Even before starting at UoA, I knew I wanted to go on exchange to Japan. I’d been to Japan before in high school, but arriving in Tokyo, surrounded by its tall buildings and crowds of people felt like a whole new world. Despite some less than ideal complications in the latter half of my exchange, studying abroad at Sophia University in Tokyo, Japan was one of the best, most fulfilling experiences of my life.
At the beginning, I was super scared about living away from home, without my friends and family, but I quickly got over my fears as everyone I met was so friendly and helpful, it took no time at all to feel at home. I was lucky enough to live in a dorm in the middle of central Tokyo, with my commute to university taking just 10 minutes. It was built just that year so it was very new and clean with many facilities such as a theatre room, study room, and rooftop terrace, along with having an amazing student community with frequent events that made it so easy to make friends. The dorm had both Japanese students and other exchange students, so I was able to meet others from many different cultures from all over the world.
The Sophia University campus was relatively small landscape wise, but many buildings were built upwards, and it was so nice being able to experience a campus with everything in one space, different to UoA’s spread out one. In Autumn, there were trees with beautiful yellow and orange foliage, and in Spring the cherry blossoms lined the streets around campus. Cost of living in Tokyo is definitely more expensive than Auckland. Food-wise, meals could be bought quite cheaply from restaurants or convenience stores, but accommodation costs especially in the centre of Tokyo are not cheap. Being in such close proximity to other places, I was also able to travel to different cities around Japan such as Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe with friends, along with international travel to nearby countries such as South Korea and Taiwan.
Over my year abroad, I became so much more confident, independent, and open, and I’ve now realised that travelling, meeting new people, and experiencing different cultures is something super important to me. Through my experiences over the past year, I definitely grew so much as a person and would not trade this experience for anything.