Avelyne Tran Study Exchange to Aichi Gakusen in Japan, Summer 2017
I was very fortunate to be accepted for this scholarship and I left for Japan in late April, immediately after the spring semester had ended. There was a lot to prepare before study abroad:
- Planning forms
- Pre-departure documents
- Visa Application
- Homestay Application
- Progress reports
On arrival, Aichi Gakusen arranged for us to stay one night in separate rooms at a hotel near the Nagoya airport. The following morning, we were picked up by a representative from the campus to meet the study abroad assistants, attend an orientation at the Okazaki campus, and meet our homestay families.
There weren’t many homestays available in the same area as the school campus, so the study exchange committee found the best one in a neighbouring city. I think because I had an incredible homestay I didn’t suffer homesickness or culture shock. Communications were relatively smooth despite a few awkward hiccups and some funny body gestures!
Commuting from the homestay to school took approximately 35 minutes. It consisted of walking to the station, a five-minute train ride, and either a 20-minute walk during cooler days or a bus ride from the station with a classmate for hot days. The trains and bus were incredibly comfortable and air conditioned.
Upon acceptance for the exchange, students are required to take a Japanese 100 course before leaving for Japan.
The courses required to take during the study abroad were:
- Social Science 349 (online)
- Japanese Grammar
- Conversational Japanese
- Japanese Composition
- Cultural History of Japan
- Modern Japanese Society
- Aspects of Contemporary Japan
For extracurricular I took a Tea Ceremony class (recommended for extended cultural understanding without needing to worry about communication.)
Each class is nearly an hour and a half, two classes a day from Monday to Thursday typically starting from 10am. I never had to leave for class during peak hours, so I didn’t have to worry about crowded trains to and from school. There are only three students and the teacher, so the classroom can feel quiet when one of us is late or calls in sick.
The instructors for our classes are fluent in English, and since our Japanese proficiency was still basic, we would mostly converse in English. We didn’t get much homework, but were encouraged to explore Japan and try to speak Japanese as often as possible. Our teachers would even take us out on field trips!
I did a lot of travelling, shopping, and eating outside of class hours. I tried not keep up my creative practices so I would make drawings for my Japanese friends and host family, and even attended some fun workshops.
I returned to Vancouver on August 1st several pounds heavier, 3 shades darker, but incredibly refreshed. Ever since, I've carried around a piece of Japan with me (literally) to remind me of this unique experience.
For more on Avelyne, see: avelynetran.com