Japan Student exchange Travel

Transformative Exchange at Tokyo, Japan

Daniel – Mejij University – Japan

Semester 2, 2022

Bachelor of Communication

I think if I have one regret in my life, it’s that I didn’t take an exchange during my first degree. The last six months were filled with some of the most enjoyable and challenging experiences of my life.

How it all started

Academics are only one part of the university experience and I think there is as much to be gained with the people you meet and the experiences you are able to have that are hard to replicate anywhere else. Due to covid, I spent much of my degree feeling a little bit underwhelmed in my studies. Even after returning to campus, I felt as if I was meeting a lot of new people, but unable to be social. The exchange was a perfect antidote to the malaise that had hit the social lives of everyone. I don’t mean social lives superficially either.

How it completely changed my social life

During my exchange, I was able to form deep friendships with people from all over the world and all different walks of life and not just through university. Amongst the exchange students and our buddies, there was a strong sense of comradery. I fell in with a group of people with such disparate sets of interests, motivations, and life goals which I found to be an extremely edifying experience. It was hard for us all to split towards the end, knowing that we might never all be in the same room again.

The differences when studying in Japan

In terms of academics, studying abroad forced me to acclimate to new ways of thinking. The Meiji system plays a bit fast and loose with the course structure. Half of my classes had what felt like a large amount of work that seemed superficial, such as having to hand in a minimum amount of lecture notes each week. However, one class about the history of journalism in Japan had me captivated the whole time – but felt like it had the least amount of work. I think a key difference in my experiences at QUT and Meiji is that at QUT I feel like all classes expect the same amount of commitment. But at Meiji, I felt that each lecturer had vastly different expectations. However, I don’t feel as if any of the classes were less valuable in terms of what I learned and the skills I developed. In all my classes, being able to collaborate with others who have vastly different life experiences than me was a highlight.

Pros and cons of living in Japan

The experience of existing as an outsider in another culture I found to be both exciting at times, but also incredibly confronting. In the situation I was in, it usually felt positive. There was instantly a community of people with a shared experience, so being social was easy and most Japanese people are very accommodating. There were a few unpleasant experiences, but thankfully I had a great support network of friends and I was able to gain a new perspective and empathy – as uncomfortable as some of the situations were.

One thing that I don’t think was handled well was the bureaucracy of living in Japan. While the university did provide some support, we were often left to our own devices to figure out if the invoices in our letterboxes were important and meant to be paid. Often, they weren’t and were just advertisements. But some, like our health insurance were all in Japanese and incredibly confusing until our Japanese peers were able to explain them to us. Seriously, in what world should I have to go to the bank and talk to a person to pay $30 to the government? Why was I given 3 receipts? Why do I also have to pay the city for the same thing, but not at a bank? However, I learned to be patient and cope with uncertainty, despite how grave it felt at the time.

Final words

I don’t really have the word count to talk about much else, like the travel and the opportunity to experience and take part in the culture (which was amazing!). I only wish it could have been a little bit longer. My only complaint is that covid robbed me of another semester in Japan.

Find out how you can apply for exchange via the QUT Student Exchange website.

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