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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.