Cheuk Him Jonathan Wong

Date: SP2, 2017
Degree Program: Bachelor of Arts (Writing and Communication)
Host University: Kwansei Gakuin University
Host Country: Japan

Why did you choose your host university?

I have decided on this university as my first choice because my friends in the Japanese class in UniSA went to the same university as exchange students beforehand, and they loved it very much, recommending it to me as one of the best experiences they have had in Japan. I also wanted to learn more about Japanese culture and after browsing through their enrolment pamphlets and curriculum guide, I saw it to be a great place to further my studies for my degree.

What was the university like?

The university was quite big, for starters. The campus that I went to spanned across the waist of the mountain, with more than 30 buildings built around roads. Because of that they have a wide variety of classes available for both local and exchange students. They are quite strict with the Japanese language level and would allocate the exchange students to different classes based on their scores taken during the entrance exam, but they also have a complete English track focusing on Japanese culture, language, business, lifestyle and theatrical arts for the students who does not have no experience in Japanese language and culture.

Class sizes varies depending on the popularity of the classes, and can range from 13 to 50 students. The resources available for students are quite rich, with a three storeys library, multiple canteens, in campus convenience store and bookstores, along with a lot of restaurants and rest areas (such as a large front lawn for students to relax at) provided for students. IT services are moderate at best, with their school IT website built mainly for Japanese; the interface is very complicated and even with the translation module changed for English, it still did not translate the key components of the website. This made the IT experience for exchange students without Japanese knowledge undesirable.

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

Jonathon WongI have gained a lot of interpersonal and social skills mainly through interacting and getting to know new friends, both from the locals and international students. It is a very rewarding experience as you can really get to understand how different people with vastly different cultures tell their side of their adventures and stories back to you, opening my eyes to a whole new world that I have yet to see. The exchange student group is also very friendly and helpful, quick to make friends and giving you a helping hand through the many troubles and issues a foreigner might face in Japan, which could be haunting for newcomers.

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

The university has provided either a home-stay or dormitory options for exchange students in terms of accommodation, but you can also find your own accommodation around the area if you wish. The dormitories’ qualities are quite mixed, with some of the dorms aged past their prime and some newly renovated, with dorm rules and prices varying from building to building. The Dormitory can be a very great experience to bond with the many exchange students from all over the world, travelling with them and generally having a great blast in the exchange.

Meanwhile home-stay option would be a great opportunity to understand and experience Japanese local lifestyle personally, with the host parents taking care of you and speaking to you in mostly Japanese. It is a very good way in training your Japanese language and improving the linguistics. Generally, the home-stay is more expensive in first glance compared with dormitory, but as there are no meals supplied in the dormitory and the utility bills are paid separately each month, the dormitory cost could go up quite a lot and possibly surpassing home-stay.

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

For my travels I had stayed exclusively in the country and did not venture to neighbouring countries, but I’ve realized that Japan has so much to offer in every different prefecture (similar to states), some having a radically different culture to their neighbours. I have travelled practically around Japan, and went specifically to the local countryside, communicating with the very friendly locals and tasting their incredibly fresh organic food and cuisine, losing myself in the middle of the green rice patties, and experiencing something that I would not normally experience if I had only stayed around the major cities.

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

I had travelled multiple times to Japan before, so I have a clear vision on Japanese life and did not have much trouble settling into the life in a different country. But I can see the difficulty of my friends when they have to navigate through an English-less world, with little to no way of communicating properly to the locals on a simple matter like asking the way to the nearest station. Although Japan is a very advanced country with many convenient and simple interface for foreigners to easily complete such tasks, but their people are still a bit foreign to other languages, making it a bit hard for exchange students from Europe, Australia and America with little knowledge on Japanese culture.

During the trips I have not only met and made friends from people in the university, dormitory or host university organized events, but also people in the streets, in Japanese hot springs, or a bar. Many Japanese people are incredibly friendly and easy to talk to (with Japanese language knowledge).

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

I can definitely see myself benefiting a lot from this exchange, and I would say my biggest benefit would be that I had got to know so many friends from both Japan or other countries all at the same time, travelling and exploring new places with them, and making my life so much richer with the connections. They would definitely be a great boon for my future career, with their life stories and experiences permeating into my life compendium, enhancing my writing skills, knowledges and ideas.

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

I know that exchange can be a big decision to make during the degree, and staying away from home for such a long time can be very scary, especially without complete knowledge of the destination. But I can say that the exchange program is 100% worth the trip, as you would learn so much more than at home, meeting and understanding the people that you might or will never meet in your lifetime if you did not go, or maybe you can even proudly show to your friends that you braved the foreign depths and came back as an exchange student, stuffed to the brim with foreign knowledge and happy memories your friends would be jealous of.

I cannot give more advice more than that, because each person would have their very own unique exchange program experience in this expansive world.

Top Tips:
Your exchange student buddies in your destination are some of your best help you will ever get in the exchange.

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