Isabelle - Keio University

Bachelor of Arts
Semester 1, 2018
I feel like I have now become an international citizen.

Academic experience

At Keio I studied courses towards both my Japanese language major and my history major. taking the minimum amount of units/tani amounted to taking nine courses. Compared to the three courses I usually take at UQ, suddenly having nine classes, each with new content, homework and assessments, was a challenge. However while this was daunting, it is possible and rewarding. 

My courses were: The Modern History of Diplomatic Relations between Japan and the World, Historical Memory in East and South East Asia, Human Trafficking in East and Southeast Asia, Japan's Postwar Resurgence & Sino-Japanese relations. I found the content in each extremely interesting, and the workload manageable (If only barely). My favourites were Human trafficking and Postwar Resurgence because of the success of the 'seminar style' that most aim for - these classes were heavily based on class discussion, which was extremely interesting in a setting where every student is from a different place in the world and has a unique experience. This aspect is what i enjoyed most about the different academic system, because it not only applies to the students, but lecturers as well. 

My Japanese courses were level 4 and 5 courses. The difficulty of each seemed to depend heavily on the teacher's whim, rather than the level... I found level 4 perfect for my level, but some of my classmates from UQ struggled an insane amount in their level 5 classes. I only did Level 5 'communication for daily life' and found it easier than my level 4 classes. The registration period gives you two weeks to attend classes and switch around. 

One of the biggest challenges was that, unlike at UQ where assessment is spread throughout the semester, I found the buildup at the end to be massive. Assessment definitely kept me busy throughout, but also by the end of semester I had 5 essays due, as well as 4 final exams and 2 presentations. This was made worse by my decision to take courses beginning in the 2nd half, and not balance this out with 1st half courses. I would advise future exchange students to Keio to beware of this, but also not to worry, as the difficulty is surmountable through hard work.

Personal experience

Despite a heavy workload, my time on exchange was the greatest I have ever had in my life. My main regret is that I didn't sign up for a whole year. The friendships I made with both local Japanese students and other exchange students from various parts of the world, are invaluable to me now. My Japanese language skills improved massively, and I loved living in the Tokyo area, getting the chance to really explore and get to know the city and surrounding areas. The more I explored Tokyo the more I would discover what was still left to explore. I am left with a list of things I would still like to do and see and I can't wait to go back in the future. Additionally, I was lucky enough to find a job as an english tutor for a child. The chance to get to know a Japanese family and make connections outside the university scene was invaluable. If possible, I would highly recommend working part-time while on exchange in Tokyo.

Accommodation

I lived in Keio's Motosumiyshi International dormitory beside both local and international students. This is about an hour away from Mita campus. I found that the commuting times listed for each dormitory don't really matter when it comes to transport - you are better off picking a dorm for other reasons like cost or freedoms. Some dorms were more social than others. This one was quite a social dormitory, which made it easy to make friends. It was also quite strict on things like guests visiting or where boys and girls could interact. Overall I had a great experience in this dorm and made most of my friends here.

Costs

Rent was definitely the most expensive part of living in Tokyo. But it depends on your lifestyle. It would be possible to live quite cheaply when it comes to food and commuting to uni. However travelling outside of Tokyo and extracurricular activities within the city cost a bit. After getting set up, your lifestyle in Tokyo can cost as little or as much as you want it to.

Professional Development

My exchange experience in general contributed much to my professional development; in many ways which have yet to be known. studying in a foreign country with a cohort of like-minded students and professors was an incredibly educational and valuable experience. My networking, communication and adaptability skills have come a long way.

Highlight

The highlight of going to university in Tokyo was really getting to know the city, its student life and lifestyle: getting to experience the life of a local in an amazing city, not just as a tourist. 

Top tips

If you have the funds, sign up for a whole year! My biggest regret is not doing so.