Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education (Secondary), 3rd year
Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education (Secondary), 3rd year

Academic Experience

Even though Shimonoseki University is primarily an economics university, I was able to find many other courses to fill up my 14 Tani (Credits) requirement. This included Japanese language and society studies, Computer studies, German, Australian studies, and Japanese History courses.

Due to the Japanese system, I actually ended up taking 12 courses, totaling 18 hours of class time per week. Coming from the Australian 8-10 hour week, it was very hard to get used to juggling my new time commitments at first - though it definitely increased my exposure to Japanese on a daily basis. The other challenge was the expectation that all homework would be handed in. Although it felt strange to feel like we were in high school again, it is a very large part of the Japanese educational system, and having to write a weekly report in Japanese became surprisingly simple after the first month.

The other students in our class all had very high Japanese levels, in fact, almost all of them received their N1 level qualifications in the December JPLT test, which of course meant that much of the class content was more difficult than what I was used to - but I was able to keep up to the best of my ability without too much stress, as most of the courses had a 50% attendance grade.
All in all, the Japanese exposure afforded by Shimonoseki definitely helped to improve my skills, confidence, and ability to communicate with people of many language backgrounds.

Personal Experience

One of the main experiences that I took from my exchange was the skills I gained to understand more people from other cultures. As many of our classes were held with the other exchange students, I found myself learning lots about them and their cultures (mainly Chinese, Korean, Thai, and Turkish), as well as learning how to bridge cultural gaps when we all worked together on group assignments, and class discussions. Since we all spoke Japanese as a second language, it took lots of patience and understanding to get through to each other, but it always worked out in the end.

I was also able to really experience authentic Japanese culture first hand, often being invited to tea ceremonies (where I could wear a Kimono), to volunteer for local events and festivals (something that I truly recommend!), and enjoy house parties with my Japanese friends.

Even though this was my fourth time living in Japan, every time that I return, there is always something new on offer, and every place is always strikingly different. As someone who has lived in Tokyo, the small size and tranquillity of Shimonoseki, especially of the suburb where I lived, was a pleasant surprise. With a much smaller population of foreigners, and being a 6ft tall female, there was not a day that went by when I would not catch someone staring from a car, or a local would very shyly greet me on my way to school. There was also a lot more people willing to speak Japanese with me, while people in larger cities will often try to practice their English with you, so it was a really great chance to practice and become confident in my speaking skills.

Accommodation

Most of the exchange and international students lived together in university accommodation, which was located just a fifteen minute walk away. This was great, as I saved a lot of money on transport, as well as time! The apartments themselves were very satisfactory, as you are provided with a bunk bed, fridge, rice cooker, washing machine, study desk, fans, dehumidifier, vacuum cleaner, and a microwave that functions as a toaster and oven as well, you only have to buy your own cutlery and dishes. Since everyone in the building is a fellow exchange student or teacher, it’s a safe environment. The rooms that the students from UQ were allocated cost 28,000 yen a month, which was very affordable and fair for the size of the apartment.

Budget

I found Shimonoseki to be a most affordable city, living close to the university cut out daily transport costs, and rent was 28,000 yen a month. After this, my gas and electricity bills would come to around 3,000 yen a month. As a vegetarian, food in Japan was very, very cheap - I could live comfortably on 2,000-3,000 yen a week on food, even eating out at least twice. Afterwards, travel and entertainment is similar to what you would pay in Australia, and depends on your lifestyle. Overall, I think that if you are reasonable with your spending, you should be able to stick to just using your loan money.

Professional Development & Employability

To express all that I have learnt and how I have developed as a person on this exchange, in just one paragraph, is impossible. Though the main takeaways from the experience were definitely resilience, and adaptability -as adapting to a new culture, especially one as rigid as Japan, really caused to me rethink normality and shape my actions based on this. Then, came feelings of understanding, as being exposed to many cultures helps to give you perspective and the ability to see the world from many other viewpoints. For Japanese, I really found my confidence in using the language for everyday and academic use. Finally, I found resilience that I never knew had been in me, as getting through daily life and classes in (difficult) Japanese can be a real challenge for an 18 year old, but I knew that I wanted to succeed and nothing would get in the way of my goal.

Highlights

Though I had many great experiences in Shimonoseki, like being made a city ambassador, performing in the school festival, and visiting a local kindergarten, the absolute highlight of my exchange was definitely volunteering for the local candle and mochi making festivals held in Shimonoseki. Being a part of the creation of a festival was a very rewarding experience, as I was able to learn firsthand about many traditional Japanese activities (such as how to make the Japanese ‘mochi’ rice cakes by hand), and be immersed in the atmosphere, which was just incredible. Then, once the set up was completed, you were free to roam the festivals with your friends, volunteer vouchers for food, raffles, and games, in hand. These events left me feeling fulfilled and with warm memories, so I would definitely recommend them to any student who comes here. As the school always organises to send students there, it is easy to sign up, you can get a lift from school , and have a chance to meet other students.

Top Tips

My tips for future students are-

-Shimonoseki is very much a country town, with limited options for shopping and entertainment, so I would absolutely recommend Kokura for a shopping trip or day out with your friends. Otherwise, Canal city in Fukuoka can also be great for some retail therapy.

-I would recommend Shimonoseki City University to students with higher Japanese levels, and well as those with degrees in business and economics, to be able to reap the full benefits of studying economics subjects in Japanese.

-The university and international center provide information on many local events, from festivals to kimono dress up days (some events are even exclusive to Shimonoseki!), so I recommend taking part in these events whenever you can.

-For groceries, if you want the best prices and product range, try Yumemart. I didn’t know this supermarket was nearby until a month after moving to Shimonoseki, and was upset that I hadn’t known about it until later.
Take chances to eat out at the local shops. With Ramen, sushi, okonomiyaki, and yakitori all within walking distance of the apartments and school, so it’s too easy!

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