Erin - Komazawa University

B. Communication/Arts
November - December 2016

Academic experience

The Komstudy program at Komazawa University featured a variety of courses and covered a wide array of topics pertaining to Japanese society and culture. The study tour group sat a placement test, and the following day we were split into two learning levels; beginner and intermediate. Class sizes were small and intimate, allowing for greater teacher-student communication, and personalised learning. 

The typical university day was 3 hours of classes in the morning, followed by a lunch in the cafeteria, and then 3 hours of cultural activities in the afternoon. I really enjoyed the afternoon cultural sessions, as I was able to practice my language skills, meet new people, and engage in conversation and games with the Komazawa University students.

Personal experience

Although my time at Komazawa University was just a short few weeks, I felt that I grew a lot, both as a language student and as a person. I was thrust into speaking in Japanese for the majority of my communication, which gave me the chance to practice my skills, and gave me the confidence to try my best, and make mistakes. I learned that mistakes are inevitable when you are learning another language and that the Japanese don't mind if your grammar isn't perfect; everyone is very encouraging, and simply admire you for making the effort and having a go.

Accommodation

I was very fortunate to live with the host family I was allocated. My house was in Sakura Shin-Machi, only a 10-minute walk to the Komazawa University main campus. This meant that I got a little bit of exercise every day, had the freedom to explore my local area on foot, and didn't have to pay hefty transport fees! 
The best thing about living with my host family, however, was that I always felt welcomed in their home, and was treated like one of the family. To future students of home-stay experiences: immerse yourself in your host family's lifestyle! Don't be shy, offer to help, and take an interest in their way of life. If you follow my advice, you'll make lifelong friendships.

Budget

Living so close to University, I was lucky in the fact I didn't need to pay much for travel. What's more, my host family were incredibly generous with providing me with meals at home whenever I required. When I was out exploring Tokyo with my friends, however, I needed money to feed myself at cafes, buy souvenirs for my family and friends, and to pay for the odd train I caught with the Komazawa students. 
I'd probably recommend taking about $2000AUD to cover any costs that may arise when in Japan, and to ensure you have enough money to purchase mementoes.

Professional development and employability

Having participated in Komstudy, I have become more culturally-sensitive, understanding, and confident in my ability to both travel alone and meet new people. I have also become more patient, giving and tolerant, as a result of looking after my younger host siblings.

Highlight

The highlight of my experience was definitely my host family and the cheerful nature of my host siblings. I grew up as the youngest member of my family, so it was a bit of an initial shock to discover I'd be a 'big sister' to a six-year-old girl and a four-year-old boy! I had no idea how strong a bond I would come to share with the children- every day they would greet me with a wave goodbye as I left for uni, and were waiting at the door for me when I came home in the evening. In such a busy city like Tokyo, I enjoyed the time to relax with my host siblings.

Top tips

As someone who personally debated whether to participate in Komstudy for a long time, I will say this- DO NOT DELAY!!! 
I can't begin to explain how worthwhile this program was for my personal development, as well as my language skills. I only wish I had participated sooner! The only thing that was stopping me was fear of the unknown, and fear of being alone in a place I was unfamiliar with. I soon found out that neither of these problems would arise- everybody was super friendly, welcoming and not once did I feel alone- but hey, that's probably impossible in a big city like Tokyo!

Erin - Komazawa University