Yvette - KOMSTUDY

Bachelor of Science/Arts
November 2017

 

Academic experience

I studied basic Japanese for 3 weeks at Komazawa University. The university also arranged for interesting extra curricular activities relevant to the Japanese culture, such as calligraphy, tea ceremonies, and more. I feel that this makes the whole experience much more holistic and enjoyable. A challenge I faced was being placed into the advanced class despite only having studied Japanese for 8 months. I managed to overcome this by working together with my kind and helpful lecturers and classmates, whom are always willing to answer my queries and give a clear explanation.

Personal experience

I feel like I have gained many irreplaceable things from this experience. I got a chance to make new friends from all walks of life, ranging from people whom I've never met in UQ, to the Japanese students who kindly took care of us very thoughtfully, to my wonderful host family who've generously given me a warm home in a foreign country. They have all become important to me, and I still regularly keep in touch with them. I've also become less hesitant in my speech, reading, and writing when it comes to Japanese due to the sheer immersion of the short-term program, which I find extremely useful as it definitely helped with my understanding and fluency of the language. I've also learnt to become more independent and courageous due to being in a foreign environment away from home with strangers and having to speak a foreign language which I'm still not very good at. There is more I would like to say, but it would take up too much space. Overall, it was an extremely fruitful experience, and I cannot say enough about how amazing this whole short-term experience was.

Accommodation

I lived with a host family of 4, consisting of a pair of grandparents who mostly stay home while taking walks occasionally, and a pair of parents who work at companies. Their children visit them from time to time, making sure to spend time with their family. What I enjoyed most about living with my host family was the immersion I managed to get. Having to speak the language, learning about their daily lives and culture, experiencing Japan not as a tourist but as one of them. It was an extremely rewarding experience that allowed me to grow very much as a person. My host family was very warm and friendly, and we did various activities together, such as visiting a hot spring resort, going to Mount Fuji, baking cakes together, and more. It was a wonderful experience, and I would strongly recommend future participants of this program to bond with their host family as well, for you might find an unexpected gem in them. 

Budget

There was no rent since I was living with a host family arranged by the university. Food can range from cheap to expensive, depending on the type of food you want. The cost of food ranges from a plate of sushi costing a dollar, to a six dollar beef bowl, to ten dollar curry rice, to twenty dollar buffets, and more. I would recommend at least three hundred for food since you might want to experience the different kinds of food, ranging from cheap to expensive. Also, my host family provided breakfast and dinner every day, which cuts down on costs. However, if you don't want those meals, you just have to tell them. However, I would recommend eating with your host family since it is a good bonding activity, and you can experience authentic Japanese home cuisine. Transportation fees depend on where you live. My transportation fees to and from the school and the house was about nine dollars per day, and I live a decent distance from the school, about forty minutes by public transport. If you hang around Tokyo with the Japanese students and UQ mates, then it would definitely cost much more. I would recommend at least 300 for transportation as well. As to entertainment, there are many things to do in Tokyo, ranging from karaoke to arcade games to hot springs to buying unique souvenirs. I would recommend at least 800 for entertainment.

Professional development and employability

I have gained and improved on important soft skills such as teamwork, time management, self-confidence, communication skills, and more. Teamwork is important as you are in a foreign environment, and you'll need to take care of one another as UQ students and mates. I was lucky enough to gain many new friends from this experience after working together with them on various things, such as helping each other with Japanese and assignments, helping each other out during sticky situations such as losing your travel card or getting lost, and more. This experience has further imprinted the importance of teamwork in my heart. As to time management, you are responsible for yourself and the things you have to do, such as getting to school on time, handing in your assignments, looking up on things you don't know in Japanese, going home before curfew, and more. These may seem like basic things, but not everyone manages to do it, especially when they're in a foreign country, and it may feel like a mini vacation rather than a short-term program.

You'll have to have good enough independence and time management skills to finish your work and do the things you have to while managing to have fun and enjoy the immersion program. Self-confidence is another important thing I've gained from this experience. Being a non-native speaker speaking a language to native speakers was incredibly daunting at first, and I felt extremely self-conscious every time I had to speak Japanese or even use the language since I was afraid I'd make a mistake or embarrass myself. However, with the help of my host family, lecturers, new friends, and Google, it made things much more bearable, especially having people to practice the language with without laughing or making fun of me about it. Now, I'm less hesitant of myself because I know that I can do it. Communication skills are also important, especially when you're in a foreign country while only knowing the bare basics of their language. It was extremely helpful to be able to properly communicate, or find ways to if you are unable to. I very much relied on an English to Japanese dictionary, which helped my experience very much while not losing the essence of the immersion program by speaking English instead. It was also important for me to communicate with my lecturers when I didn't understand a topic since I was placed in an advanced class despite only studying the language for a short period of time.

Highlight

The highlight was definitely the homestay. Thanks to that, I was able to find a home away from home and comfortably adapt to the foreign environment with the help of my host family, and also make new friends while exploring local sights and culture. My host family also kindly helped me with any errors I make in the Japanese language and were also extremely happy to share their culture and time with me. Thanks to them, I was able to do various things such as visit Mount Fuji, enjoy a soak in the hot springs, learn more about Japanese culture and language, and more. 

Top tips

Try to immerse yourself in the program and do all the things you can only do during a short-term program, such as visiting local sights, eating local food, and meeting new friends. Don't be shy or worried about embarrassing yourself because everyone is definitely warm and welcoming.