Studying abroad is a truly amazing experience. Your ordinary university routine may well be largely similar, but will definitely be enhanced by a new city, a new country, new friends and maybe even a new language.
It’s now been two months since I left little old Adelaide for the bright and bustling metropolis of Osaka and its crazy how much time has flown. It took me about a month to find my feet here. At first, I would get lost every single time I tried to go somewhere new and shopping and cooking for myself for the first time with unfamiliar ingredients was a challenge. However, now I can happily say that I have fully settled in and life here has become somewhat routine. But that isn’t to say that it’s boring.
I live in a truly international environment. My university dorm includes students from every corner of the globe and evening conversations while studying in the common room are always entertaining.
As an exchange student in Osaka University’s OUSSEP program, all of my courses (except for Japanese language courses) are delivered in English by professors who are mostly non-native speakers. These courses are specifically for international students but again most students are non-native English speakers so I often find that I am one of only a few English native speakers in the room. All of this means that you could get by in Osaka without speaking any Japanese.
However, my main motivation for coming to Japan was to improve my language skills and my Japanese has improved noticeably since arriving here, mostly in regards to vocabulary. I have even started picking up some of the local Kansai dialect. Although you do have to make an effort to seek out Japanese conversations, there are plenty of opportunities. There are several internationally focussed community groups, of mainly older Japanese, who offer free one-on-one Japanese lessons and conversation practice sessions weekly.
To make Japanese friends your own age, you have to try a bit harder as very few domestic students take the courses taught in English. Signing up for the university’s buddy program, joining a university club or attending events which include domestic students are all great ideas. Don’t discount non-native speakers either – I regularly converse with a German friend in Japanese because we would both like the practice.
University contact hours aren’t onerous (only about 12 a week) and my weekends are usually free for exploring which is definitely one of the perks of being an exchange student. Osaka is perfectly located for this with Kyoto, Kobe, Nara and many other interesting destinations less than an hour away by train. On long weekends and holidays you can travel to further parts of the country.
So all in all, there is never a dull moment when you’re an exchange student.
Megan is studying at Osaka University with the generous support of an Australian Government New Colombo Plan Scholarship for 2016. More information on the scholarships can be found here.
Want to hear more from Megan? Check out her online blog.