I left for Tokyo on the 7th of January, travelling overseas alone for the frst time in my life. Having only been to Japan shortly once before, I felt a mixture of excitement and anxiety as I boarded the plane without any friends or family, leaving the comfort of everything familiar behind. This experience in Tokyo pushed me to go beyond my comfort zones, threw many challenges and adventures towards my way and was an amazing experience that I’ll never forget.
I’ve always had a dream of living or going on exchange to Japan so when I was sent an email about a 7-week exchange to Senshu University in Kanagawa, I was immediately interested. I was in my first year of a Diploma of Languages in Japanese and thought this was a great way to improve my language skills and conversational confidence.
The first thing that hit me when I arrived in Japan was the alienation of not being able to understand the language. Within the first few days in Japan, I don’t know how many times I thought “I want to go home”. This discomfort continued throughout my 7-week stay, however gradually diminished as I became accustomed to the country and it’s societal behaviours, transport system and currency. Eventually I overcame my fear of the language barrier.
After reading reviews about Senshu University’s International program online, I didn’t expect to get to know the local students very well, having limited Japanese skills myself. I expected, or hoped, that I would stick with International students, as I assumed Japanese students would have limited English skills. I expected Japanese people to be on the shyer side compared to Westerners. I expected a rigidness to Japanese society, with a stress upon conformity. I also expected the Japanese students to be polite, as well as the entire society – a generalised assumption that many foreigners have about Japan. Many of the things I expected were correct, the initial excitement of arriving in Japan, then becoming overwhelmed by the unfamiliarity of everything, the language barrier, struggling to navigate the customs and society on my own. I soon discovered that I was also wrong.
Global Short Programs Student