Mark Avery is a third-year Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) student and a recipient of the The New Colombo Plan Scholarship, currently on a year’s exchange to Waseda University, Tokyo, Japan. As part of the scholarship, 22-year-old Mark will also participate in a month-long language program and complete a six-month internship at Mitsubishi. He is pictured above, far left, on a winter holiday in Sapporo.
Why study in Japan?
The reason I wanted to study in Japan is because it is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world. Waseda is highly rated in engineering so I am excited to see what I can gain from this opportunity, and I personally find the culture very interesting.
How are you going studying the language?
I have to try to learn as much Japanese as I can before I begin studying engineering subjects. First up, I am learning Katakana and Hiragana so I can understand some basic writing and signs, and can communicate with Japanese students and people in the community.
What are the three best things about your host uni?
Firstly, the campus is really nice. When the flowers and cherry blossoms started to bloom in spring, the campus is really attractive. Even in winter, when I first visited the uni, it was still very beautiful.
Secondly, the university societies and clubs here are very active. They hold events that can often go for two or three days and they also arrange student trips on the weekends during semester.
That said, there is plenty of time to pursue passions outside of university. Classes are scheduled here so you can maintain a good work and life balance. And as the uni is in a great location in Tokyo, there is always something to see or do between or after class.
What are the three best things about your host country experience?
Food has to top this list: You can never go wrong, everything just tastes great! Even the university cafeteria has a wide selection of food that is good and affordable. It changes often to make sure you don’t get bored with the options.
The people I meet are amazing. Everyone is incredible helpful – if you are ever confused or lost, there will always be someone willing to help you.
The culture is also pretty special. Japan has a very deep and rich cultural heritage, which I am learning about through day-to-day life in Japan and by visiting cultural and historical sites, such as shrines, palaces, temples, gardens and castles.
How does student life differ in your host country as opposed to student life at Macquarie?
At the moment, while I study the language, it feels as if I have a lot of time to do activities outside of classroom. It is not uncommon for many students in my class to spend the whole week together, going home late at night to study. I think it is great as it gives you a lot of time to form good friendships with your classmates. As a result, the class environment improves as everyone gets to know each other really quickly.
Since progressing from the language school to the university classes, I’ve met more students and have found they like to meet up and go out together, outside of university. Most people I met at Macquarie lived quite far away from each other and the only way to hang out with them was to drive or take a bus for a long time. Since everything in Tokyo is quite compact and it’s easy to get around by subway, it usually doesn’t take long for everyone to get together on the weekend to do things.
Name a surprising and positive reflection of your time on exchange?
One of the most positive experiences of being on exchange so far is meeting so many new and interesting people. As the language training was mainly undertaken by foreigners, it was easy to form quick friendships and learn about everyone and where they came from. But once I started studying engineering subjects, I was lucky to start making more Japanese friends. In any case, you usually spend a lot of time with the people you meet and, as a result, end up staying in contact even after your classes or internships together end. It’s nice to know that even though I’ve only been here just a few months, I’ve met and made so many new friends.
During my time on exchange, I think I have learnt a lot about myself: what I appreciate about Japan but what I also miss from Australia. It makes me remember a lot of the things I take for granted in Australia, that are less common in Tokyo, such as beaches, nature and stars.
How can exchange benefit students in general but those in your faculty in particular?
I think exchange can be highly beneficial to all students to learn more about themselves and widen their perspectives on other cultures and beliefs. For those in my faculty, I think exchange can be an even greater benefit when working on a thesis. Some overseas universities allow research using facilities and technologies that are not available at Macquarie or the students’ respective home university.
One of the things I have found really beneficial on exchange is being able to make new friends. I have already created many lifelong friends and plan to meet up with them in the future since we had so much fun together in Japan.
Can you suggest a few tips to students who are planning to apply for an exchange?
Since your choice of country will have a significant impact on the steps you need to take for obtaining the correct documents and for budgeting purposes, students should start to plan as early as possible where they would like to go. For Japan, I suggest you stay on top of your communication with your host university. The universities in Japan are usually very quick to respond to your emails and as a result expect the same in return. I would also recommend following their instructions precisely as they can be quite strict on making sure things are done a specific way.
Macquarie University has over 150 exchange partner universities worldwide. Applications for January Semester 1, 2019 are open. For more information on learning abroad, visit our website here, attend an information session or contact us at email@example.com.