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Hokkaido University, Japan

An efficient yet bureaucratic society

Japan, I believe is a country of juxtaposition. Beautiful, traditional geishas alongside self-conscious, constantly adjusting their hair youths. Innovators in technology yet cash is more widely used when paying and everything you do has a physical form to fill out. The magnificent trees, mountains, flowers galore abruptly disrupted by concrete blocks for buildings with Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples hidden between.

I have been in Japan now for just under two weeks and classes only started yesterday. We have had two orientations and an entrance ceremony (formal attire, all for one photo). Endless forms were filled in our first week and they won’t stop there, even the subjects that we had to register online for, need to additionally have a physical form filled out. Japanese bank account, health care, address registration, rental agreement, electricity, water and gas, subjects wanting to be taken and a whole bunch of paper than I simply cannot read! Every form accompanied with another page showing us foreigners how to fill the form in. My paper recycling bin is full. (Of course I’m keeping the necessary documents.)

Japan is known for their extensive rubbish management, Hokkaido has gone three steps further. There are ten types of rubbish, all need to be sorted and some placed into a yellow coloured plastic bag (which can only be bought in stores). With so much plastic consumption, their efforts for recycling are almost matched. One would think the society as a whole would advocate to lessen plastic consumption but it seems that rather than being proactive they are reactive. I’m happy to comply as a passionate greenie and find it amazing that everyone actually sorts their rubbish. I think it’s wonderful they have wide scale soft plastic recycling unlike Australia where we have to take our soft plastics to Woolies or Coles (

Hokkaido University has the largest campus in the whole of Japan. Originally the Sapporo Agricultural College, the grounds have fields, cows and crops surrounding the diverse faculties. There is a central road on campus with trees lining its path. Students hurrying to arrive early to class (lateness is extremely frowned upon), bikes flying passed and even tourists come to take photos of the university’s beauty.

I am living in an all-women’s dormitory purely for international students. We have all bonded nicely with our common interest of Japan. I am lucky to be able to create my own little nest within 11m2 with the luxury of a bathroom and small kitchenette. However, food on campus seems to be cheaper than going grocery shopping. There are four cafeterias, all with similar dishes, udon and soba noodles, ramen, rice but the efficiency in which they serve students is astonishing.

I am part of the HUSTEP (Hokkaido University Short Term Exchange Program) and one of 1,600 international students who study here. So far I have met students from: America, Poland, Tajikistan, France, Sweden, Germany, Holland, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, UK, Nigeria, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, Kazakstan and a few from Australia. As part of HUSTEP there are a large variety of classes, from science to politics, anthropology and engineering, all conveniently taught in English. There is also the option to take Japanese language classes alongside your studies. I am undertaking civil engineering subjects where the lessons are taught more than 50% in English. However so far, 99% of the students in my classes are Japanese so the teacher tends to speak in basic English and then translates what he’s said into Japanese. For engineering classes, there are two lectures per week and female presence in the class room is scarce. So you can imagine that I’m the only blonde, Australian girl in a sea of Japanese boys.

Sapporo is the largest city of Hokkaido, large animated TV screens light up the city streets however unlike any other city, its streets are wide and less claustrophobic. The mountains are nearby and the countdown till the snow starts to fall is on.

Raine Jackson
Bachelor of Engineering / Bachelor of Science
Hokkaido University

Australian Government New Colombo Plan Mobility Grant recipient.

For more information about the UTS Global Exchange program please visit:

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