Sensoji Temple in Asakusa
My name is Jaewon Jung. I am a penultimate year Bachelor of Business student, majoring in Finance. I am currently undertaking my exchange program at Sophia University in Tokyo. My reason for going on a student exchange is quite simple. I received an email from the university on student exchange, and I thought “Why not? I might as well try”. But also, I’m a strong believer of the quote, “whatever makes you uncomfortable is your biggest opportunity to grow”. Therefore, I have decided to take the opportunity to live and study in a country where I do not speak a single word of the language.
I arrived a week before the class started. I took the time to explore the city and settle in comfortably. As I was travelling by myself, I often felt quite overwhelmed by the language barrier. Small daily activities such as going to the supermarket, convenience store and restaurants have been difficult. One time, I went into a ramen restaurant, paid on the vending machine (in some restaurants in Japan, you usually pay at the vending machine, get your food ticket and hand it to the staff), got my ticket and handed it to the staff. The problem started when the staff started asking me questions. Obviously, I did not understand anything. However, I proceeded to reply with “はい”(which means yes) to all her questions. As expected, something went wrong and I ended up waiting for 20 minutes for my food until an English-speaking customer came and helped me out. But, don’t worry, there are many ways to get around. However, I strongly recommend learning basic conversational skills and I regret not learning basic Japanese before coming here.
There are many rules you need to follow in Japan, especially in public areas. But, they are quite easy to follow. There are many videos and guides on Japanese etiquette you can watch.
Asahi Sky Room, Asakusa
I’m living in a share house provided by a housing agency called Sakura House. I have never lived in a share house before, so I was quite worried before moving in. However, so far it has been great. All my house mates are nice and friendly, and they are from different parts of the world. We often go out for a dinner together and they have helped me settling in.
In terms of bank account, I have decided to open Citibank Debit Account in Australia. There is no withdrawal fee if you withdraw money from Seven Eleven ATM. You also have an option of opening a bank account here with Japan Post Bank. JPB is recommended by the university as they do not require a personal seal (inkan/ hanko).
The commute to school takes around 45 minutes from my share house. It is around 10-minute walk to the station, 30-minute train ride and 3-minute walk to the university from Yotsuya Station. The train ride is crowded most of the time (depending on what time you get on the train). So far, it has been fun and interesting, but I would not want to do this every day, especially during the summer.
Yotsuya Station, Tokyo
Sophia University is very similar to UTS in terms of the facilities and location. It is located at the heart of Tokyo and the campus is not too big. However, the teaching style is very different compared to UTS. I’m currently enrolled in Japanese 1 (beginners’ class), International Finance and Development Economics. All Japanese beginners’ students need to attend a 100 minutes lesson from Monday to Friday. Japanese language class feels very much like a high school language class. For International Finance and Development Economics, we have two 100 minutes of lecture each week, and there are no tutorial classes.
I’m using free electives for all my units. I decided to study Japanese, because I felt like I need to learn the basics of the language to experience the culture better. I’m also studying two economics subjects, because I was always interested.
It has only been a week since university started and I have been enjoying every moment, especially the food. The university cafeteria sells nice and affordable food. In the morning between 8am to 9am, they also sell breakfast just for 100 yen ($1.40 AUD).
100 Yen Breakfast at Sophia University Cafeteria
My top tip would be to try something new every day. It may be difficult, but it always brings a valuable lesson. Also, exchange sounds fun and exciting, but at some point, you may feel overwhelmed by the sudden change, which is completely normal. That is all part of the experience.
If anyone was to ask me if I would recommend student exchange, I would definitely say yes. So far, it has been a good opportunity to see myself growing as a person, which I believe is an invaluable experience.
Bachelor of Business
Australian Government New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant recipient.
For more information about the UTS Global Exchange program please visit: www.global-exchange.uts.edu.au