UQ Program: Bachelor of Arts

I went on exchange to Komazawa University, Tokyo, Japan, in my last semester of a three-year Bachelor of Arts degree. The only thing I wish I'd done differently is to have gone sooner, so I could spend a whole year here!

Japan is amazing, and Tokyo especially so; if you want a culture that is completely different from Australia in almost every way, look no further. I haven't had to sacrifice any of my first-world pleasures, but I've still been thrown in the deep end of a country with a totally different world-view to anything I've grown up with.

The university has been incredibly supportive. Most of my classes are Japanese language classes, taught in Japanese, but I've also been able to take two seminar classes which have allowed me to make some great local friends. As others have said about Japanese uni, the club ("circle") culture is a big deal. At Komazawa, all the exchange students are automatically members of the International Circle, and it's great--I've just got back from an outrageously cheap & fun three-day snowboarding trip with the circle, which I would never have been able to organise myself.

My language has improved immeasurably since I've got here, but I've still got so far to go. That's half the fun of it though, and the people here, whether at uni or outside, are so willing to help you out and stay in touch with you. I've made awesome friends, both locals & the other exchange students, who I'm not going to fall out of touch with for a long time.

Exchange can be a bumpy ride, but I've had it pretty easy. Japan really is very accommodating! Komazawa is an excellent place to go on exchange to: it's a beautiful, quiet neighbourhood six minutes by train from Shibuya, where there's always something going on; you live in the university-owned apartments across the park from campus for ridiculously cheap rent; there are English-speaking staff at the international centre who will help you out with a work permit, foreign registration, and anything else you need help with. As far as money goes, thanks to the cheap rent I've come in under budget, but I'd still allow at least $1000 per month. This should be enough for your initial set-up expenses (buying stuff for your apartment like utensils & crockery), general living costs, and any unexpected or extra-curricular activities.

If you find yourself in or around Tokyo, you must:
1. Go to Shimokitazawa and get a taste of the local live music scene.
2. If you're a lady, for god's sake, go to a host club. They're hilarious & excellent value.
3. Join the circles pertaining to your interests. Even if your Japanese is rubbish, you'll get heaps of good experiences out of being involved with the snowboarding circle, the archery circle, the guitar and mandolin circle, whatever--people will always help to accommodate you and you'll make great friends.
4. Best chain coffee is a store called Tully's. Do not bother with Starbucks.
5. If you come in summer, prepare for it to be really, really hot. Like 37 degrees Celsius, sometimes. No-one told me this. I suffered.

Aside from that: have faith that things will work out. They almost always do. Cultivate the laidback-ness that Australians are famous for; you'll have a blast. I have!


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