Sakura, sake and sweat, a spring and summer in Japan

If you haven't made the decision to go on exchange, let me decide for you. Do it. It's an experience that will challenge you and change your life. You experience and gain so much from it. Another language, another lifestyle, the chance to make friends from around the world and to explore a new country for 6 months or more. It's as good as it sounds.

My experience started in March, as the cherry blossoms bloomed across the university campus. From there, it's all a blur. Class, dormitory life and making friends from not only Japan but also Korea, Thailand, Italy, Europe and even a few other Australians. Weekend trips to Kamakura's temples and giant statues, the night sights of Tokyo, the wide port city of Yokohama, finding the giant Gundam statue in Odaiba and barbecues down by the nearby river. All of it was amazing. Living in Japan takes getting used to but absorbing the culture is an awesome experience. In no time at all, you'll be used to sumimasen-ing your way through a crowd, addicted to karaoke and be able to sleep on any train. And most importantly, your language improves incredibly, simply from using it every single day.

But the absolute highlights for me were participating in the Odawara Festival parade in samurai armour, climbing the 3440 meter Mt Fuji for the sunrise, dressing in traditional yukata for the Bon Odori festival, going to the 3-day Fuji Rock Festival and visiting the hot springs of stunningly natural Hakone. Apart from that, just sharing the experience of all this with people from around the world and making so many great friends. You'll never think it's that hard to say goodbye to people you've only known for 4 months but it is! Exchange is an experience everybody should aim to do, it will change you and the way you see the world.

Tokai University Information and Advice

  • For those that are JLPT N2 level and above (probably if you can do/have done JAPN3500), you'll be able to take a more free range of classes and have more spare time. Otherwise you'll be doing classes Monday to Friday, 9am-3pm. This is really good for those looking to study for N2 and N3, but it doesn't leave you with quite as much freedom as UQ's timetables...
  • The dormitory is ridiculously cheap (was about $500 for the semester when I was there) compared to other places, definitely worth taking into account. It's literally 10 meters from the university's gates, meaning you can afford to sleep in a whole lot more compared to other students! (and you don't have to factor in transport costs). You do have to share a room with one other person but it works out fine.
  • Spring semester is when the Italians are at the university and it's a lot more fun in the dormitories with them around. Plus they'll teach you how to cook Italian, definitely recommended.
  • The university is about an hour away from Tokyo and Yokohama. It's not countryside but more suburbia, which is good for those not particularly fond of big cities. It's still close enough to be convenient to the two big cities though, especially for weekend trips. 
  • Midori Karaoke down by the station is the cheapest, at 500 yen for 3 hours.
  • There's a river about 300 meters away from the dormitory, the riverside is perfect for summer BBQs.
  • MacArthur's Jazz bar at Hon-Atsugi (a few train stations away) has live jazz every night, highly recommended. Just google it :)
  • Join TICC and participate in TSS, the Tokai International Communication Club. It's a great way to meet Japanese students and you'll have a heap of fun. 

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