Bachelor of International Studies, 3rd year
Bachelor of International Studies, 3rd year

Academic Experience

While I was abroad I studied courses related in the college of International Studies ranging from economics and politics to media and population. All the courses were conducted in English thus I had no trouble when it came to the content. One thing to note however was that at Tsukuba, and possibly elsewhere in Japan, the semester as we know it, is split into two terms, with a short two-week holiday in between. In my case the terms were referred to as Fall AB and Fall C, fall referring to autumn. If you come to Tsukuba you will be enrolled either in a ‘spring’ semester or a ‘fall semester’. The work load I had to complete in credits (tani) was much greater than at UQ. Normally this would be spread out over both Fall AB and Fall C, however as Fall C dates coincided with the start of Semester 1 back at UQ, I had to make sure I finished in Fall AB to be back in time. For this reason I had to take on a heavy workload. Despite the increased workload, the courses themselves offer similar structures to what I was used to.

Personal Experience

Given that one of my passions is photography, one of my biggest personal gains from being on exchange was the freedom to capture the beauty of Japan. I traveled all over Tokyo, and visited Kyoto, Osaka and various other places all in between. Although I must admit this was my sixth time to Japan so many things I was already accustomed to culturally.

This is not to say however that there were not new experiences for me as simply being able to travel freely with no set plan was one of the most invigorating and exciting experiences for me. Being a stone’s throw away from the sprawling metropolis that is Tokyo was very awesome.

Accommodation

My accommodation was a dormitory on Tsukuba campus which housed international students from all over. I was very thankful for the close proximity to the University, as it meant I could wake up thirty minutes before class and still make it on time for those early lectures. The dormitory I stayed in housed exchange students from many different countries. This meant I was always in close proximity to having cultural exchanges with people from all over the world. The dorm I stayed in was one of many in the Ichinoya area, and a community quickly develops around the exchange students and our somewhat secluded dorms which are surrounded by trees.

Budget

Studying at the University of Tsukuba I was granted the JASSO scholarship by the Japanese government. This scholarship provided me with $1000 a month, every month for as long as I was on exchange. This came in very handy as I was able to use most of my own money for things like travelling around. When it comes to food, Japan is the best place for it. Food at restaurants is extremely cheap and very high quality. It would be very possible to eat out every night and not blow your weekly budget because of the low cost. One thing to make sure of though is to be careful with your cash as it is very easy to lose track of how much you are spending when you aren’t purchasing in your own currency. Many times I would come across things for 5000 yen (~$60), and where I would normally think carefully about what I’m spending in Australia, I am guilty of overspending every time I’m in Japan. Not to mention, since you won’t be working while on a student visa, you have to keep in mind you can’t spend like you normally do like when you have an income back at home.

Professional Development & Employability

One thing that looks good from an employer’s point of view is international experience. The post-exchange employability benefit might be one reason why people look to go on exchange. Being able to include on your CV that you have spent time living abroad is very favourable as the current climate of politics, economics and business has well and truly reached a stage where it is global. Many people might come with experience from these sectors, and so it is the international experience that might set you out from the rest.

Highlights

The highlight of my exchange was the weekend I went away to Osaka. During my entire trip I had visited many places, mostly with friends I had made on exchange. My trip to Osaka however was by myself and the whole weekend felt so surreal. It’s lovely to travel with friends, but there is also something mystifying about exploring somewhere by yourself. Japan is definitely a place where you can do that as its one of the safest countries in the world. Travelling alone definitely put me out of my comfort zone but it was such a fun experience, and although I didn’t have anyone to share in the experience with me at the time I took plenty of photos to share with everyone when I got back!

Top Tips

My advice to other students is to always be open to new experiences. This was my sixth time to Japan so before coming I was certain that nothing would catch me off guard, but even I was surprised. While on exchange if you feel like planning that spontaneous trip, go for it. If you feel uncomfortable at any point in your exchange remember that it is natural and try your best to acclimatise to it. You have all the time to live in your comfort zone when you get back from exchange, so while you’re on the once in a lifetime opportunity, make the most of it, push yourself and most of all, enjoy it.

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