My one year study abroad in Japan, Nara, Nara University of Education (Kaja Mlakar)

I got to go to Japan with the MEXT one year undergraduate scholarship. It gives you the chance to study in Japan for a year at a university of your choice, plus you get a plane ticket to and from Japan and a monthly scholarship. Basically it is the perfect package. Writing my thoughts and impressions about my one year stay in Japan is way harder than what I first imagined. A year may not seem like a long period of time, and it did pass with lightning speed but when one tries to summarize it you realize just how many things happened in one year. A lot of ups and downs, new experiences, new people, new feelings. Everything is new.

The most logical thing to start off with would be to tell you a little bit about the university that I attended for a year. It’s a small university with about 2000 students all together, so when compared let’s say for example with Tsukuba university, it is really really tiny. The campus is not all that huge as well, but it has a really lovely feel to it. It is a wonderful place. Our teachers were really nice, and were on really good terms with all of the exchange students. There were only about 30 of us but really I found that a small number was a really good thing. All of us got on very well and were really good friends by the end of the one year study. The classes were nice as well, we had our compulsory subjects, where we learned various things about Japan (culture, religion) and studied Japanese. But we could also choose subjects that were originally meant for Japanese students, but if our Japanese was sufficient, one could with no problem join all kinds of classes. From Korean and Chinese, literature to biology. They have a built a good program for exchange students that gives a lot of options. All of the exchange students stayed in dorms. You had your own room that came with a toilet room. The kitchen, showers and laundry machines were used together. We had a lot of excursions organized and got to see and study a lot of things about Japan. But in the end the thing that helps you most with your studies is just being in Japan, getting to know the culture and the every day life. Our university allowed the exchange students to join club activities (I have heard that that is not possible at all universities). And joining a club is a very good opportunity to talk with and get to know Japanese people. They do tend to be a bit shy so creating opportunities by yourself is the way to go. I have joined the japanese archery club and it was one of the best experiences of my life. I made a lot of good friends (Japanese and exchange students) and fell in love with japanese archery. We had practice three times a week, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Mondays and Wednesday usually for about 4 hours and on Saturdays from 8.00am to 6.00pm or even longer. But in the end I ended up coming to the dojo everyday, either to practice, eat lunch with everyone or just when I felt a bit lonely. It became a great part of my life while living in Japan and I can say it was amazing. It was a gateway into the actual Japanese culture, and everyday I learned something new. Either be it new words or a new part of the senpai-kohai relationship. We also got the chance to go to a lot of matches which meant meeting new people from other universities in Japan. In the end I even got to play in the 全日which is the biggest »match« in which all of the universities in Japan show their skill in kyudo.

In the end this one year shall remain in my mind as one of the best years of my life forever. It did feel lonely at times and I felt a bit homesick, but I think everyone does, it’s a natural part of being away from your family and friends. But it goes away quickly, it never lingers around for too long. I would recommend the program to everyone because it seriously is such a great experience that can’t be replaced by anything. Even if it’s for a month or two or if it’s for a year, take the chance if you have it, because I guarantee you that you will not regret going.

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