Taliah - Hitotsubashi University

B International Studies
Semester 2, 2018
One of the best experiences I’ve ever had. I made friends and memories that I will never forget.

Academic experience

I studied a combination of International Relations courses (conducted in English) and Japanese language classes (conducted mostly in Japanese, as immersive subjects)

Personal experience

I gained a far better understanding of interacting between cultures, many friendships that have lasted even since coming home and a far better grasp of the Japanese language than I could have achieved otherwise.

Accommodation

I lived at the university dorms, about a 20 minute bike ride from the university. I really enjoyed being surrounded by other exchange students. It was a huge comfort to have my friends nearby, especially because they were experiencing similar things to me. If you aren’t trying to learn the language and are just going for the experience, I definitely recommend staying at student dormitories. If you’re aiming to learn the language, I would recommend a more immersive environment.

Costs

Rent and food was not very expensive. I spent about $1000 on rent for the whole time I was in Japan. In saying that, I do believe that the dorms were increasing their rent fees after the semester I left. I managed to survive on about $100 a week for groceries, buying fresh fruit and veg. Maybe another $50 a week for eating out and alcohol. For long distance travel, the cheapest form of transport is night busses, the most expensive is Shinkansen. There is no student discount given to exchange students for trains in Japan, and they are privately owned, so train travel can add up quite quickly (about $20 for a ride to and from the city). Movies and shows/live entertainment is very expensive; parks, temples and historical sites are often fairly cheap.

Challenge

The biggest challenge during y exchange was trying to immerse myself in the culture, especially being in the exchange student dorms. Being an obviously Caucasian foreigner, the Japanese were quite polite, but very distant. For myself and my friends of European descent, this was something we really struggled with, while my friends of Asian descent found it much easier to make Japanese friends, despite not speaking the language.

Professional Development

I gained a much firmer grasp on reading and communicating in Japanese and I also developed a much better understanding on how stereotypes, cultural differences and appearance can affect relationships with others. I have learned how to manoeuvre in an environment where many of these things influenced behaviour and manner towards me and others I was working with. I have a much more accepting view of cultures I had been wary of before.

Highlight

I had a lot of good times, including visiting Mt Fuji, Kyoto, Osaka and Hiroshima. However, the highlight was a hiking trip up Mt Takao to see the sunset. Even though it was freezing and dark when we left the mountain (and we startled a bear part way down!), the view of Mt Fuji in the sunset and the memories I made with my friends that day definitely made it worth the trip.

Top tips

I would definitely recommend biking to uni each day. There’s a really lovely view of Mt Fuji on the way, it increases your fitness very quickly and its faster (and much less crowded) than travelling by train. Find a 24hour grocery shop, as they are much cheaper than their counterparts. You will have to do your shopping at multiple shops to get the cheapest grocery trip you can. Take the Japanese classes, it makes life much easier when you can understand basic and common phrases in restaurants and the such. Course work is a breeze, but make sure you show up to classes or they fail you automatically.