Alexander - Kyoto University

B Advanced Science (Honours) / Diploma of Languages
Semester 2, 2022
Walking through the university after a snow storm was a truly magical experience.


Since I was young I have had the goal of living overseas, so I decided shorty after I began studying at UQ to go on exchange. As I was studying Japanese, I decided to go on exchange to Japan to further my study of the language. I was also interested in the opportunity in studying subjects that weren't offered at UQ (or any Australian university for that matter) and Kyoto University offered a number of courses in English on diverse topics such as primatology and Japanese house and garden design.

Personal Development

I had so many incredible experiences during my exchange. As I needed to use Japanese daily, my ability in Japanese has improved. I was surprised how much better my reading got over time. I experienced so many incredible things during my exchange, from seeing geisha and sumo perform, to walking on the Tokyo 2020 running track, to travelling to Hokkaido in the height of winter. I stayed in a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn), helped with a rice harvest, and saw the changing of the seasons from autumn leaves to snow to cherry blossoms. Walking through the university after a snow storm was a truly magical experience. The whole experience made me fall in love with Japan and I definitely feel like I have a future in Japan. I now want to double efforts to learn Japanese and undertake postgraduate study in Japan.

Academic Development

The academic experience at Kyoto University was very different to that of UQ. Firstly, I took seven subjects that each only had one lecture a week whereas at UQ we take four subjects which have multiple lectures or tutorials each week. Furthermore, at UQ each course is run by a team of academics whereas at Kyoto University one person does everything from leading the lectures, to marking the assignments. The main style of assessment at Kyoto University is essays. I generally found the subjects easier but as I had more of them I would say my workload was fairly similar to my workload at UQ (but I still had enough free time to dedicate at least one day a week to sightseeing). I would say the main challenge was that it wasn't always clear exactly what percentage of my overall grade a particular assignment was worth. Also, lectures weren't recorded and not all lecture slides were uploaded online, so you couldn't review content after class.

Professional Development

As I mentioned earlier, my Japanese has improved considerably, so I do have valuable foreign language experience that will boost my employability. Many academic jobs require you to move overseas, so having demonstrated long-term experience living overseas show employers that you are capable of adapting to a new environment. I asked one of my lecturers if I could do an internship at the Primate Research Institute with him, and he accepted, meaning I have gained valuable and unique academic experience at a research facility not available in Australia.


Overall, I would estimate that my six-month exchange cost $20 000, including a ski trip to Hokkaido. Also, I lived in private accommodation and went out to eat fairly regularly. If I had lived a more thrifty lifestyle my exchange would have only costed $15 000 or so. My breakdown would be $5000 on accommodation, $3000 on food, $5000 on the Hokkaido trip, and the remainder on flights, travel, and other miscellaneous expenses. My advice for future exchange students would be to start saving for your exchange from your first year at university. $20 000 seems like a lot of money but between the New Colombo Plan, UQ scholarships, and the Westpac Asian Exchange Scholarship there are a lot of funding opportunities for exchange. If you receive Centrelink payments these can continue whilst you are overseas.


I received the Westpac Asian Exchange Scholarship to partially fund my exchange. This funding was very beneficial to my exchange. Because I received this funding I was able to undertake an internship at the Kyoto University Primate Research Institute. The Westpac Asian Exchange Scholarship has allowed me to support myself whilst I am completing a three-month unpaid internship. Without the scholarship it would have been difficult for me to support myself during this time.


I found out about accommodation options on the website I found a private apartment with an English-speaking landlady on this website. I really liked having my own private space to live and cook, but my accommodation was definitely more expensive than the university dorm. Renting privately meant I had a friendly landlady who would always help me translate letters and provide advice on living in Kyoto. I would encourage future students to find their accommodation as early as possible and always have a backup in case your first choice falls through.


Where do I even begin? I had so many amazing experiences I couldn't possibly pick a highlight. Seeing the bright red and orange leaves during autumn and snow during winter were incredible experiences for someone who has lived in Queensland his whole life. Seeing Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) covered in snow was also an unforgettable moment. I also really enjoyed visiting Hokkaido, where I experienced temperatures as low as -10 Celsius, saw sea ice, went snow-shoeing on a frozen lake, went dog-sledding, and rode a snowmobile.

Advice/Top Tips

The biggest tip I would give student considering exchange is to stop considering it and just do it! It was an incredible experience, easily the best experience of my life so far. I wish I could have done a second semester on exchange so if you are able to go on exchange for two semesters definitely do it! I would recommend that you start planning for your exchange from your first semester at UQ as some degrees are very inflexible when it comes to which subjects you can do overseas so you need to make sure your exchange plans fit in with your degree requirements. I would also recommend saving up as much electives as you can so the approval process will go smoothly. Finally, I would recommend doing a bit of research of things to do at your destination beforehand, including festivals and seasonal events. This way you won't miss any hidden gems.