This one year I spent in Japan has been, least to say, a roller coaster ride. The energy of this fast-paced, high-tech country balanced by its reverence and devotion to maintain its vibrant history has been one of the most eye-opening experiences for me. No one can truly claim to know Japan till he/she has spent a considerable time living here and been in touch with the vast spectrum of experiences that can only be possible if you speak the language, integrate into its culture and soak up whatever the country offers.

Being a dual-degree (Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Arts) International student of University of Queensland has allowed me to round off my final year as an exchange student in Osaka University (OU). The months leading to my exchange programme in OU had seen 2 major setbacks: the floods in Brisbane 2011 and then followed closely by the earthquakes and tsunami in Fukushima, Japan. Despite these unforeseen setbacks, my application went through smoothly. If you do have queries or concerns regarding your application and its outcome, the staff at the UQ Abroad office is more than happy to help; they had definitely helped me a lot.

The Japanese Language Course in Osaka University is one of the hardest and most intensive in Japan. You are expected to fulfill at least 30 credits in a year. An hour and half class comprising 1 or 2 credits will see you taking as many as 14 classes a week. On top of that, you're encouraged to take more than 30 credits in case you fall below the passing mark of any class. This may sound crazy, and honestly I have to say it is! But on this note, I also have to say I am thankful because I learnt much from these highly structured classes: each class focuses on different aspects of the Japanese language, be it composition, kanji, grammar etc. If you are overwhelmed by the many options of classes, don't panic. Each student is mentored by a supervisor who will assist you in choosing the classes best suited to your Japanese language proficiency.

It is universally known that Japan is not the cheapest country to live in. Staying on-campus would definitely save you a few holes in your pocket. But as the campus is an hour and half away from the city, transport fee does not come cheap. It would be wise to plan your budget before making any trip outside Osaka. Watch out for public holidays - flight and accommodation can hit sky-rocketing prices.

Top 5 tips

  • When travelling around Kansai, look out for discount transport tickets (お得チケット), which will defintely save you a hefty sum of money.
  • The campus is located somewhat on a hill and gets pretty cold up there in winter; below 0 degree at times. Be sure to bring along a warm jacket. On the bright side, it snows a few times during the winter months. So for those who have yet to see snow, this is the chance!
  • Mobile phone bills can take a chunk out of your budget. Be sure you get a pre-paid phone or a mobile phone plan. Almost all phone plans come with unlimited use of the Internet (useful when you google maps!) Please take note that cancellation of plan before 2 years would cost you about ¥10 000.
  • Look out for Gyoumu Supermarket (業務スーパー)for the cheapest groceries!
  • Get out and explore!

Best of all! I get to leave Japan with fond memories and many friends from many parts of the world - friendships that would last me a lifetime!

I hope at the end of your exchange programme you will be as fulfilled and satisfied as I am!

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