Global Learning blog

The GLO Alumni Series focuses on past students who have completed overseas study as part of their degree, and how these experiences have helped them in their future after university. 

Tom Russell completed a double degree in Arts and Media, with Honours in Media, at the University of Adelaide in 2016. In 2015, he took part in the Japanese Media Industries and Cultures study tour to Kyoto, Japan – a two week intensive course in Japanese pop-culture. He currently works as an Assistant Language Teacher in Takahashi, Japan. 

My decision to take part in this tour has had a big impact on my life – not only did I form some lasting friendships, I have also found myself returning to Japan after completing my degree.

My initial interest in the Japanese Media Industries and Cultures study tour began through my general interest in studying abroad. This interest was strengthened by hearing about the experiences of those around me and their time overseas. When I found that some of my fellow Media degree friends were applying for the program, I decided that I would too. I was introduced to Japan through learning Japanese in primary school, and since those early days I have found myself interested in exploring the country. I had been travelling overseas before – twice in Thailand, and once in the United States – and I thought it would be fun to return to Asia and finally experience Japan. So I applied for the tour, and I got in. Woo!

International Manga Museum, 2015

International Manga Museum, 2015

The Japanese Media Industries and Cultures program was run by Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto and was, of course, interesting and worthwhile. While there, we studied Japanese anime, film, television shows, and mascot characters. It was great to be educated about the periodic transformation of the Japanese anime medium, and to have an opportunity to understand the works of great live-action directors like Akira Kurasawa. Additionally, the significance of mascot characters in Japanese culture, from their impact on both ‘kawaii culture’ in Japan, and their role within the capitalist manufacturing industries, was surprising and fun to learn about.

 

 

Cycling in Okayama Prefecture, 2015

Cycling in Okayama Prefecture, 2015

We also took part in tours outside the classroom, including to NHK Studios in Osaka, and the International Manga Museum in Kyoto, which were both great. As well as our two weeks in Kyoto, several students and I planned to use the extra winter-school time to travel some other parts of Japan. Together we visited Tokyo, Osaka, Nara, Hiroshima, and Okayama. On my travel I discovered many different things about Japan, but most importantly, I discovered that Hiroshima Okonomiyaki (egg and noodle pancake) is super good. You should definitely try it.

Although the tour itself was informative and useful, I found that the biggest lessons I took away from my experience were on a more personal level. While travelling the country with some of my University friends, I discovered that Japan is a place in which I could see myself living. It had long been a goal of mine to throw myself out of my comfort zone and live somewhere else around the world for a time, and I discovered during those few weeks that Japan was an
interesting possibility.

Cycling in Okayama Prefecture, 2015

Cycling in Okayama Prefecture, 2015

It was near the end of my Honours degree in 2016 that I discovered the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program (JET). This program is one of the largest cultural exchange programs in the world, and my experience in 2015 drove me to make an application. Every year, more than one thousand successful JET applicants are offered a year-long contract (which can then be re-contracted up to four times) to live and work in Japan as an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT) in classrooms all over the country. In my application, I selected Okayama prefecture as my preferred placement location. This decision was informed by one fantastic day that I spend in the prefecture riding bikes through the famous Kibi Planes with my friends, which is located in the heart of Okayama-ken. To my luck, I was not only successful in earning a contract with JET, but was also placed in Okayama! It is very rare to receive your preferred placement.

I have been living in Takahashi, located in the mountains of Okayama, for the past ten weeks and am enjoying the challenge of teaching large classrooms without any previous education experience. It has been daunting to live somewhere without knowing the language, and to be thrown into a job for which I have no background experience, but I am loving the opportunity and am learning more every day. I have quickly discovered that teaching could be another career prospect for me in the future. Thankfully, I am not alone in this journey, as two of my friends, one who joined me on the study tour, and one who completed my Honours degree with me, also gained employment through the JET program at the same time as me. It is a relief to know that we can share our experiences and guide each other along the way. Although we are both near and far, we often speak online and support each other.

Tom at Matsuyama Castle in Takahashi City, 2017

Tom at Matsuyama Castle in Takahashi City, 2017

I am confident that my experience on the Japanese Media Industries and Cultures study tour helped my chances of acceptance into the JET program. Of course, the program’s main focus is on teaching English to students across Japan, but its major focus is to promote cultural exchange between Japan and English-speaking countries. The program looks for applicants who show that they are interested in this sort of cultural exchange, and those who have an interest in Japan. I believe that my participation in the study tour showed that I am one of those people.

I firmly believe that your University degree should include at least one trip overseas to experience a new culture. It is deeply satisfying to acknowledge that the cliche is true, and that these kinds of experiences open your eyes to new possibilities. If not for the Japanese Media Industries and Cultures study tour, I don’t think I would be living out here in the most beautiful countryside region I have ever laid my eyes upon, and would not be regularly experiences things that I used to think were for more adventures types of people. Just two weeks ago I ate a bowl of fried bees, some locally sources wild boar ribs, a plate of grilled bear and mushroom, and a shot of tequila from a bottle that contained a deadly pit viper.

I’m sure that I would be doing something interesting if I had stayed in South Australia, but for now, this is pretty cool and I’m glad that I’m doing it.

 

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Asat studied at the University of Mannheim in Semester 1, 2017 at part of his Bachelor of Finance.

 

Haus 43, Mannheim

Haus 43, Mannheim

I can’t believe it took my fourth year of university to finally go on exchange, even when I had planning on going on exchange since my first year of uni. I was always hesitant about going as I didn’t know if it was a ‘good idea’. But, I have to say it was the best decision I have ever made. I had an amazing time, made incredible friends from around the world, and saw some cool places.
I did my exchange in the small city of Mannheim in the southwest of Germany. I chose Mannheim because it was in central Europe, which would make travelling more convenient. Most people in Germany could also speak English (especially the younger generations) so I wouldn’t have to learn much German before leaving. Mannheim is also one of the best business schools in continental Europe, which was also made it a very appealing.

Portugal

Portugal

My first couple of days of exchange were the most boring, as there was no one in my dorm and the semester hadn’t started yet. But after my first housemate moved in, there was no more dull moments – he became one of my closest friends. Since all the other exchange students are in the same boat, everyone is eager to meet new people, make friends, experience new things, and have fun. You will never struggle to make friends. The university makes it easy for all the exchange students to interact with each other. The semester starts with a simple orientation where you meet plenty of people, and from there the university and VISUM (a student-run organisation for international students) will organise many events including parties and tours.

 

 

Morocco

Morocco

 

 

During the week you will do all of your study for classes, and weekends are purely for travelling. If you’re smart about it, it won’t even cost much if you look out for cheap flights, trains and buses. In fact, I went to Morocco return from Germany for 60 euros for one weekend (you wouldn’t even make it to Melbourne from Adelaide at that price).
All in all I have to say that my exchange experience was amazing and something that I could never be able to forget. Now that I’m back in Adelaide, I have come back to reality and can longer live the lifestyle that I lived in Europe, which is a bit sad. But, knowing that I was able to experience it makes me extremely grateful and eager to go back for new experiences.

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Rachel attended the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Semester 1, 2017 as part of her Bachelor of Arts.

 

At an ice hockey game with fellow Australian exchange students

Ice hockey game with fellow Aussie exchange students

Flying across the ocean, looking at the clouds drifting below, I began to imagine what Canada would be like. I pictured ice hockey, rivers of maple syrup, snowy mountains, mild rain showers, and maybe an occasional dusting of snow. Instead, when I landed in Vancouver, dragging two overstuffed suitcases across footpaths covered in sheets of ice, I discovered a Canada I wasn’t expecting. It wasn’t the rosy beginning to my exchange that I had been told it would be and I was confused. I don’t want to discourage any of you from considering Canada as a potential exchange destination but I also want to give you the full picture of my exchange experience, the good and the bad, so that if your experience isn’t unbelievably amazing from the beginning, you will be comforted to know that it is totally normal and a part of the journey!

 

Eating Tim Hortons with Canadian friends

Eating Tim Hortons with Canadian friends

 

I did my exchange at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, which is near the USA/Canadian border. Before going, I was told that Vancouver had very mild weather compared to the rest of Canada – with more rain than snow and warmer weather from about April. Wrong! This winter was unusually cold and dreary and we had an abnormal amount of snowy and rainy weather. I’m not going to lie, coming to Canada and being met with such unexpected weather conditions in a giant campus where I didn’t know anyone was tough. But as the semester continued, I made more friends and began to discover the natural beauty of Canada. Hanging out with other exchange students who were dealing with the ups and downs of transition to a new place was amazing, but so was meeting other Canadians! Involving myself in groups on campus and chatting with people in class allowed me to build connections with some amazing Canadian students who helped make Canada feel like home.

 

 

 

 

Snow shoeing

Snow shoeing

Going away on exchange was such a valuable experience for me. It allowed me to get a taste of the North American residential college lifestyle and forced me to push myself out of my comfort zone. Adjusting to living away from home in an unknown place was absolutely terrifying and there were definitely days that I questioned my decision. But once I got over the initial shock of transition and began to settle into my new ‘home’ at UBC, I didn’t want to leave. For an entire semester I was able to blend study and adventures, experiencing all Canada has to offer. From my personal experience, I would definitely recommend staying as long as possible so you can make the most of snowy/rainy Vancouver but also gorgeous/sunny Vancouver too! Go skiing, climb mountains, eat some poutine, go to an ice hockey game, explore the tourist sites and even take a trip down to the USA if you have the time! I would highly recommend Vancouver as a exchange destination. It may not have been the Canada I was expecting, but it still managed to steal my heart!

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Angela studied at Hosei University during Semester 1, 2017 as part of her Bachelor of Commerce with a Diploma in Japanese. I decided to study abroad in Tokyo at Hosei University for the first semester of 2017. I have always been fascinated by everything Japan, and have done several trips to Japan prior to my […]

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Amy Rowe (Bachelor of Social Sciences) participated in the study tour International Development in Vietnam in July, 2017. The following article consists of feedback received from Amy, and the abstract and conclusion of her final assignment for the study tour.  My international development study tour to Vietnam was breathtaking and has left a lasting impression. I […]

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This article was originally published on The Conversation by Richard Matthews, a University of Adelaide student who took part in the Digital Security in Estonia study tour in Winter School, 2017.  What do nuclear submarines, top secret military bases and private businesses have in common? They are all vulnerable to a simple slice of cheddar. This was […]

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Search “study abroad” on the UoA website and you’ll receive dozens of results stating how exchange programs are “life-changing” and “unforgettable.” As I prepare to head home from spending a semester studying at Bocconi University in Milan, I can confirm that the hype is accurate. Getting settled into Milan was even easier than I anticipated […]

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This post is taken from exchange student Elly Stretton’s blog Elly’s Leeds Adventure. Elly studied at the University of Leeds in Semester 1, 2017.  I chose to study at Leeds not only because it is an amazing university, but because it is central to the UK and a middle ground between many amazing cities. It’s a stones […]

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My exchange adventure so far has been exciting, incredible, and one of the best decisions I have made. However, the decision to commit to a one year exchange in Japan wasn’t easy for me. It meant leaving my partner, family and friends back in Australia for a whole year. Whilst it was a difficult decision, […]

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  1. Getting Around Campus CUHK is quite a hilly campus so unless your college (the dorm/hostel you stay in) is close to where your class is, you’ll have to catch the CUHK shuttle buses to where you need to go. There’s a pdf of the shuttle bus timetable on the CUHK website or you can download […]

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