Bachelor of International Studies, 3rd Year
Bachelor of International Studies, 3rd Year

Academic experiences

My host university only offered courses aimed at the study of Japanese language so I was set into what I was to study from the moment I arrived (which took a bit of stress out of searching through lists of available courses I know my friends in other unis had to do).
There were many pros and cons of Japan's education system and unfortunately I feel the cons did somewhat outweigh the pros.
For starters, the teaching style is incredibly simplistic.
We never truly engaged with the language, rather ROTE memorised 100s of words and grammar points only to forget them for the next week where we never touch upon them again.
In classes, discussion was not hugely encouraged (except for one or two classes specifically aimed at oral skills - even that was kept highly limited by making sure we used a few key phrases).
This said though, it's my personal opinion that language learning can never be done effectively in a classroom environment and instead has to be learnt by pure immersion.

Bunny Island near Hiroshima

Personal experiences

I am very proud of what I accomplished on this exchange.
I've managed to not only live by myself for the first time in my life, but also to do it in a country where I am not a native speaker of their language, and with little prior knowledge of how everyday life worked there.
I managed to make a few really good friends who I'm sure I'll be seeing again whether that be in Japan or back in Australia.
For me personally, I think the aspect of me that has changed the most is that I realised I'm a very motivated person.
I realised early on that this exchange is a once in a lifetime opportunity and from then on I regarded any moment of sitting idly as a waste of time where I could be doing something new and exciting.
Because of this, there was rarely a weekend I was staying in my accommodation and instead I managed to travel quite extensively around Japan (and even Korea) either with friends or on my own.

Accommodation

I lived off-campus in a set of housing used mostly by other students.
It was very close to campus and had all the necessities nearby, including convenience stores, supermarkets and chemists.
I was under the impression housing would be expensive in Japan, and while it still is in urban areas like Tokyo and Osaka, Kitakyushu was much cheaper than Australia, with housing up to four times cheaper than a similar place in Tokyo.
In terms of advice, a shop called 'Nitori' sells cheap and very good furniture to fill your apartment with in the short time you are there.

Tanabata (star festival) party

Budget

Japan was considerably cheaper than Australia in general but Kitakyushu is regarded throughout Japan as being particularly cheap, due to the fact many products are produced in this region.
Rent was around $500/month.
Transport was $0 to the uni but maybe around $100 a month elsewhere.
I could easily survive on $100/month for food (a supermarket called 'red cabbage' is your friend).
Entertainment depends on the sort of person you are (and the fact Kitakyushu is quite small a city) but I was not spending much on entertainment at all and could easily keep that under $100 a month on the rare occasion I went to see a movie, etc.
Travel was probably my biggest expense outside of my rent but Kyushu has a very good and relatively cheap network of trains and buses.
If you time it right, you can easily get tickets up to half-price and there are many exchange student discount passes as well.

Academic development and employability

I definitely think an exchange can only do good to both of these things as they broaden your understanding of the world and allow you to become more sensitive to the needs of other cultures/backgrounds

Highlight

During a week of public holidays (called 'golden week') I travelled down to the southernmost point of Japan, called Kagoshima, upon being recommended it by friends.
Not knowing what to expect when I arrived, I was blown away as my train got closer to the city, and over the high-rise buildings into the bay, a huge volcano rose in the centre of it all, billowing smoke and ash into the sky making the sunlight appear pink.
Never before have I been taken aback by a city's cityscape as much as I have been in Kagoshima.
That they can live their life so harmoniously, with their city straddled around the base of a volcano.

Cherry Blossom time at Kokura Castle

Top tips

- Pack less than you think you'll need
- If possible, don't bring your computer - when I felt homesick I would too easily get stuck on it talking to friends.
The best thing to do is to keep away from the internet and engage in the country you're in.

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