I am studying a Bachelor of International Studies majoring in International Relations and Japanese. Naturally, I wanted to make the most of the short time I had so I chose a relatively small town where there were less foreigners so I would be forced to practice my Japanese more.

Unless you choose to do otherwise, all the classes are in Japanese about Japan – the two exceptions being two classes which were about Japanese culture, but they were still taught in Japanese.

The classes were quite helpful, especially if you put as much as you can into it. The sheer quantity of homework can be a bit overwhelming sometimes, but if you persevere it is highly rewarding. I chose to take two kanji classes, one just below my level and one well above.

If you find a class is a bit too easy, or not very challenging, it may be worth taking on the higher level classes – maybe additionally as an audit class, to help you really make the most of your time.

As well as a strong academic program, the university also boasts an extremely friendly, helpful group of staff and students dedicated to helping you make the most of your experience. Some teachers will organise special outings to nearby towns and similar excursions are planned by various clubs – keep an eye out on the noticeboard for such events.

We often hung out in the Kokusai Centre (short for International Learning and Cultural Exchange Centre). Everyday different students, often studying English, would come in and have conversations. It was also a great area to meet some of the other international students from other nations who you might not have had the chance to meet yet. And also, the forever friendly staff who are around to have a chat with.

Students are placed into apartments organised by the university. All the apartments are close to the university, and of course close to a convenient store, perfect for those midnight snacks. Also, while living by yourself affords you privacy, you also get to live in the same building as plenty of new friends, so you’re never alone in those times you just need to talk to someone.

UQ Abroad suggests taking something like $10, 000 - $12, 000 per semester when you go on exchange. If you save up that much you will have more than enough. In fact, it is probably possible to do the whole exchange on the $6, 000 loan you can receive from the government – but the more money you take the more you can go traveling, eat lots of Japanese good, etc.

My five top tips would be:

  • Try lots of different foods – except Natto.
  • Wean yourself off chai lattes and good quality coffee if you’re an addict like me – you won’t find the same quality in Japan.
  • Kaldis Coffee at Cha Cha Town or in Heiwadori sells a lot of international food, including Vegemite–can help stave off those little bouts of homesickness.
  • Just take as many opportunities as you can to go out and do things
  • Go for a year, if possible – the longer the better!

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