Emma - Waseda University

B. Arts
Semester 1, 2015; Semester 2, 2015

Academic experience

During my time at Waseda University, I did the Japanese Language program where I studied only Japanese language courses. There's a huge variety of courses you can study from including, grammar, Kanji and culture classes. I studied a range of different classes but my favourite were the culture classes. 

My biggest challenge was the number of classes and work there was. Unlike UQ where you only study 4 courses a semester. I had to take 12 and each course had its own homework and tests. It was very hard to keep track of it all but I made sure to write down all my due dates in my planner and to check my planner regularly.

Personal experience

Since the Japanese Language Program is only for exchange students there's no opportunity to interact with Japanese people. In my opinion, the best way to learn a language and culture is through immersion so I joined a university circle. It is a Yosakoi (a type of Japanese dance) circle and I had the opportunity to travel to all kinds of places in Japan and perform at various Yosakoi festivals. My best memory was going to Kochi, the birthplace of Yosakoi, to perform at the festival there. Kochi is a small city on the island of Shikoku and if I had not joined this Circle I definitely wouldn't have had the opportunity to go there. I also went to Hokkaido, Kobe and Shizuoka with the circle. Not only this but I was able to make many friends and improve my Japanese.

I think the thing I learn most for my experience in Japan is that if you try you can do it. Before coming to Japan I was very shy and reserved, I also didn't really like physical exercise and public speaking or performing. But I decided to challenge myself to try something new and joined a dance circle. It was very hard at first since I didn't have much dance experience but a practised a lot and with the help of my team members was able to get over the embarrassment of performing in front of others. I could never imagine my past self doing what I am doing now.

Accommodation

For accommodation, I lived in a university dormitory for international students. I had a Single room which included a bathroom. The kitchen and Laundry were shared. The rooms are extremely small but I didn't mind. The best thing about the accommodation was the price, private Bathroom and location. The dormitory I stayed in was the cheapest of all the university dormitories available to exchange students and it was only a 15-minute walk away from campus. Not only that but the very central location meant that the closest train station got me to places such as Shinjuku, Harajuku and Shibuya in less than 20 minutes. There was also a lot of cheap food places and entertainments spots such as karaoke within a 5-minute walk from the dormitory. 

The only bad thing I will say about living in a dormitory is that you don't get as much privacy, rooms are small and at times the kitchen can get quite messy if people don't clean up after themselves. 

I think dormitories are an excellent option for students on a budget and who want a lot of freedom not to mention its a great way to make friends. However, if you want more privacy and have the money (Tokyo is not cheap) then getting your own apartment might be better. But the best kind of accommodation, in my opinion, would be to stay with a host family. By staying with a host family you will be fully immersed in Japanese Culture and language, and you'll also be able to eat delicious home-cooked Japanese food.

Budget

Before coming to Japan I had a budget all set out but once I came here I found it very to hard to keep to it. Tokyo is not cheap and living right in the city centre meant that there was a lot of temptations. My original budget was about $1000 a month but after joining the circle and travelling all over Japan with them there was no way I could keep to that budget. Not only that but since I was busy with either study or practice I often ate out. Luckily for me eating out in Japan is a lot cheaper than Australia. Of course, cooking your own meals is the cheapest.

Professional development and employability

There are many skills and attributes I have developed during my time abroad. For me, it would have to be confidence. I used to be very shy (and too be honest still kind of am) but I have learnt that confidence makes a world of difference, and gives you the ability to try new things

Highlight

The highlight of my experience was definitely my circle. Had I not joined the circle I honestly don't know what I would've been doing and how I would've made friends. Studying may have been the purpose of my time abroad but I feel like I learnt much more through joining the circle than I have in class.

Top tips

  • Before going on exchange think about what kind of person you are and what you want out of your time abroad.
  • Set yourself realistic goals and always try new things.
  • Although I have said nothing but mostly good things about my time abroad there were definitely times where I felt lonely and homesick.
  • Do not expect studying abroad to be all fun, there will be hard times, but overcoming these hard times is all part of the learning experience.
Emma - Waseda University