Hello, my name is Henry Lu, I am currently a fourth year Law and Arts student. In April 2015 I headed to Nagoya, Japan to conduct a yearlong exchange program at Nagoya University. Going to Japan I had several goals in mind, some of these included to improve my Japanese language ability, eat delicious food and of course, meet new and exciting people.
Despite having these goals, as someone who has never lived away from home, I really had no idea what to expect or how I should go about my life abroad. What if nobody likes me? What should I eat? How much money should I spend? How does the washing machine work?
But as I went along, I learnt. It wasn’t always smooth, but eventually everything took shape. I found a lifestyle that suited me, I made friends that I’d jump of cliffs for (and hopefully they’d do for me), and I found out how to work the washing machine.
While I value my improvement in Japanese and the newly obtained ability to look after myself, the most valuable acquisition was ‘perspective’. Despite going to Japan, I was able to meet hundreds of students from all over the world, each with their own views and goals. In Japan, we lived our lives, took classes and did our homework. As we did this, we opened ourselves to each other, learnt from each other and experienced the beauty of a foreign country together through different lenses.
The Japanese culture is a unique one. There is an abundance of manners and customs that are so different from those of the environment I was raised in. It is not only Japanese culture I was able to experience in Japan, there was also the cultures of all the people surrounding me. Witnessing and experiencing these different cultures first hand made me realize it really is a big world out there.
This is what makes exchange so amazing. I guess it goes without saying, but to make it clear, it allows you to have experiences you wouldn’t of had and see the world in a different way. You can live inside peaceful little Adelaide and be content, sure. But for people who want more, there is more. It could be in Adelaide, but now I know for sure, it also is definitely somewhere else.
Exchange has been one of the most valuable experiences of my life so far. There is not a country I could go into in the world and not have a house to stay in (a little exaggerated but you get the point). As a person I have grown so much and I really believe I couldn’t have had such growth spending all my university days back in little Adelaide. This isn’t to say, Adelaide is no good, but as someone born and raised in the city, there is not too much I am not familiar with. Self-development is about going out and challenging yourself. Taking yourself out of your comfort zone. And that is exactly what exchange allows you to do.