Rebecca - Showa Women's University

Bachelor of Arts
Semester 2, 2017 and Semester 1, 2018
Come and study at Showa! You will be well looked after and have a fabulous exchange!

Academic experience

I completed two programs that Showa Women's University offers exchange students: the 'Intensive Japanese Language Program' and the 'Academic Program.' The Intensive Japanese Language Program consisted of Japanese subjects catered towards exchange students, and an option for one or two classes to be normal classes with other Japanese students. They were taught all in Japanese language but in a way relatively easy to understand for us exchange students from all different backgrounds. There were many class discussions which involved us talking about what a certain topic is like in our home countries. 
    When you first arrive, you undertake a placement test that helps to determine which classes are best for you. My level was in the middle. I liked the flexibility of Showa to accommodate for different levels. I was able to take mostly Intensive courses, but also some Academic ones during the first semester. 
    The Academic Program consists of more normal courses which Japanese students also take. However, they still offered Japanese classes catered towards exchange students. I felt that doing more 'normal' Japanese subjects would be too intense and stressful, so I only participated in two. Something to watch out for is 'lottery subjects' which are subjects that are too popular it is decided by random draw which students are able to participate. Because of this, I studied some subjects that were different to my study plan.
    Through both programs, I felt there was a good balance between spoken and written assessment styles. One thing to note is that they are very particular about punctuality. Some Japanese classes with many students, you have to touch your ID card on a monitor to take you attendance. If I remember correctly, if you are ten or fifteen minutes late you are marked absent but until then it is just noted that you were late. Some teachers are more lenient than others with keeping track of this but when it's automated it shows the time directly.

Personal experience

Showa is great for UQ students because there is a small population of native English speakers compared to other larger universities, meaning you can make the most of being in Japan and use Japanese as much as possible! In some cases, other exchange students also know English, and mostly when I met with them we spoke English, however in larger groups, in order not to exclude our friends we tried our best to stick to Japanese. In the beginning it was difficult to make friends with Japanese students because our classes were only for exchange students. 
However, I began to make friends with girls part of CHAWA and Kokusai Kouken Club (ICC) which are clubs who organise events for exchange students! In the second semester I joined a club! It is usually not encouraged for exchange students to join clubs because the majority of us are only here for one semester. It is worth it to contact the club directly to ask if you can join, rather than going through CIE (exchange student support staff) There is a list of clubs on the Showa website. 

I wish I had applied for a part-time job early in my exchange, as when I wanted to apply for one later on, it was getting too late, given my remaining time in Japan. I recommend asking for assistance to write a Japanese resume, and having a go! One of the class covers how to take a phone call with a potential boss and also what kind of polite language to use during an interview! 

Overall, I had a really great experience at Showa Women's University!!

Accommodation

I lived with three other girls in a share house in walking distance from the university. It was my first time living independently so naturally came with some challenges. Saying goodbye to two girls who were here for only the first semester was possibly the hardest. Rent was about 50, 000 yen per month and included everything, gas, electricity, pocket wifi. There is a train we could get to uni but it takes about the same time as walking, so we always walked. It was fantastic to be able to walk to uni! It took about 20-25 minutes. If you are here for one year it is possible to change accommodation partway through.

Costs

I did well saving money for exchange while in Australia, but once here I didn't budget well. For me, I think it too much snacking was my downfall! So, I recommend making a budget! I cooked most meals and made bento for school lunch, although the food in the cafeteria is usually not more than around 400 yen.  Apart from wanting to use money wisely, being pescetarian, I found it easier to prepare my own meals. Showa is in a great location (not only close to Shibuya), there is a supermarket and convenience stores close-by to grab something quick and easy. I would often go by the supermarket on the way home and look for discounted bentos, fish, salads, for example.

My accommodation included a pocket wifi so I opted for a phone plan with minimal data. As part of orientation, phone companies with special deals for exchange students come and tell you about their phone plans. I recommend to do some research beforehand so you can compare what would work best for you. I personally used 'Y! Mobile' which is part of Softbank I believe. I was able to find a plan paying about 2000 yen per month with 2GB data and free calls up to ten minutes. Keep in mind the cancellation fee can be expensive.

Professional Development

One of the reasons I chose Showa Women's University is due to its internship opportunity. I thought initially that there were guaranteed places, however there are only limited options, ranging from perhaps three days, one or two weeks, to one month. There was also a limit on the number of people who can participate in those positions. I was fortunate to be able to get the one position offered to work in a hotel for one month. It was a small insight into Japanese working life, and while I may not have loved everything, I made really good connections with some of the staff, and was invited back to some of their events later in the year!

Highlight

There are so many highlights! But for now I will name three. 
- Wearing a yukata and going to a festival!
- The internship, while only one month (and unpaid), I made many new friends. 
- After joining the ballroom dance club, life became a lot more fun in general. I was able to know more students around the university.

Top tips

I recommend Showa because it's in a really convenient location and you are supported all the way by the wonderful staff at CIE. Come and study at Showa! You will be well looked after and have a fabulous exchange!