Bachelor of Arts/Diploma in Languages (Japanese), 5th year
Bachelor of Arts/Diploma in Languages (Japanese), 5th year

Academic Experience

Japanese Language Program (JLP) - conducted in Japanese:
Situational Conversation
Modern Text Reading
Grammar
Comprehensive Japanese
Composition

International Center Courses - conducted in English:
Contemporary Japanese Literature - Reading Haruki Murakami
Japanese Economy
Globalization and Human Resource Management

The most enjoyable aspect of studying at Keio was the familiarity and culture of mutual support that emerged between students taking classes together.

The main challenges included the lack of transparency concerning assessment requirements. In response, even though I didn't know what the threshold was, I simply committed to doing the best work I possible. Beyond this the teaching style of the Japanese courses was focused on memorization and the correct use of grammar structures, instead of the comprehension of meaning and developing the ability to express personal opinions or ideas. This meant that the classes were not particularly interesting or engaging. Regardless I maintained almost 100% class attendance and completed all the required tasks.

Personal Experience

The majority of my memorable experiences occurred during the first month after I arrived. I traveled to and explored various cities including Hiroshima, Kobe, Osaka, Yokohama and Sapporo before moving into the University dormitory and beginning life as a student in Tokyo. It was a humbling and eye-opening experience to finally walk the streets and parks of Hiroshima and reflecting on the history and impact of the atomic bomb on both that city as well as the global community. The most memorable experience was visiting Sapporo and Otaru on the Northern island of Hokkaido. As an Australian who's only seen snow on top of a mountain before, I was struggling to describe how it felt to be in a city blanketed in pure white snow. Finally, while Tokyo is considered unique, even within Japan, I fell in love instead with its Southern sibling, Yokohama - a truly world class city. As a port city - similar to Brisbane's sister city Kobe - Yokohama has been strongly influenced by various foreign cultures and is a delight to explore.

During my time in Japan I had the opportunity to reconnect with old friends and acquaintances, as well as make new friendships with people from Japan, fellow Australians on exchange and many others from all over the world.

Accommodation

I lived in a dormitory of Keio University (Motosumiyoshi Residence). Of the six dormitories offered for exchange students from UQ I believe Motosumiyoshi Residence allows for the greatest amount of freedom and privacy - there was minimal common area and all necessary facilities and furniture were contained within the rooms. Beyond this the building is relatively new - completed in March 2013 - was so clean, had little wear and tear and could easily be kept warm in winter and cool in summer. Effectively the experience was the same as living in a self contained apartment with the additional benefit that there was a dormitory manager available every day to ask questions or voice concerns. Unfortunately this dormitory was located near a different campus of Keio Univerity to the one I attended classes at, meaning an hour long commute each way on the train. Thankfully the Japanese train system is one of the most efficient in the world.

I recommend living in a dormitory and Motosumiyoshi allows for the most independence while also having the largest room of the six options. It will probably be slightly more expensive than living in other shared accommodation, however it involves far less stress because all utilities are included and the dormitory manager at Motosumiyoshi Residence at least was incredibly friendly and helpful. This dormitory suited me well, however my advise is to decide what your needs and priorities are (more or less independence; larger or smaller room) and compare those with the available options. Once you know where you want to apply for, make sure you apply as soon as it becomes available - it is competitive.

Budget

Return flights to Japan cost $1,000-1,200. The rent for the dormitory was 64,000 yen (approximately $800) per month, although this included utilities and internet and the room was adequately furnished. Excluding additional expenses such as souvenir or gift shopping I spent $100-$150 per week on food, transport and other shopping. Including a month of travel before commencing study I spent a total of approximately $10,000 during exchange. I recommend a minimum of $8,000.

Professional Development & Employability

The primary skills and attributes I developed during my exchange in Japan relate to the completion of challenging tasks under unfamiliar and adverse circumstances, including adaptability, cultural and social awareness and sensitivity, perseverance and consistency. Secondary to this, I improved my communications skills - in particular communicating with people learning English as a second language in a way that is clear and easy to comprehend. Further, I also improved my ability to communicate clearly in Japanese. Beyond this, I made a practice of honing fundamental life skills, including time management, task prioritization and punctuality in order to increase the effectiveness and efficiency with which I can work.

Highlights

The highlight of my exchange was getting into the Japanese baseball leagues, becoming a fan of the Yokohama DeNA Baystars and going to three baseball games: Yokohama Stadium - Baystars vs. Tokyo Yakult Swallows twice and Baystars vs. Hiroshima Carps once. The fans are incredibly passionate and the games are a chance for people to escape the pressures of daily life and to relax and enjoy a carefree atmosphere.

Top Tips

Firstly, allow some time at either the beginning or end of your exchange period for personal travel so you can get away from the city you are studying in and explore other areas and cities or even other countries in the region. Secondly, make the most of your time at the host university. Make efforts to meet new people and make new friends. Beyond this, seek out opportunities for networking and establishing connections that may be useful in lining up future career opportunities. Thirdly, find a few things to get passionate about and focus your activities - for me it was baseball, snoopy and searching for good quality coffee (which does indeed exist in Japan). Finally, take the time to apply for any scholarships that you are eligible for and create an accurate budget before you leave. Carefully monitor and update this according to need during you time away because with so many other things going on it is easy to loose track and spend more than you intend to.

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