Japan: A Retrospective – By Kyle Sellick

As I look back over my experiences in this amazing country, I realise that this has been one of the most amazing and defining times of my life. It has been very fun but at the same time very challenging. As I had visited Japan two years earlier on the “In Country Summer School Trip” to Kyoto, I had already experienced the culture and lived in it for six weeks which had the benefit of dampening most of the culture shock. Before signing into my dorm I spent a week travelling around Osaka and getting to know the city I would be calling home for the next six months. I can remember those days with amusement, as I was completely lost and couldn’t find my way around in a city that I know very well now.

When I arrived at my dorm I encountered what was going to be for me, the best thing about the exchange… The other exchange students I was going to be sharing the experience with. The friends from every corner of the globe I met on this trip have been my support base and source of great joy on this exchange. I know I will be friends with them forever and will have somewhere to stay in most parts of the world, just as they will have somewhere to stay in Adelaide. During the three weeks of holiday before the start of term, I travelled with my friends to other cities in the region such as Kobe and Kyoto and went out partying in Osaka. These experiences were great to get to know new areas and revisit beloved places from my last trip and get in a lot of travel before the semester started.

The day university started everyone met at Osaka Toyonaka campus and we got to meet many other exchange students that were living in other dorms. Once we were oriented, we were given our choice for subjects and given a week to choose six. The topic areas were very wide and varied, but everyone had to pick Japanese. This is where I will talk about the difference between the Japanese educational system and the Australian one. Lessons are only held once per week and there is a compulsory attendance rate, with none of the lectures being offered online. The workload is very large as well, with lots of essays and tests of small overall grade value being given frequently. So if you have a stress problem and feel easily overwhelmed, you may want to consider if this is the right choice for you. Additionally it can be easy to fall into the trap of what my friends and I called “holiday mode”, where because you are in a different country surrounded by cool new foreign friends, you want to hang out and do stuff instead of homework. Because of the large workload, lots of time was taken up completing assignments and preparing for classes and tests. Because of this free time was limited and planning trips had to be made during the two one week holiday periods that are given (second semester).

This was offset however by the amazing overnight trip to Hiroshima that the university organised. We travelled by bus to Hiroshima to go to ground zero and visit the memorial museum there. Additionally we had the privilege to hear a talk given by a survivor of the nuclear bomb blast. It was a very moving and very amazing experience. The university also put us up in an amazing traditional Japanese hotel which contained a pool sized spa and traditional sleeping arrangements, three to a room and sleeping on floor mats.

The support Osaka University gives is amazing and if you feel inclined you can sign up for the buddy system and/or the host family system for an added element of support. I have had fun with my buddy and it has been a good language exchange opportunity. So if you asked me if I would recommend an exchange in japan, I would say definitely. Just be sure to make sure it is the right choice for you and your study and life style.

Finally if someone had to ask me what the highlight of my trip was, I’d definitely have to say skiing for the first time up in Sapporo. The snow was amazing and as I hadn’t been skiing before, it made it even more exciting. The highlight of that day was video calling my parents from the top of a snowy mountain. It was Christmas day, and my first white Christmas, and the whole family were talking to me in a completely different temperature, it was amazingly surreal.

If you choose to come to Osaka University or somewhere else, have a good time on your exchange and ganbatte!!

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