My life-changing encounters and experiences in Australia

■Name: Haruki Watai
■Department: Faculty of Foreign Studies, Department of English
■Study Abroad Period: e.g., March 2022 - December 2022
■Study abroad destination: Griffith University, Australia
■Form of study abroad: Exchange program

Every year, many Sophia University students study abroad in countries all over the world outside of Japan. How did they manage to find their way through the differences in languages, cultures, and lifestyles? Here are some voices of students who studied abroad.

-Why did you decide to study abroad in Australia?

I had no study abroad experience when I joined the university, and I was eager to try it while I was still in the university. I had visited Australia several times before on vacation and for home stays, and I chose Brisbane because I was familiar with the area. As for the place, I picked a highly selective university that was tough to get in.

-How did you prepare for your study abroad?

Before studying abroad, I had many concerns such as whether I would be able to make friends or my English was good enough, or other small things like would I be able to open a bank account, and so on. What I did prior to my departure was not only to practice my English, but also to do a bit of research as to what overseas bank transfer services are convenient. However, I should have researched more carefully about part-time jobs available for me in the area. Although I did not end up working, I wish I had the option to be working overseas as a special experience.

-How was the atmosphere on campus and the mood among fellow students at your host university?

Griffith University is nestled in the middle of a forest and has a very serene atmosphere surrounded by nature. I was surprised to see snakes and wild koalas living on campus. Personally, I think that Australia has a much less segregated environment in terms of race and background compared to other English-speaking countries. Even on campus, students from various backgrounds worked together to establish a community.

-How did you manage to expand your circle of friends?

I participated in a local Language Exchange club event (top row, second from the left).

I initially approached my classmates to get to know them better. I also participated in the university’s clubs and organizations to expand my contacts. Overall, I tried to explore different communities and create more opportunities to interact with local people. In doing so, I was able to develop deeper relationships with a diverse range of people, and as a result, my horizons broadened.

-How did your studies there compare to what you were used to in Japan?

While there, I also took business and marketing related courses in addition to the linguistics courses I had taken at Sophia University. The classes were extremely interactive, and I feel that the grading system was more rigorous in many of the classes than it was at Sophia. The content of the classes could be in-depth depending on the students’ motivation, and many of the students were very intellectually inquisitive.

-How do you think the experience of studying abroad will benefit your life in the future?

Invited to my partner's family Christmas party (left)

I initially thought I was familiar with certain environment, but after living in Australia for a little less than a year, I could see many new aspects, and I felt that it would take more time to adjust if went abroad with a preconceived idea of what to expect. In the future, I would like to work in Australia, so I am preparing to obtain a permanent residence visa. Since there is a possibility that I may not be hired if I do not have the necessary qualifications to find a job, I plan to join my current internship company as a full-time employee, work there for a year or two, and then move to Australia. This outlook was only made possible thanks to the encounters and experiences I had there, and I felt that it is a privilege to study abroad to be able to reassess Japan from outside of the country.

-Do you have any advice for those who are wondering whether to go study abroad or not?

I know there are many concerns about finances, living conditions, etc., but if you have a chance for studying abroad while you are still a student (especially in Japan), I think it is best to give it a try. If you are wondering about it, please do decide to go.

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