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The Sophian Experience

So I’ve been gradually adjusting my life here in Japan and so far, I think I’m finally getting out of that holiday mood and into study mode. My grades thank me.

I applied for Sophia University in Tokyo thinking that university life here was going to be similar back home in Sydney, but there were so many things to understand upon starting university here, such as memorising certain procedures, registering for classes and making changes to your timetable. There is a noticeable difference is the way classes are held in Sophia University, which is in periods or sessions, with 6 in one day, with period 1 starting at 9 in the morning and period 6 ending at 9 at night. One period is for 100 minutes, and a 4-credit subject will usually take up 2 periods a week. However the Japanese beginners class that I am currently enrolled in requires me to attend class at period 1 everyday, which means waking up early and dealing with rush hour every weekday. The rush hour here in Tokyo is so insane, the morning commute to UTS pales in comparison, that I make sure to leave at 7 to take a slightly less packed train (1 or 2 less people) for my own comfort and to ensure I am never late to class. Speaking of attendance, the Japanese university system will grade most classes quite harshly on attendance, and missing past a given number of classes can actually result in failure of the class. Another example of how the education system differs from Australia is how the class is taught. I have noticed that most of the classes here tend to be lecture classes with hardly any workshops, labs or tutorials. One comforting bit of information is that the campus is similar to the campus at UTS, a confusing layout with buildings in nor particular order! For example, building 12 is right near the entrance next to building 1, whereas building 11 is all the way at the back of the campus.

Food here in Tokyo is cheaper and more convenient than Sydney, especially in the university and around it. There are multiple options of where to eat in Sophia University, from its multiple cafeterias, cafes and various food trucks. One thing to note that it might be hard for a vegan to find food in Tokyo as most food products sold here are animal-based.  Some other food practices such as vegetarians, and pescetarians might also find it a bit difficult, although more places have started to come up with options for those people. Sophia University has put some thought to this issue and does have a halal restaurant on campus. Food options offered in the cafeteria also have signs showing what each meal is compromised of, with English translations.

I’m currently living at Soshigaya International House, around 50 minutes from the university, because of the sky-high property prices in the city (which is also where the uni is). The main reason I applied for this dormitory was mainly because it was one of the two residences that were managed by the university itself. This meant that if I had an issue at the university or with my residence in Tokyo, it would be quickly solved with the help of the uni. Because of this, there is a program called the LGLs at the dorm, where there is a person in charge on every floor. These people would help any new students settle down at the dorm and will also help with any issues the students might have. An example would be when a person from the LGL took a group of us to BIC Camera in Shinjuku to get us all Japanese sim cards. It’s a really complicated process, and I recommend getting help from someone who can speak Japanese. It took nearly 3 hours to get sim cards for 8 people, even with help. I recommend not getting a travel sim card. Data here in Tokyo is really expensive. $30 for a 3gb prepaid sim card? No thanks.

The dorm also has plenty of great facilities such as a gym, sports hall and a music room. There are other options of residence to choose from, such as other dorms and housing options from third parties like Sakura housing, each one with different facilities and prices. However the most popular option right now by far are residences called share-houses (similar to a dorm) managed by a company called Oakhouse. However, unless you are willing to pay a premium to live near the uni and in the city, most residence options will be at least 30 minutes of travel from the city centre.

I’ve found Tokyo is a very fast-paced city to live in, with so many things going on at once; it’s sometimes so hard to concentrate on a single thing to do. So far, I’ve experience what it’s like to attend a fireworks festival here and I’ve eaten at a traditional izakaya. It’s only been two weeks in, and I can’t wait to experience more of Japan!

Nicholas Lukito
Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
Sophia University
Japan

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

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