The Next Instalment – Taiwan

 

Trip to Taipei Prison

I wanted to call this one “Going to Prison on Exchange” but for fears of sounding too much like clickbait (and QUT probably wouldn’t be too much of a fan of the title.) I will just address it first in this next instalment of my Taiwan exchange.

It’s not as dramatic as it sounds but going to Taipei prison was as bizarre for us as it is to see in an exchange blog. Tuesday mornings I have a class called Workshop on Sustainability which primarily teaches Circular Economy and Corporate Social Responsibility. However, being all exchange students, the Professor takes the opportunity to focus and educate us on everything Taiwan. One week, with absolutely no link to course content, he took us to check out Taipei’s operating prison. We met earlier than normal and took a karaoke bus to the southern part of Taipei, in what was still a fairly urban built-up area.  We started off with a debrief from the warden, who spoke about the history and facilities. They have all sorts of prisoners there, staying from a few months up to life; it wasn’t a high security place but neither was it a light one. We were then told to leave all our stuff in the conference room and we began our tour. From inside it was hard to tell it was a prison, it really was designed to reintegrate people into a functioning society.

Workshop on Sustainability Pizza Party

Unless prisoners took school or university classes in the education centre, they worked on site in manufacturing, pottery, arts, or in catering. We even got to try some tea and biscuits you can order in bulk for catering, (and it really was quite good.) It was a rare and random experience to go to Taipei Prison, but that’s why Workshop on Sustainability is fast becoming one of the favourite subjects of my whole degree. Instead of mid-semester exams, we had a guest lecture from the ministry of education which was followed by a pizza party with him. Workshop on Sustainability is full of surprises.

 

Liya Farm, where we got to work planting rice!

NCCU has a heap of programs that aid in exposing exchange students to Taiwan. One of the student clubs called International Youth has hosted a welcome dinner, a day out exploring the Zoo and Gondola near the Uni, and a cooking and arts night. A highlight is a weekend trip to the east coast city, Yilan. Early Saturday morning we boarded the bus and travelled to our first destination, Linmei Shipan Trail, an absolutely stunning waterfall. We visited the National Centre for Traditional Arts before checking into (and completely booking out) the 5 Season Hotel and ate stinky tofu at Luo Tong Night Markets. The next day we had a traditional university student breakfast; Maccas, before heading to a rice farm. We learnt all about the traditional farms and also got to plant some rice in knee-deep mud.

Waiao Beach

We then also made our own lunch “from rice we’d grown earlier” grinding it down, mixing it up, and cooking it into noodles!  Post-lunch we hit up the beach, the light drizzle we’d had the entire day ceased with perfect timing. Waiao Beach is a black sand beach facing the great Pacific Ocean where we enjoyed some Bubble Tea (well the tea part, I’m still warming up to the bubbles.) The weekend was an extraordinary time, seeing awesome things and making a heap of new friends with other Internationals on exchange AND a stack of local students that came along!

 

 

As well as Uni organised sight-seeing, I have been on a few wild adventures of my own on the Brampcycle (that’s the name for my bike.) A weekend arrived that started on a Wednesday (thank you bulk public holidays.) I took this opportunity to take my first little riding trip and it was to a small city call Hualian. Located on the East Coast it was about five and a half hours ride away. I left as soon as class ended on Tuesday; my prediction was an ETA of around 6:30. Still a good hour away from arriving the sun began to set, which should be all well and good except for the fact that my headlights weren’t making any difference to the ever-darkening road. Eventually I pull over to sus things out and sure enough, my lights aren’t actually on at all…because the bulb is blown. Street lights aren’t exactly a thing on this regional mountainous road; in the dying light I have never ridden with so much stress in my life. I make it to the next town using another car’s tail lights to light my way. There I manage to find a workshop that was just closing and two very kind men helped me out and set me on my way. Eventually, I make it to Hualian (a lot later than expected) and check into my accommodation. I spent the next couple of days there seeing some of the most epic scenery so far! Taroko National park…my writing could never do justice to how beautiful and vast this gorge is. I also travelled up to HeHuanShan (Shan = Mountain) where I got to hike to an altitude of 3416m. Don’t be too impressed though – you start at 2900m. This is one of Taiwan’s 100 Great Mountains with a height over 3000m, and luckily for me, it’s the one you can do without the hassle of a permit.

HeHuanShan

Taiwan is so full of natural beauty and I really am so fortunate to be seeing as much as I am! The only downside is that every place I see and learn about comes with a strong recommendation of two more places that I then want to go see. I think the quote from Aristotle can easily also apply to traveling; “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

 

 

 

Cambodia – You are beautiful!

Paula M., Bachelor of Creative Industries
Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (Semester 1, 2017)

I was fortunate enough to spend four days in Siem Reap, Cambodia last week. It was a wonderful mix of adventure and R&R, plus I met some great people along the way.

Because Cambodia is so cheap (especially compared to SNG!) I splurged on a 5 star spa resort, which cost me $70 a night, including spa treatments, breakfast and discounts on already cheap cocktails!

Day 1, I arrived in the afternoon so after settling into my room, I went to the cultural dinner and show held by the resort. The traditional Cambodian food was super tasty, and all of the dancers and musicians were really talented. A great night out.

Day 2, I went to the Angkor Archaeological Park to do the Flight of the Gibbon. This was amazing – a must do! I was super lucky because I had three guides with me, so one of them volunteered to be my personal photographer – LEGEND! After zip-lining through the tree tops. I went to a pottery class where I learnt to shape clay. The spinning wheel used was manual, so this surely tested my coordination and leg muscles. From here I took a tuk tuk back to the resort, and sat by the pool with a mojito (or two) while waiting for my full body massage. It’s safe to say, I slept really well that night. Especially considering I am currently sleeping in a single bed on campus, so the king size bed was like a dream.

Day 3, I was up and eagerly ready by 4:30am to start the sunrise bicycle temple tour. This was better than I could ever anticipate. There was almost a universal silence across all the people who came to see the sun appear over Angkor Wat; the sight was absolutely breathtaking. From here we walked through Angkor Wat, then donned our bicycles and rode through the forest to the Bayon and Ta Prohm templates.

 

The last day was spent relaxing around the resort before heading to the airport – Singapore bound. Four days was nowhere near long enough. I really hope I can visit again soon!

 

My SUNY Oswego Adventure!

Bella J., Bachelor of Business/Creative Industries
State University of New York at Oswego, USA (Semester 1, 2017)

It’s hard to believe my SUNY Oswego adventure is over! The past two semesters have flown by, and it’s safe to say I’m so happy with my decision to study abroad at SUNY Oswego for a year. SUNY Oswego has really stolen my heart, to the point where I extended my exchange for another semester! I never expected to fall in love with a town in the middle of upstate New York but somehow I am the happiest I have ever been.

First day of classes with my Spanish room-mate, Ines.

Everyone on campus is so friendly and helpful, even though some beg to hear my Australian accent on demand. It’s so easy to make friends and be involved on campus, there is honestly something for everyone. Unlike at QUT, I am heavily involved on campus with my sorority, Sigma Delta Tau, internships and other clubs such as Del Sarte Dance and the social soccer team. There is never a moment to spare, there is ALWAYS something on!The college puts on many events, especially during the first few weeks of the semester. At most of these events you’ll find free fairy floss, popcorn, pretzels, photo booths, snow cones, bull riding, therapy dogs (yes, you heard right) and even build-a-bears.

I attend classes five days a week, which has probably been one of the biggest adjustments so far. I’m not going to lie; classes here are far easier than those at home. I’m a straight A student here at Oswego, and I can assure you I am far from that at home. Although classes are compulsory and participation is included within your final grade I really enjoy the teaching style here. I feel as though I am taking much more from the classes than I ever did at home as class sizes are relatively small and you get to know your professor very well.

Before I came to Oswego, one of the biggest concerns I had was what the food in the dining halls would be like. Let me tell you, they’re absolutely amazing!! Everything and anything you could ever want is on campus, it takes a lot of strength to resist over eating. The highlights so far in regards to food has to be the UNLIMITED ice cream parlor at Cooper dining hall or the chocolate milk on tap. You can request wraps to be made for you, omelets, pizza, stir fry’s, etc. You name it, they have it!

Another one of my absolute favourite things about SUNY Oswego is Lake Ontario. SUNY Oswego sits right on Lake Ontario which separates the United States from Canada. Here you will find some of the most breathtaking sunsets you will have ever experienced. During the beginning of the fall semester (August) I would bring my homework to the lake and soak in the sun for hours after my classes were done for the day. It’s a great place to hang out with friends, take a dip in the water and just simply relax!

In front of Lake Ontario!

Although Oswego is approximately five hours from New York City, we are so close to little treasures unable to be found anywhere else in the world. We’re just a short drive from some beautiful national parks, Niagara Falls and the Canadian border for those interested in venturing up north! Close by there is Ontario Orchards, the Bluffs and Bevs Ice Cream just to name a few. Oswego town and Syracuse also offers some cute stores and eateries.

I originally lived in Scales Hall, one of the older buildings on campus but transferred to Onondaga Hall due to my decision to stay an additional semester (and Scales was closing for renovations in the spring). I now live in a suite on the tenth floor (a suite generally has three bedrooms with six people living in the room). The six suite mates share a lounge room and bathroom, which I much prefer over my original accommodation where 20 people share a communal bathroom. My room also has a stunning view of the lake, and my new room mate is one of my very best friends and sorority sisters! Another great thing about Onondaga (commonly referred to as Daga) is that there is a gym, dining hall and computer lab located in the basement.

Ines and I in front our building, Scales Hall

My dorm room was also much bigger than I initially expected, I had two sets of draws, a desk, bed, mirror, lamp and wardrobe.

Yes, you heard right.. I joined a sorority!. Sigma Delta Tau is one of four national sororities on campus. I was lucky enough to join this sisterhood during the fall 16 semester, and can honestly say it’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me. I now have 45 beautiful new best friends and memories to last a lifetime. These girls continue to shower with me with love and support and I could not be more grateful for them taking me in and making me always feel so at home.

Initiation day at Sigma Delta Tau!

Before I finish… prepare yourself for the snow. Coming from the sunny Gold Coast, snow is not a common sighting so this day was super special! The fact I had never seen snow really excited and shocked some of my friends.  I made a snowman, snow angel and even had a snowball fight. Another great thing about snow is snow days! We were blessed with a snow day due to the wild wind and snow covered roads in the Fall semester but surprisingly not in the Spring…  I had never experienced such cold weather in my life. Being on Lake Ontario, Oswego experiences ‘Lake Effect’ weather due to the wind. So rug up and prepare yourself if you’re heading there during the spring semester.

Building a snowman at SUNY Oswego.

I could not be happier with my decision to study abroad for a semester at SUNY Oswego. I have already made so many special memories and life long friends I will treasure forever. I am absolutely devastated to leave this place but know I will definitely be back soon. If you have any questions at all about SUNY Oswego, please email me (bellajackson@hotmail.com.au). I would be more than happy to help. I could talk about this place for hours! You can also follow me on Instagram (@bellajackson) to follow my adventures!

Taiwan – the First Month

Taipei 101

Even before I started my first day at university, I was certain one of my goals was to study abroad. Now at the beginning of my 3rd year it has finally kicked off; I am spending an entire semester at the National ChengChi University in Taipei, Taiwan. My choice in coming here was supported by the New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant which will greatly enhance my capacity to experience, engage, and enjoy Taiwan to its fullest potential.

I left home on 12 February and began the 20 hours of travel. Yes, the Asia-Pacific region and it still takes that long. Partially because the cheapest flight had a six hour layover in Singapore (Changi is the best airport in the world, so amongst the movies, butterfly gardens, and sunflower gardens I really didn’t mind).   I also didn’t fully realize until I made the trip how far down Australia is and how far up Taiwan is. It was literally the same flight time as for most of the Europeans. However, when it came to jet lag the time difference was only two hours, so that was a piece of cake.

Some of the other international peeps that are here at NCCU on exchange this semester.

While living here I am staying in the International house run by the university. The location is prime, a five-minute walk from university, and we are at the east edge of the city, bordering the scenic rainforest mountains. The river also runs just by the university, its entire stretch has walkways, parks, and basketball courts every 100 metres or so, hence Wednesday night is progressively becoming Basketball night among the I-house residence. It’s also easy access to the city, provided you take the bus heading in the right direction. I confess the whole ‘driving on the right side of the road’ sent me a long way in the wrong direction on my first attempt at going into the city.

 

Yangmingshan – National Park.

My first week here was great.  I spent a lot of time getting my bearings just by exploring the city. On the first Friday we ventured on our first out-of-town trip.  We took the bus to a town called Jiufen, where the entire city is located on the slope of the mountain. Located to the north-east, the town is famous for its scenery. We spend the arvo roaming the markets followed by hiking to the top of Keelung Mountain. Unfortunately, Taiwan’s rapidly changing weather got the better of us and almost just as we arrived at the top it became a total white out. However, if you do find yourself in Taipei this is 10/10 on the must-do list of places to visit.

Chicken Butt. 5 for the equivalent of $2AUD, and despite my concerned face it turned out to be delicious!

My adjustment to the lifestyle here has been an adventure. With no real cooking facilities at I-house eating out is the norm, and as it turns out that is the Taiwan way, for every meal. The idea of buying breakfast every day sounds like a mortgage in Australia but here, not only is it affordable, but it’s such a social way to start my day. I wander down to the place I’ve picked out as ‘my local’ and grab two of the best Taiwanese omelet pancake things with special soy sauce I’ve ever tried. My other food experiences have all been fabulous, not so stinky-stinky tofu, whole fried squid, chicken butt, lots of dumplings, Baozi and bubble tea! Taiwan has such a diverse range of authentic Asian cuisine available there is no shortage of food to try and enjoy. Not all shopping has resulted in such positive results though. The language barrier caused me some confusion; turns out it was not washing liquid that I bought on my first attempt, but bleach.   I’m sticking to my story that my bleach-splattered clothing is an Australian craze…

Lantern Festival with some of my local buddies.

The highlight of week two was having the chance to experience Taipei’s lantern festival.  We traveled to a neighboring town called Pingxi which is where they hold the sky lantern side of the celebrations. We arrived late in the afternoon and already we could see lanterns flying off sporadically all over the place. We explored the town which was completely taken over by markets and festivities. Eventually we found ourselves at the small show grounds where there was a huge stage with live music. Every half-hour there was a coordinated release of lanterns, sending over 100 up into the sky all at once. What a truly magical sight to see!

Sky Lantern Festival in Pingxi

Now we are well and truly in the swing of a daily routine. Classes have begun and for that I spend four days over at the campus. For the remaining three days of the week I now have access to a motorcycle which has opened up a world of opportunities when it comes to accessibility and traveling about the island. The university social clubs have many trips and camps lined up for our opportunity to meet locals and see the sights. I have done so much in the time here already and I have literally only just begun!

Re-imagining India: Three Parts Exhilarating, One Part Exhausting

Alicia Shorey, Bachelor of Design

Short-term Program: Reimagining India Experiential Learning Program

India (December 2018)

What can I say other than it is an experience of a lifetime. The Re-imagining India program is 3 parts exhilarating and one-part exhausting, but amazing none the less.

Taj Mahal

Over the course of two weeks I was submerged into Indian culture and dipped into a world so full of vibrancy that it allowed me to open my eyes up to so many different ways of thinking. The photos showcase a glimpse of my journey through Delhi, Mumbai and Jaipur which consisted of morning yoga and Bollywood classes, industry and NGO visits, cultural sites and beyond.

Vibrant Elephants in India

A highlight of mine was Jaipur Foot which is an organisation which provides free prosthetic limbs to those in need. While there, we were able to see how the organisation operated and see first-hand how this organisation is restoring faith in many people. Being able to watch a limb being fitted and its instant effect on a person’s life was indescribable and something I’ll never forget.

Jaipur Foot

The program overall was jam-packed with a variety of activities to fit all interests. Delicious meals were provided every day and the overall cost of the trip excluding flights is next to nothing. What are you waiting for?

The program had activities to suit all interests

A World Class Fashion Experience in Paris

Ashleigh Hobbs, Bachelor of Creative Industries

Short-term program: IESEG ‘Fashion Business in Paris 2018’

France (July 2018)

My name is Ashleigh Hobbs, a second-year student at QUT, majoring in fashion and film. In June/July of 2018, I had the opportunity to go on exchange to Paris, France, and study fashion and business at IESEG School of Management.

The institution I studied at, IESEG School of Management, was in La Défense; the business sector of Paris. We had student residency, only a five-minute walk from the school, and this was shared with other students taking our classes. The residency was fantastic, we each had individual apartments containing a fully equipped kitchenette, bathroom, queen sized bed, TV and wardrobe. In addition to this, we had access to complimentary breakfast, including on the weekends.

Life on campus was incredible; because the program is international and immersive, you connect with amazing people from across the globe. Having these friendships made the course even more so engaging and enriching; not only were you immersed in the Parisian fashion culture but also learning about different international cultures and traditions at the same time.

The program allows you to connect with people from across the globe.

The academic structure was incredibly smooth and well organised, making it easy to follow, but nevertheless, there was a high work ethic and heavy participation expected from each student. The opportunities granted to us students were world class. Not only did we receive tours of major fashion exhibits, but we also got a tour the Ecole Lesage – the company whom work with customers such as Chanel, Marc Jacobs, and thus forth. We got to watch the women hand make the tweed samples for the upcoming SS19 Chanel show; it was a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The Louvre.

I had the most positive experience at IESEG and was exposed to so much industry practice thanks to this wonderful school; I could not be more fulfilled or happier with how the program was.

As one can imagine, the French capital is vastly different to Brisbane, and Australia in general. It is always important to remain extremely aware in the streets, and personally, I would always advise being with company when venturing away from the student residency and university. It makes it that little bit less stressful having two pairs of eyes and ears and is far more enjoyable in company. Site seeing in the main tourist areas is perfectly safe in your own, however make sure you know the areas you’re in and always take caution.

The streets of Paris.

Nevertheless, Paris is world renowned, and for great reason. During our stay we were able to visit places such as the Louvre museum, the Chateau of Versailles, the Louis Vuitton foundation, endless fashion exhibits (including Dior, Museum of Saint Laurent, Maison Martin Margiela and Hermes, etc.) Paris itself was everything I dreamed and more. Generally, when it comes to ‘experiencing’ Parisian culture and the city, Paris can be very costly. Despite this, Paris can still be enjoyed on a budget. There are a large array of grocery stores and local markets, and due to having a kitchenette, it is easy to cook your own meals, and the difference in price is huge. You will save a lot of money by doing this, but I still recommend doing some research and choosing some amazing spots to eat out; for the atmosphere if nothing else.

Versailles.

The Eiffel Tower.

When it came to the cultural aspects of living in Paris, I wasn’t affected too much by culture shock. As you are surrounded by friends from all over the world, you are all able to communicate on your experiences and go through the journey together. Out of respect for the country, however, it is nice to learn a few French phrases to get you by (even if it is just: ‘desole, parlez-vous anglais?’ Meaning, ‘sorry, do you speak English?’).

After partaking in the IESEG School of Management Fashion Summer Academy, I feel so inspired, motivated and refreshed to start back at QUT, and understand further the amazing career pathways that can be undertaken in my industry. Choosing to partake in the program not only made me more academically inspired, but made me so much for worldly, and confident in being associated in the international fashion industry. I cannot recommend doing this program, and going on exchange in general, enough.

Living like a Local in Kassel

Xaythavone Phommachanh, Bachelor of Engineering

Short-term program: Hessen University “Hessen International Summer University – Kassel”

Germany (June/July 2018)

Doing exchange abroad is one of my favourite opportunities that I could do while being in university. On July 2018, I took a journey to Germany to participate in an exchange program called International Summer University (ISU)– Kassel. This was my very first trip to Europe and Germany and I was excited and looking forward to it. Eventually the very first day arriving Germany came, it took some time to travel from the Frankfurt airport to the city of Kassel where the exchange program took place.

The city of Kassel is a small city where everything is pretty much easily accessible by trains, trams or foot, for example, stores, cafes, restaurants, museums, parks and so on. The University of Kassel, main campus, is situated not far north from the city centre. There are many tram stops around the university so it is very convenient to travel to study from the city and also outer suburbs. The main campus is large in terms of area. There are many buildings, namely the library, central canteen, study areas, etc. and my most favourite building of them all is, and I think you know what my choice will be, Zentralmensa or Central Canteen. This is because they serve cheap and good food, but you need to know how the Zentralmensa works so that you will get all the benefits.

Cheap and good food on campus

Throughout the program, I found that it was very well organised, educational and enjoyable. Staff and other participants were very kind, caring, cheerful and friendly. The program offered a German language course and a variety of seminars for participants to choose. Along with all those on-campus components of the program, the participants were also offered off-campus and extracurricular opportunities, for example, field trips in order to improve participant understanding about the chosen seminar topics and movie night or BBQ gathering to maximise the cultural experience of all participants. Furthermore, there are also recreational trips like a trip to Berlin, Fritzlar (a small historic town) and hiking trips, to name a few.

Recreational trip to Berlin

The cultural experience of the trip was maximised through extracurricular activities.

As the time of applying for this ISU program in Kassel, there was one aspect of the program that stood out and interested me to participate, and that was the opportunity to stay with a German family, they were really great at helping out with transitioning to the German culture. By spending time with them, I learned a lot about them and also the things that only the locals know best. I have to admit that I did little research about Germany before actually going on exchange, but because of them, I felt that I did not miss many things that are expected to do in Germany. Fun Fact: they like Tim Tams a lot!

I recommend that everyone join this program.

Overall, the program is so good. I recommend everyone to join this program, International Summer University – Kassel. I am sure that you will have a good time here. 😊

Life in Kassel

Tantika Na Nakhon, Master of Engineering Management

Short-term program: Hessen University “Hessen International Summer University – Kassel”

Germany (June/July 2018)

Hessen International Summer School

My name is Tantika Na Nakhon and I’ve just completed an international summer program at the Universität Kassel (University of Kassel) in Kassel, Germany. It was four-week program and I was studying in the engineering module. I chose environmental engineering and renewable energies and risk management in environmental engineering. The seminars were intensive and lots of excursion. As part of risk management, my class visited Volkswagen, B. Braun Melsungen and Wintershall and we found the risks from the real situations. I would highly recommend enrolling in both courses. Moreover, German class was useful for daily life. There are many activities that you can join such as hiking, movie night, games night and German folk dance.

University Campus

University Campus

University Campus

Life in Germany and Highlights of short term program

Living in Germany was easy. In this program everyone had to stay with host family and it was good to learn their culture and lifestyles. German people were cold at first meeting, but when you get closer to them are friendly and kind. Kassel is located in central Germany. Thus, it would be beneficial to travel to other countries. My favourite trip outside of Germany was to Netherlands with my host family, and within Germany we took a 4 hour drive throughout the country which was also fantastic. The University organised a free trip to Fritzler. It took 35 minutes from Kassel. Fritzler is a small town in the Schwalm-Eder district in northern Hesse. The town has a medieval centre surrounded by a wall with numerous watch towers.

Fritzlar

Netherlands trip with my host family

Overall, I had an awesome experience and I wish I had the chance to do it again. It was good opportunity to explore other countries and I’d encourage every student to consider this program.

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.

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~