Back in 2011 August, I went for a student exchange program to Japan for half a year. Does the year sound familiar to you? I guess it’s the year that many won’t forget. To be exact, 11 March 2011 is the date that people won’t forget. It was when the mega earthquake struck the Pacific coast of Tōhoku, causing tsunami to wipe out Fukushima and destroying nuclear plants. As the result, there was a serious nuclear leak and people had to be evacuated from the area. There was a lot of fear during that time. People were afraid to go to Japan.
But a few months after this tragedy, I was given an opportunity to go for an exchange program in Osaka for half a year. I was in dilemma. At one hand, I really wanted to experience the Japanese local culture and explore the beautiful country. On the other hand, I was afraid of the effect of the nuclear contamination.
After thinking through, I decided to grab this opportunity. I have to admit, I’m an opportunist. ;p And I’m glad that I made the decision. Over there, I met the best home-stay local family; I improved my Japanese skills at the rate people can’t imagine; I fully immersed myself in the local culture, not to mention I almost explored the whole Japan. Every moment, I was having an adventure and enjoying myself.
If you are a fan of Japanese culture, I strongly encourage you to go for an exchange programme during your university. This article will give you some Japanese exchange student tips and highlight things you must do during your exchange.
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Best of Student Exchange Program to Japan – Find A Home-Stay Family
Rather than staying in dormitory and mingle with the rest of international students, I highly recommend you to find a home-stay family instead. Almost all university exchange programs now have this kind of service. They will compare your preference with the host’s preference, helping both parties to find the perfect match.
Although home-stay is a little more expensive than living in dormitory, it allows you to fully immerse yourself in the local culture. What’s more, you get to practice speaking Japanese even after school. It’ll be impossible not to improve your conversation skills if you get to speak to the locals every day.
I was extremely happy to be able to meet and stay with my home-stay family during the exchange. This old couple have no children, but they have 4 lovely dogs. They are the kindest hosts on earth and I actually called them “Okaasan/mother” and “Otousan/father”. J Personally, I actually learnt a lot of things from my host than from the school. We also fostered such a strong bond that all of us were in tears when we had to say good bye after 6 months.
If you wondering whether you can be equally lucky to find a good host, I can assure you that almost all students were very happy with their home stay families when I asked them about their experience. Take a leap of faith and you’ll be amazed!
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Best of Student Exchange Program to Japan – Make Friends With the Japanese
Apart from mingling with your home-stay family, it’s very fun to make friends with people from different nationalities. All your classmates are international students and it’s just interesting to interact with people from different cultures. But sadly, most of time students speak in English among themselves, so it’s not very conducive if you want to practice speaking Japanese. That’s why it’s important to make friends with the locals too!
Your exchange program will likely to pair you up with a Japanese local student, who will welcome you and guide you around the campus during the start of the semester. Grab this chance to get to know each other. My Japanese buddy and I became so close that we even went for hiking together after a few meet up!
If you can commit yourself to Extra Curriculum Activities, go ahead! There’s no better way to mingle with the local students than joining their clubs!
Best of Student Exchange Program to Japan – Watch Baseball Match & Sumo
When you are in Japan, try to do what the locals do. One sport is extremely popular among the locals – baseball. The Japanese called it “Yakyu/野球” (やきゅう). Although I’m not a fan of baseball, I still decided to catch it live in Osaka just to get an experience.
I had no idea about the rules or whatsoever, but I totally enjoyed myself throughout the game! The locals were so high and supportive towards their teams. Their cheers were so loud that it echoed the whole stadium. It was like a concert more than a baseball match!
Apart from baseball match, you can also go check out Sumo, a Japanese style of wrestling. I couldn’t catch it as the match wasn’t held in Osaka during that time. But I strongly encourage you to go experience it if you have the chance!
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Best of Student Exchange Program to Japan – Attend Festivals
What better ways to experience the Japanese culture than to attending their festivals? Every now and then, the school will hold different kinds of festivals for celebrations. In the community, they also have festive parades during certain time of the year. You really don’t want to miss them! Check out the list of festivals that Japan holds in 2017.
Best of Student Exchange Program to Japan – Travel Around Japan
Since you are already in Japan, why not spend your holiday travelling around the country? You’ll definitely have close to 1 month’s holiday to travel around. There are so many beautiful places to explore in Japan. Personally I highly recommend Kyushu, Hokkaido, Hakuba, Kyoto and Tykyo.
During weekends, if you can’t travel far, you can also explore nearby places around your neighborhood. Everyday can be an adventure if you choose it to be!
Over the next few weeks, I will be sharing about my journey in Japan and introduce the places that are truly amazing. Stay tuned for more!
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