Daniel - Keio University

B. Mechanical Engineering & Japanses
Semester 1, 2017

Academic experience

I studied a range of subjects within Keio University's International Program. I had saved up my electives for my arts degree and took advantage of the range of subjects Keio offered to try something new. Each semester required 14 tani or units worth of subjects to be considered a full time. I took 4 Japanese language courses (1 unit each) and 5 classes (2 units each) taught in English. These were Japanese Economics, Intro to Art History, Japanese Linguistics, Sports and Health and Japan as the first developing nation (sort of a history class with a twist). I enjoyed all of these classes, from the excursions to the discussions with lecturers and classmates.

The low contact hours per week were a blessing as it allowed me to spend time exploring Tokyo and beyond. The classes are held once a week and are run as a sort of lecture/tutorial mix giving ample opportunity to ask questions in class and interact with others. 

The largest challenge was that much of the work was offline, given on sheets of paper. Studying at UQ, you get used to blackboard as being a hub for classwork. Organisation is essential.

Personal experience

Keio-Waseda soccer match
Keio-Waseda soccer match

After my exchange, I would say I have gained all of the examples given in the question and more. Many of the students in my classes were also staying at my dormitory so we quickly became familiar with each other. These are the people you will go to have dinner with, travel with and make plans with.
During my exchange, I travelled all over the country with friends I made in the dormitory. From Okinawa to Osaka to strange, quiet places in the middle of Tochigi. There really were too many experiences to list.
Day-to-day life becomes a language lesson as you talk with the students, locals near the dormitory and even the shopkeepers. I found myself so much more confident at the end of my exchange when it came to speaking and I hadn't even realised.

Accommodation

I stayed Shimoda Student Village, one of the student dormitories run by Keio. I definitely enjoyed the community that forms within the dorm, there was always someone keen to go get dinner, head out to Shibuya or play a game of pool with. 
My biggest piece of advice to future students is to definitely consider the dorm option even though they are quite far from campus. These living arrangements really defined my exchange, in regards to the people I met and things I was able to do.

Budget

Sakura in full bloom at Meguro river
Sakura in full bloom at Meguro river

UQabroad is pretty accurate with how much you'll need to survive in Tokyo. While the bare essentials are pretty reasonable, Tokyo is known to be expensive and travel and entertainment can really add to the bill. Budget wisely and stick to it or those last few weeks may be a struggle.

Professional development and employability

Confidence, thinking on my feet, Japanese ability, risk-taking and my charades abilities are all attributes I feel have grown during my exchange.

Highlight

Travelling to Okinawa with some of my dorm friends and driving around the island is definitely the highlight of the trip. It was a completely new thing for me to do and not something I had even considered before I was offered the chance.

We drove around the island, sleeping in all sorts of interesting places, stopping where we wanted, eating anything, and seeing all the sights we could. It was a tropical island road trip that I'll never forget.

Top tips

My biggest tip for future students would be to approach with an open mind and to 'never say no'. Jump on every opportunity even if it's kind of scary. Join the circles at Keio and you'll make lifelong local friends, say hi to the group of students in the dormitory kitchen because they don't bite, and wave to any familiar faces you see on campus. 
An exchange in Japan is what you make of it, and you will find a return on the energy you invest.

Daniel - Keio University