Josephine Wigan

Date: SP2; SP5, 2013
Degree Program: MBJI (Bachelor of Journalism, Bachelor of International Relations)
Host University: Nagoya University of Foreign Studies
Host Country: Japan

Why did you choose your host university?

To be completely honest, one of the main factors contributing to my decision to study at NUFS was the scholarship/stipend that is given to all international students doing the Japanese Language Institute courses. However, I had also always wanted to go to Japan and was studying Japanese so this also helped influence my decision. As well as this, I had heard from other UniSA students who went here that the Japanese program is very good – once I finished my first semester there I enjoyed it so much I stayed for a second semester!

Josephine WiganWhat was the university like?

The university is AMAZING! Well, the campus and grounds etc are what you’d expect from any university, but the way that NUFS makes international students feel so welcome is great. There is a real community feeling between all the international students as well as plenty of opportunities for us to make friends with the Japanese students at the university. I think the fact that the international students all live together really helps this sense of community. The university also provides field trips and Japanese culture activities to exchange students at a reduced cost to that they would be normally.

The JLI program is split in to two different programs: The Japanese Language Program and Japanese Culture Program. I did the Language program in the first semester and found it quite difficult as there was a lot of work and homework and tests almost every day – it reminded me a lot of high school. In contrast, the Japanese Culture program is dead easy. It is also very interesting as it provides a real insight into Japanese culture, business, history, religion ect.

The classes are split into 90 minute periods with a 1 hour break time – very similar to high school. And they use a bell system like in high school which I found very strange, but you do eventually get used to it. The library is great, it has a whole floor of useful books in English and there are ample resources available to students like photocopiers, scanners, printers etc. However, because everything is in Japanese it can be a little difficult to work out how to use things, but you can always ask the office for international students for help.

What did you gain from your exchange experience and has it changed the way you think or altered your approach to life?

I gained some of the best friends I’ve ever had on this exchange and meeting people from all over the world has definitely altered my way of thinking about the world. I feel less narrow-minded and feel like I understand what drives people more. My confidence has also very much improved and I feel like all I want to do is go visit all the people I have met!

What accommodation options were available to you?  How affordable was accommodation and would you recommend the same option to others?

The accommodation for NUFS is covered from the monthly stipend we get and is taken out of your Japanese bank account every month (they help you set up a bank account during the orientation). There are two types of accommodation to choose from: Ihouse, a dorm-type set up, and Proxy, regular apartment buildings. I lived in Ihouse but some of my closest friends lived in Proxy and I ended up crashing there quite often as well so I’m familiar with both.

Ihouse is slightly cheaper than Proxy but has shared kitchens and common areas. It is less private, but I preferred it that way because I get bored and lonely by myself! There is a 11pm “curfew” but all you have to do is msg someone who’s inside and they’ll unlock the door for you after 11.

Proxy is just a regular apartment building down the road from ihouse, it has no curfew but also no common areas. The rooms are only slightly bigger than ihouse in my opinion, and there is only a TINY kitchenette area for cooking.

Also, Ihouse has very annoying restrictions for guests (including friends who live at Proxy) – they must be out by 9pm at the latest and are only allowed in certain areas. Because of this, there is often almost rivalry between students who live in Proxy and Ihouse, and a lot of the time the two groups don’t mix. However, I liked to mingle with almost everyone and so I was often called the “token ihouse person” at all the Proxy parties etc.

I would recommend either option, but if you prefer your privacy go to Proxy. If you’re more social and get bored living by yourself, I’d say go ihouse – but they’re really both very similar.

Also – each accommodation has some Japanese students living there called Resident Assistants (RAs) and they are there to help you with anything you might need for living in Japan. They’re very helpful and become good friends with the international students, so don’t be afraid to ask them questions even if it is just translation questions.

Describe your travel experiences; did you travel locally or to neighbouring countries? 

I travelled throughout Japan during my exchange semesters and I loved it! Its so easy to travel around Japan because its such a small country and everything is so convenient! The bullet train is fantastic and Jetstar are now in Japan making plane trips on a budget super easy. I made friends within 2 weeks of arriving and was off on a trip to Kyoto with them! The RAs helped us book bus tickets as well.

Describe how you adjusted to life in a different country and how you met new people.

I met new people because we were all living together in ihouse or we had classes together. I met my Japanese friends through the university as well because the ones who could speak English and wanted to talk to international students would sit with us at lunch time. I adjusted fine, thanks to the support I received from the friends I had made. 

Can you see any benefits from this exchange to your future career?

Yes – it has given me contacts all over the world and has helped me understand the Japanese people and culture a lot more. It has also made me more independent as a person.

What advice would you give to a student who was hesitant or considering joining the exchange program?

Make friends and try to experience as much as possible – don’t just sit in your room and study the whole time (even though the language course does require a lot of study…)

Top Tips:
Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need something – living in Japan can be very daunting because of the language and culture barriers. Also, keep an open mind and try not to take offence to things (for example – as a foreigner you might get some stares from people because they’re just not used to seeing foreigners). If you need help booking anything, using machines with only Japanese instructions etc. don’t be afraid to ask the RAs for help.

Areas of study and research

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