Sebastian - University of Tokyo

B International Studies
Semester 2, 2022
I feel like I have changed positively as a person in ways I would not have if I hadn't undertaken this exchange.


My motivation to go on exchange to The University of Tokyo was one, to improve my Japanese language skills in line with my Japanese major through immersion and daily use, and two, to take up the unique opportunity to experience student and academic life at Japan's leading university.

Personal Development

I think exchange is unique as an experience in the surreal ability it has to draw people together through shared experience and challenges - you meet people from all over the world who you together with are embarking on a totally new, somewhat unknown journey, and the friendships that form between your fellow exchange cohort are very close, alongside those you make with locals. My language skills developed more strongly than I initially even expected and after the experience I feel a strong need to incorporate it more into my day to day and experience of life. Ultimately, I feel like I have changed positively as a person in ways I would not have if I hadn't undertaken this exchange, from personality-based things like confidence and mindset to also just discovering new things I enjoy to do and experience.

Academic Development

Experiencing a different academic system and environment with less per-class contact hours but with more distinct classes taken, I at first found myself quite challenged in areas like time management and with getting work done, but the process of adapting to this different system genuinely left me feeling like I had grown considerably in academic terms in ways staying in the system I was used to at UQ wouldn't have brought on. I took two classes unrelated to my major areas as electives because I had the opportunity to and found that engaging with these areas beyond my study profile really changed my views and experience on things academically, and I genuinely feel as though I have come out a different, more well-balanced student than prior.

Professional Development

I think the primary thing beyond language skills I gained from my experience was areas relating to mindset - mainly resilience and adaptation. Living abroad for over half a year presents you with many challenges, whether it be language, culture, or travel based, and the experience of both encountering and overcoming/dealing with these really serves to grow your own perception of your 'self' and what you can do.


I was very fortunate to receive a scholarship for my exchange, as well as having had the ability to work and save for years prior to studying abroad where money matters and budgeting were not something I had to worry about. I spent quite a bit more than I think is likely necessary (30k aud in 7 months), but this was reflective of often eating out, frequent travel, nightlife and shopping rather than a budgeted approach more accurately reflecting most student’s needs. Expenses wise, staying in one of the university dorms cost around $700 aud a month for the 7-month period I was there, and compared to Brisbane food expenses in Tokyo were noticeably cheaper. Other areas such as public transport and things like clothing and other utility items I would estimate to cost roughly the same. I think for budgeting purposes I would really recommend doing research ahead of time comparing cost of living and prices in different areas between your destination and back home and trying to factor in those as much as possible, as well as anticipating that you will want to have some fun while overseas so also plan to give yourself a bit of room to enjoy travel and social things you wouldn't want to miss out on spending wise.


I received a Westpac Asian Exchange Scholarship of around 10k aud, and this funding was extremely beneficial as a baseline towards my experience in paying for the fundamentals such as rent, food, and regional travel to make the most of the experience. Primarily it also took a lot of the load off in terms of worrying about expenses for the experience - any expenditure beyond that of the scholarship funds was personal choice based on enhancing the core experience provided to me by said scholarship funds.


Accommodation options (for me host university dorms) were communicated to me by UTokyo and I applied in advance and was lucky to be selected and provided a room. I thought the living arrangements were quite comfortable for what they were (dorm life), and rent was fairly inexpensive for such a convenient location within Tokyo. I personally found the experience of applying and living there quite easy, and definitely less of a barrier in terms of personal management as compared to living in private housing or a share house etc. overseas in terms of paperwork.


I think the highlight of my experience, and that which I look most fondly back on, was just the day-to-day experience of uni life and my friends there. You work yourself into your own little routine and world while overseas and those smaller moments, like looking out of the classroom at autumn leaves as they fall onto the road, and just the overall small-scale vibe of exchange life is what really *made* it for me.

Advice/Top Tips

My top tip to students considering studying abroad would be looking to make the most of what your potential host university can offer. If you can, take a subject or two unrelated to your field in something you enjoy or think you might enjoy - you'd be surprised how much stepping outside of your regular zone of interest/engagement at uni can enrich you for the better while you have the opportunity to. On the whole try to be as immersive as you can while overseas, if locals enjoy or recommend something give it a try! Don't be afraid to challenge yourself in terms of language, you'll be surprised how much just having to do things will help you grow.