Hyun - Showa Women's University

B Arts
Semester 1, 2019
A very busy student life, but overall a privileged and enjoyable experience

Academic experience

During my semester of exchange, I undertook a fulltime study load of eight courses, which is the equivalent to four courses (eight units) at UQ. The language courses at a lot of Japanese universities, including this one, are worth one tani, which is equivalent to one unit so you would be studying more courses in Japan compared to Australia. 

There are two programs that Showa Women’s University offers to exchange students; the ‘Intensive Japanese Language Program’, which focuses on studying the Japanese language, and the ‘Academic Program’, which is offered to students who have an N1 or N2 certificate. All the courses in the ‘Intensive Japanese Language Program’ is compulsory. The ‘Academic Program’ allows you to study normal classes with Japanese students. If you are studying for a year, you will naturally undertake both programs but if you are going for a semester, you will take either one, depending on if you have an N1 or N2 certificate. All classes are taught in Japanese but there is no need to worry as the level of instruction is catered towards exchange students. 

I found the study load quite challenging as I did twice the number of courses I did back at UQ, and I am not a studious person. However, the teachers were supportive and encouraging, which made me try my best. It was interesting to see how different the content was, and how it was conducted. A lot of the classes were about your culture and explaining certain topics, which was something I thought was helpful in a normal conversation. Through those classes, I was able to converse with my Japanese friends a bit more.

Personal experience

The university is small in comparison to UQ so naturally, the classes were small, which was advantageous and relieving to me as a learner because I had more student to teacher interaction. I found that the teachers were not only eager, encouraging and sincere in teaching, but they were also knowledgeable in their teaching area, which was a pleasant surprise. That is why, despite the challenges that would usually make me give up, I tried my best. Also, I personally felt that the staff at this university, specifically CIE (Centre for International Exchange) were very caring and helpful. They would send many emails regarding upcoming events, extreme weather changes, or if you were sick. They cared for my well-being, which was so different to what I was used to. 

I quickly realised the difference in lifestyle and many other aspects of life, which made me appreciate my home town, friends and family back at home even more than I did before. I learned to let some things go/let it be, there is no need to be hasty and some things are not to be forced. With these in mind, I found myself self-reflecting my VAB’s and started adapting slowly but naturally.


I chose this accommodation as I could stay in the room a bit longer than the ones closer to the campus, and the overall atmosphere seemed like the place I would like to be in. I was extremely satisfied with my room as it was quite spacious for a Japanese house. It has a closet, a small fridge, a desk and chair, air-con and a bed. One of the best parts about it was that it did not have a curfew, which some do. 

The share house that I lived in was off-campus and it took around 15 – 20 minutes via the normal train, but around 10 minutes via the express train. Do keep in mind that to get to the station from the share house, you need to walk for around 15 minutes, depending on your pace. You could rent a bicycle if you don’t want to walk but I am not sure where you could do that so it’s best to ask the people living in the share house or the manager.  

Other than the exchange students from Showa Women’s University, there were both foreigner and Japanese workers who lived in the share house; some of whom could speak English and/or Japanese, and others who could not speak either. It was always interesting to hear their stories, and I had the best times with them. It was a very comfortable place because anything you need is almost always there. There is usually no need to go elsewhere unless you have a specific reason such as wanting to watch a movie.


The rent costs 50 000 yen per month, so with that in mind, you can calculate the rest of the finance. There is much to do in Tokyo so I would save as much money as possible before going. I recommend saving around at least $8000 or more for a semester if you plan on travelling a lot. I did not budget well when I was in Japan and I was spending a lot of money on food, travelling, transportation and souvenirs. I can’t cook at all so nearly all my meals were bought, which can empty your wallet faster than you think. However, there are quite a few ways to save money or not spend too much. For example, instead of buying at a normal grocery store, it is better to buy at a discount/cheap place such as the most well-known store called ‘donki hote’ or also known as ‘don quijote’. Another supermarket that has a variety of products and is cheap is called ‘seiyu’, which is in Sangenjaya (near the university campus). These two places will become your best friend while on exchange. Also, there are food discounts in supermarkets at a certain time. For example, Maruetsu, the one close to my accommodation has a discount time from 6:30 PM – around 7:30 PM. There is a 9PM half price discount at certain supermarkets, so do keep an eye out.


I had difficulty adapting to the Japanese student life due to the study load, but as mentioned before, I overcame it with the support of those around me, especially the teachers. 

Another aspect that was challenging was how different it was compared to home; whether it was culture, their VAB's or lifestyle, it was all too much for me to handle in the first few weeks because it hit me hard and so quickly. However, communicating with people from different backgrounds, from Japanese students and/or to foreigners has helped me out a lot. I started to realise that nothing will change with me being pessimistic, I might even miss out on a good opportunity or a good friendship, so I readjusted my thoughts and just accepted it as it was. There was no need to take it personally or make a big deal out of something that might not even matter too much. I did a lot of self-reflection in order to overcome these hardships and it wasn’t easy, but I can confidently say that I have changed, it may not be much to others, but to me, it is a significant deal as self-reflection and changing oneself is a challenge itself.

Professional Development

There are many different types of internship opportunities offered to both exchange students and Japanese students, so the higher your proficiency level in Japanese, the better it is. Do keep in mind that it is not guaranteed and there is a limit on the number of people, depending on which internship you want to participate in. I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in one that was my first choice; a company that support Japanese students going to Australia and New Zealand as an exchange student, or for an internship or working holiday etc 

I believe that I have grown as a person to be more independent, open-minded and cope better in a different environment and situation compared to before going on exchange. For that, I am glad and thankful. Going on exchange is a privilege that I will always remember and won’t regret at all. There were many challenges that made me want to give up or cry in frustration, but at the end of it all, I can say that I overcame it with confidence and a bit of pride.


The main ones are: 

-    Watching the fireworks (and festivals) up close with my close friends 
-    Enjoying both alone and group time 
-    Wearing a yukata 
-    Meeting all types of different people and conversing with them 
-    Spending time with my host sister and host family

Top tips

- Apply for the OS help loan AND all the scholarships applicable! There is nothing to lose. Make sure to keep a reminder a day or two before the actual deadline. 

- Save your units! I did not so I could only go for a semester, which was such a shame. 

- Ask your Japanese friends about the local restaurants and cafes etc. 

- If you are hesitating whether to go or not, consult with UQ abroad! There are plenty of other opportunities and programs (usually short term) to study in Japan without all the pressure.   

- Prioritise what YOU WANT when choosing your university. It is best to go to UQ abroad and do your own research! 

 - Remember that this is a different country, so your mind-set is different from the majority. It can be frustrating but take a step back, take a deep breath, breathe out and don't let it build up.  

- Do NOT be scared or ashamed if you need help! If you are stressed, frustrated, home sick or have any negative emotions, reach out to those around you, especially the faculty members who can help. 

- If you have any questions or other advice you want to hear, do not hesitate to contact me via email (UQ abroad should have it). I will try my best to answer your questions.