Dreams Come True: My Exchange to Kyoto, Japan at Ritsumeikan University

Chen Lang (Joyce) Yu, Bachelor of Design (Architectural Studies) (Honours) 

Host university: Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan

So it’s a bit of a childhood dream to go on exchange in Japan and study Japanese. Using the elective credits that I had with my architectural course, I was grateful to have been given the opportunity to go to Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. Kyoto is pretty much on every tourist’s list to visit if they came to Japan, the city is scattered with temples, shrines, museums and historical places that reminisce a time when Kyoto was the capital. Living here only served to reinforce that. There are endless little niches of culture, old and new, traditional and modern, living side by side each other and it’s quite incredible.

I applied for Ritsumeikan University for the SKP (Study in Kyoto) program that they offer for international students, specifically the IJL (Intensive Japanese Learning track). Coming here in late March, I was able to catch the cherry blossom season and it was spectacular.

Cherry Blossom in Kyoto

For the semester, I undertook Japanese lessons every day and each week; there would be so much content to be learned – grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation etc. I must admit, it was somewhat stressful, but at the same time I have learned a lot. From almost no Japanese language experience to being able to hold simple conversation with local Japanese students, the progress was slow but rewarding.

Luckily, Ritsumeikan University offers dormitory housing for international students, which saved me the hassle of looking for my own accommodation. By far the dorm life was one of the most rewarding experiences for me and my stay in Kyoto. I was able to meet and make friends with people from all over the world who also shared my enthusiasm for studying Japanese and learning its culture. These people have become some lifelong friends that I hope to be able to visit them in their part of the world.

Some of the lifelong friends I made in Kyoto

Spring time in Kyoto, Japan

Chen Lang (Joyce) Yu

Bachelor of Design (Architectural Studies) (Honours)

 Host university: Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan

So it’s a bit of a childhood dream to go on exchange in Japan and study Japanese. Using the elective credits that I had with my architectural course, I was grateful to have been given the opportunity to go to Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan. Kyoto is pretty much on every tourist’s list to visit if they came to Japan, the city is scattered with temples, shrines, museums and historical places that reminisce of a time when Kyoto was the country’s imperial capital. Living here only served to reinforce that. There are endless little niches of culture, old and new, traditional and modern, living side by side each other and it’s quite incredible.

Heian Jingu Shrine

The beautiful Kamogawa that runs through the heart of Kyoto’s city centre

I applied to Ritsumeikan University for the SKP (Study in Kyoto) program that they offer for international students, specifically the IJL (Intensive Japanese Learning track). Coming here in late March, I was able to catch the cherry blossom season and it was quite spectacular. Unfortunately, these flowers don’t last long, about a week or two at most, so during this time we made the most going around places and enjoying the flower viewing (or Hanami).

Cherry blossom trees out in front of the university dorm

For the semester, I undertook Japanese lessons every day and each week there would be so much language content to be learned – grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation etc. I must admit, it was somewhat stressful, but at the same time I have learned a lot. Going from almost no Japanese language experience to being able to hold simple conversation with local Japanese students, the progress was slow but rewarding.

Luckily, Ritsumeikan University offers dormitory housing for international students, which saved me the hassle of looking for my own accommodation. By far the dorm life was one of the most rewarding experiences for me and my stay in Kyoto. I was able to meet and make friends with people from all over the world who also shared my enthusiasm for studying Japanese and learning its culture. These people have become some lifelong friends that I hope to be able to visit them in their part of the world.

Wonderful people from wonderful places around the world

 

 

Tokyo Game Show

Grace G., Bachelor of Engineering (Honors)
International Christian University, Japan (Semester 2, 2016)

As an engineering student at QUT, my primary motivation for studying overseas was to better understand how computer-human interaction differs between cultures. And now, having spent the Autumn trimester at the International Christian University (ICU) in Tokyo I can honestly say this experience has impacted more than just my education, it has provided me with the skills and confidence to improve my own life as well. So I’d like to take this opportunity to share my experience and hopefully encourage you, my fellow students, to pursue an exchange period in Tokyo, Japan.

Firstly, let me start off by saying that ICU is an incredible school. The teachers are very knowledgeable and supportive, engaging with students and encouraging us to develop our own ideas and pursue subjects beyond the classroom. ICU differs from QUT in that it’s classes are much smaller, making it easier for teachers to tailor the learning experience to meet the needs of individual students. As far as the facilities go, the campus has a very convenient post office, gym and my dream library alongside a cafeteria, called ガッキ (‘Gakki’), which is a combination of the Japanese word ‘学生’ (‘Gakusei’ or ‘Student’) and the English word ‘Kitchen’. There is also on-campus housing, however there weren’t many rooms available when I applied, so I ended up living in a share house in beautiful Koganei. I consider myself extremely lucky to have lived in such a wonderful place. Koganei was very homely, which made it easier for me to grow an attachment to my new surroundings. However, there is less support available for exchange students living off-campus, which is only a problem when it comes time for ward office registration. Something I would recommend with hindsight is to look up an English translation of the appropriate forms before you go, as there is unlikely to be any English support available to you in your local ward office.

Now since returning home I’ve been asked a few times to choose my favourite memory from studying in Tokyo, and I continuously struggle to answer. I had so many wonderful experiences in Japan and choosing just one is not easy. However I do consider myself exceptionally lucky, that my exchange period just happened to coincide with the Tokyo Game Show. Whenever I think about the day I spent playing demos, admiring VR headsets and listening to presentations made by some of my personal heroes, I feel a surge of gratitude to both QUT and ICU for giving me this opportunity to experience new things and grow in ways I’d never imagined.

It was studying abroad that helped me to realise giving in to my fear of failure only ever guaranteed it, and success is in my power to define. There was a time when I didn’t think I was capable of studying abroad, but with the support of my family, friends and both QUT and ICU I was able to face my fears and enjoy an incredible semester.

So, I’ll leave you with this final piece of advice, if you’re considering going on exchange remember what it is you want from this experience and strive for it! Don’t let fear hold you back from the adventure that awaits you!

頑張れ

Time Of My Life In Nagoya

Christina Z., Bachelor of Creative Industries / Bachelor of Law (Honours)
Meijo University, Japan (Semester 2, 2018)

I never thought in my entire life that I would ever do karaoke. Before my exchange I was quite shy; a little quiet around people I didn’t know. Don’t get me wrong, I love singing, just not in front of other people. I was afraid that people might judge me and that I wasn’t good at it. However in Japan I found my voice, literally and figuratively. If it is one thing that Japanese people do well it is karaoke. It doesn’t matter if you are bad, average, or sound like Whitney Houston. It just matters that you put yourself out there and that you enjoyed the experience.

Meeting new friends!

Life on campus was fairly good for the most part, however being one of three Caucasian students in the whole school definitely made you stand out. It was a bit strange at first but you get used to the staring and such. Meijo University also set me up with a job in an area of the university that they call Global Plaza. This area was where students could come to study English and practice conversation. Through being a conversation partner I was able to make a lot of friends and get more involved with university life. The facilities were quite well kept, there were even tennis courts, a gymnasium and computer labs. Accommodation wise the room I stayed in comes with everything you will need – bathroom, kitchen, mini fridge, desk, and bed and storage space. It was small but honestly you don’t need that much space, and an added benefit was that you got to live alone too. It was great being so close to the university (a three minute walk), the train station, bank, restaurants and convenience stores. The study aspect of my exchange was surprisingly quite simple and definitely not as busy as QUT. I only had to go in once a week for one class and the assessments were generally not stressful.

Nagoya and surrounds

Placing myself in a completely new environment with different customs and a completely different culture was very eye-opening. People would always tell me that going on exchange changed their lives, and I would always nod along even if I didn’t quite believe them. Well, I should have. Now I can truly say that going to Japan and studying abroad has definitely changed me forever. I have met so many different people while I was over there. They came from places such as France, Austria, Turkey, America and even Korea. I have a lot of friends in different places now, and being away from them has taught me about how important making connections is. With them I got to experience the wonders of Japan; from New Year’s shrine visits, autumn leaves and hot springs, all the way to snowboarding, all you can drink izakaya’s, and the infamous 24 hour convenience stores. Japan is very big on their nightlife. Even in Nagoya people stay out quite late to socialise and drink. There is a reason why those convenience stores are open at all hours.

Friends at a local Pub

Another fantastic thing that happened was that I got to see snow for the very first time. I felt like a child when I woke up that morning and looked out my window. I didn’t even take time out to have a shower before I dressed and left my room. I spent two hours outside that day playing in the snow with my friend Stone. We made snowwomen, threw snow balls off the rooftop of our apartment building and overall just had a great time being 5 years old again.

First time seeing snow

Despite the big cultural differences I didn’t have the huge culture shock that everyone was expecting me to when I first arrived. However as I spent more time integrating into the culture there were a few things that surprised me. In my case, Japan had such a lack of cultural diversity that I found it hard to blend in. I would stand out wherever I went and people did treat you differently because they knew you weren’t from there. However that is not always a bad thing. Another thing I did not expect was the separation of sexes at a university level. Usually, that happens in primary school and sometimes high school but it dissipates as you get into university. In Japan, however, there are no co-ed sports teams, friends sit apart in class (boys with boys and girls with girls) and no one really hugs over here. Finally, Christmas is another occasion that has a completely different meaning in Japan than it does in Australia. Everyone still goes to work and school on Christmas Day, in fact, it is seen as a day for couples. However New Years is when everyone has time off and goes to be with their family.

Exploring Nagoya with friends

For anyone looking to go overseas and study, I would say to go without expectations and keep an open mind. That way you can really be involved in things you might not have thought you would be. I loved my life there and I was very sad to leave it behind, but I am so grateful I got to experience Japan.

 

 

 

 

 

Learning Japanese language and culture in Tokyo

Joshua C., ​Bachelor of Business / Bachelor of Games and Interactive Environments
Meiji University Winter Japanese Language Program (February 2019)

Hi there! My name is Joshua Crowley and I am in my 4th year at QUT Studying a Bachelor of Games and Interactive Environments (Design) / Bachelor of Business (Marketing). I decided to undertake a short-term program to make my summer break a little more exciting than usual, and boy was it an adventure!

I decided to have my short-term program in Japan and to participate in the Meiji University Japanese Winter Language Program. I have always been an avid consumer of Japanese media, culture, and the language especially. I had basic knowledge of phrases and can read Hiragana and Katakana, but unfortunately my Kanji is not up to scratch. This program was a great way to get a foothold of how to tackle aspects of learning the language, and to make many friends from all around the world.

Where did I stay?

For this program, I decided to stay with a homestay family to get the full experience of Japanese hospitality, and to see the day to day commute when living outside of central Tokyo. I stayed with two homestay families, as I left Australia a little earlier before the program to visit my previous homestay again in Hiroshima. Hiroshima is a beautiful city, a must see!

My homestay family

My homestay in Tokyo was far from central Tokyo in the Chiba prefecture, which is roughly a 1-hour train ride to Meiji University. Public transport in Japan is very easy, but quite expensive. On average, I spent JP¥2000 per day (around $25) riding various trains, to get to and from my homestay as well as visiting various cities across Tokyo. It is important to budget well prior to departing Australia, and to investigate cheaper options such as the Japan Rail Pass or even regional passes for short term trips. Unfortunately, due to my travel itinerary it was not worth purchasing the pass. On the plus side, I had delicious dinners after a long day at uni, such as hotpot!

I miss hotpot for dinner

 

How was the language program?

On the first day of the program we all had to sit a Japanese language test, which tested our reading, writing and speaking ability. Depending on your performance during the test, you were placed in one of four classes, from introductory up to advanced. The classes themselves were very informative with enthusiastic teachers and student volunteers, eager to help in any way possible. However, the lessons were conducted at a fast pace and fully in Japanese with limited English and it was easy to get confused, so it is highly recommended to brush up on your Japanese before joining the program! These classes took place over a 2 ½ week period, with classes taking place mostly on weekday mornings, leaving the afternoons free for students to explore Tokyo and its surroundings.

My university for the program

We also participated in various cultural activities such as calligraphy classes, tea ceremonies, and dressing ourselves in Kimonos!

The cultural part of the program

Kimonos time!

Learning Japanese is a long process but is highly rewarding once you start to understand the grammatical and character-based systems. At the end of the program, I currently still am not able to hold a full conversation in Japanese but am able to now convey my message across through basic sentences.

Special memories?

Many lifelong friends were made throughout my month across Japan. In my spare time between classes, I took the opportunity to visit Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Yokohama, Sapporo, and various places around Tokyo. One highlight of my trip was experiencing -15°c temperatures whilst taking in the sights and sounds of the Sapporo Snow Festival held in the Hokkaido region. Amazing snow sculptures carved with insane amounts of detail scattered the streets of Sapporo, bringing in tourists from all over the world.

Sapporo Snow Festival

Sapporo Snow Festival

From humidity to snow and back again

Final Thoughts

Upon returning to Australia after only just a month, it took some time to readjust back to a humid climate, as well as settling back into a more relaxed Australian lifestyle. For those who have not been to Japan, I cannot recommend it highly enough as an exchange destination due to the amount of amazing people, food, and cultural norms that embodies Japanese society. I hope to undertake a full semester exchange in 2020, as I cannot wait to see what else Japan has in store.

See you soon, Japan!

Pokemon mania

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.