Exchange to Sophia University – by Hugh Nettelbeck

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time spent studying in Tokyo during Semester 1 of 2015. Although I have worked harder than ever before this semester, I have found my exchange to be a gratifying and rewarding experience. Through studying at Sophia University I feel that I have taken a step down the road towards achieving my ambition of becoming fluent in the Japanese language, and my time spent in Japan has led me to consider a future working abroad in Japan.

Upon arriving at Sophia University, all exchange students are required to complete a placement test to determine which level Japanese language classes they are allocated to. My main purpose for visiting Japan this year was to improve my Japanese language ability so I chose to opt for the intensive strain of Japanese classes. I was placed in a class lower than I had hoped for, but the coordinator for Japanese Studies at Sophia University was very helpful, and after I explained my aspirations he allowed me to enter a higher class. The intensive Japanese course at Sophia consists of 15 contact hours a week, with daily quizzes and homework hours. As such, the workload for this class is almost equivalent to an entire semester of my regular degree, despite being worth only 6 credits at Adelaide University. However, notwithstanding the large amount of effort required for this singular class, I would certainly recommend it to other students who are aiming to improve their Japanese language skills, with the provision that your main purpose for visiting Japan is to immerse yourself in the language.

During my semester abroad I found that I grew very accustomed to life in Tokyo. I feel that living in Japan has furthered my intercultural understanding and offered me a new perspective on many aspects of my life. I also experienced living independently for the first time in my life and through doing so I feel that I have developed my organizational and self-management abilities. Although I initially found living alone to be somewhat lonely, I quickly made friends in my new city and adjusted well to my new lifestyle. I feel that these international friendships are an important advantage that I have gained from going on exchange, and foresee that many of the friendships I have forged will be very long-lasting.

I am thoroughly looking forward to continuing my exchange at Sophia University in semester 2 of this year. My goal by the end of semester 2 is to reach an N1 level on the Japanese Language Proficiency Test; the highest level achievable. In my effort to do so, I realize that I will need to continue putting in a great amount of effort. I am currently considering enrolling in Business Japanese, Academic Japanese, the regular Intensive strain of Japanese classes, or some combination of the three. I will continue to strive to achieve a better understanding of the Japanese culture, and I eagerly anticipate spending more time with my new Japanese friends.

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