Laura - Showa Women's University

B. Arts / Education
Semester 2, 2017

Academic experience

During my time at Showa Women’s University I completed the Intensive Japanese Language Program. This program consists of at least 3 compulsory courses which have 2 x 90 minute lessons every week (however the number of lessons you take varies depending on which stream you are placed following a placement test). Although I found the courses to be challenging as they were taught completely in Japanese, I found that if I had prepared for the lesson beforehand by doing the homework and reviewing the textbook I could follow what was happening.

Apart from the compulsory courses, it is also optional to take normal classes with Japanese students. I took a subject taught in English called “Examining Japanese Culture, Old and New” taught by Shigematsu Sensei and I would highly recommend this course. We learnt about topics ranging from Samurai to haiku to Japanese literature and manga and in one class we even had a visit from a professional rakugo performer who performed rakugo in both English and Japanese!

Personal experience

My exchange at Showa Women’s University is an experience I will treasure forever. The university has two clubs which organise events for exchange students, CHAWA and Kokusai Kouken Club (ICC) and through these clubs I was able to have so many fantastic experiences and make many friends. The events I attended included a Halloween party, seeing sumo, attending a local festival dressed in a yukata, volunteering at the school festival, viewing autumn leaves, making ozouni soup, seeing Christmas illuminations in Yokohama, seeing kabuki, learning tae (sword fighting) and going on a camp to Kanagawa.

I was also fortunate to have a fantastic host family who were incredibly kind and made time to see me despite busy schedules and long commuting times! The host family program is run by the Centre of International Exchange (CIE). CIE coordinate the student exchange program and are there to support you if you have any problems during your exchange. For example, my phone broke in my first few weeks at the university and CIE helped me buy a new phone. CIE also organise for you to have a host sister to help you with the paperwork you must submit when you first come to Japan and your host sister is also there to support you during your stay. CIE also have a language partner program where they match you up with a Japanese student who you can meet at lunchtime to practice your conversational skills and I definitely recommend this!

Another benefit of the intensive program at Showa Women’s University is that there are only a small number of exchange students so you can get to know the other students really well. During my exchange, there were only 19 students enrolled in the intensive program from countries such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Russia, Poland, Italy and China and we all were good friends by the end of the program as we had shared all our classes together.

Accommodation

I lived in Showa International House, which was very convenient as it is only a 2 minute walk from the university and a 5 minute walk to the closest station, Sangenjaya Station. My room had its own kitchen and bathroom and other essentials such as a desk, fridge, washing machine and heater. The rent was reasonable for Tokyo (4,5000 yen per month) and everyone who lives in the dormitory is an exchange student at Showa, which makes it easy to spend time with the other exchange students!

Budget

I would recommend you save a minimum of $8,000 AU for one semester exchange (preferably more if you want to travel a lot). The price of trains in Tokyo is expensive and fruit and vegetables are surprisingly expensive. I cooked for myself most nights and spent about 6,000 yen a week on food. At the university there is a cafeteria that sells cheap, delicious meals for about 300 yen but unfortunately it is really busy during lunch times so I mainly bought meals sold in the student hall (next to the student lounge room) at the beginning of lunch for about 310 yen. Also, if you go to supermarkets at around 9pm they often have sales where a lot of premade meals are 50% off!

As for entertainment, the events run by CHAWA and ICC are free or very low cost so you usually only have to pay for travel and food costs.

Professional development and employability

My Japanese skills have really improved and I feel much more confident when communicating in Japanese than I did before coming on exchange. Additionally, living by myself and overcoming the challenges of communicating in a foreign language every day has made me a more independent and resilient person.

Highlight

The days I spent with my host family was the highlight of my exchange as we formed a really close relationship and had so much fun together. I visited their home in Kawagoe and was given a tour of the town’s most famous sights, they took me to Tsukiji Fish Market, Shinjuku Gyoen and an arcade centre and together we went Strawberry picking and saw some amazing icicle cliffs. Saying goodbye was really difficult!

Top tips

I would definitely encourage students interested in an exchange to Japan to not hesitate and just apply! When I was applying for exchange, I was so nervous about whether my Japanese would be sufficient enough to take classes at a Japanese university but I wish I had known that Japanese universities offer a lot of support networks for exchange students to help you succeed!