, I spent about three of those travelling and I still wish I saw more.

The cost of living wasn’t too bad in my opinion, but I still live with my parents so I don’t have much to compare it to. Some leisure activities (for example, movies) can be more expensive, but it’s generally around the same pricing as back home.

Part of the beautiful university campus

Part of the beautiful university campus

The view from campus

The view from campus

I stayed in halls that were about a 45-minute walk from the university campus, but my main reason for choosing it was because they were catered and we received two meals a day. The halls were nothing fancy, but I got one of the largest rooms which was great, and I had my own bathroom. The campus, on the other hand, was amazing. The main building is from the 1800s and on top of probably the only hill in Glasgow so you got a view of most of the city from there.

There were more food courts than at QUT (including a cafeteria in the library!) and they all had snacks, sandwiches and drinks at the least. Then there were two student unions which ran a lot of events and had bars and a nightclub, so there was always something happening if you got sick of studying.

The timetables were slightly different, with up to three lectures a week and a tutorial every second week. But the tutorials were much smaller, meaning that it felt more like a discussion rather than a lesson and I much preferred that.

We had snow one weekend!

We had snow one weekend!

My room in Glasgow

My room in Glasgow