Below are my answers to the final section of UWA’s online student exchange application form, which asks students to ‘reflect’ by answering questions about their chosen host university, its location and some general questions aimed at gauging how well prepared, and I guess suitable, they are for the exchange experience. I have aimed to put up complete answers for as many questions as possible, however due to different degrees of personal information required for a number of them, some answers have been left incomplete. I intend for these sets of answers to act as a guide to students who may be filling out their own application for exchange, in terms of providing tips about structure, potential ideas/content to include in their own answers etc.

My first preference for host university in Japan is Kansai Gaidai located in Hirakata, Osaka, so where relevant, questions have been answered in the context of myself possibly attending such university for Semester One, 2011. My advice for anyone filling out questions similar to the ones below would be to be honest, research as much as possible about your choice of host university, leave plenty of time to complete the form (so then you aren’t stressed and can complete different sections over a period of days, weeks etc.) and lastly, just do your best to give the impression that you are prepared for the challenges that you will be faced with during the exchange experience. While this part of the application may seem long and torturous at the time, really it is tiny when compared to the rest of the exchange experience as a whole, so just push through, try not to stress about it, and you will definitely thank yourself for it later :) .

Step ONE 
   * Technically not part of the self-reflection worksheet, however these questions do appear in the first section of the online application on UWA’s HERMES.

Why have you selected your first preference?

The university lies in an ideal situation, geographically advantageous being only just over half an hour via train to central Osaka (the second largest business metropolis behind Tokyo) and Kyoto which is synonymous with “Japan’s rich tradition.” It is considered to be located in the “cultural heart” of Japan, which I believe will give me a better insight into Japan’s rich culture and traditions rather than a University located in say Tokyo, which is considered to be more westernized than the rest of Japan. The University could be considered to be in a prime location for people wishing to travel around Japan, as it is almost centre to some of Japan’s main attractions; for example, it is almost halfway between Hiroshima and Tokyo. In addition to this, I know a number of people and families living near this area, who I believe could help me greatly in making the most of my exchange.

Besides its prime location, Kansai Gaidai University has a very good reputation amongst UWA students, which is what encouraged me to research the institution in the first place. When you hear exchange to Japan being talked about at UWA, Kansai Gaidai seems to always be noted in a positive manner. After my research of the institution, my impression is that Kansai Gaidai has the best exchange program available for overseas students out of all the major Universities in Japan; “best” in the sense that it appears to be well established, and that it seems to be at the core of the University’s construction and development. With that said, the variety of classes for exchange students is very extensive, and appear to be all taught in English – which is beneficial for me, as I don’t feel as if my Japanese is at a high enough standard yet to effectively learn and demonstrate learning in the language. Although, if a situation arose where I had to learn in Japanese, I would certainly try my best. The classes on offer to exchange students at Kansai Gaidai directly parallel my Asian Studies degree at UWA; as in most of Kansai Gaidai’s Asian Studies units easily translate into credit towards my UWA Asian Studies degree.

Kansai Gaidai would not only give me an opportunity to explore my interest in Japan, but also provides me with an opportunity to meet and interact with people from all over the world – Kansai Gaidai has one of the largest international programs out of any University in Japan, with over 300 affiliations with other Universities from over 50 different countries.

What non-academic interests do you enjoy (eg. hobbies, sporting groups, clubs)?

Besides studying Japanese, learning about the nation’s culture and consuming aspects of its popular culture, such as music, movies and TV dramas, I enjoy going out with friends, travelling (locally and internationally) and keeping up to date with the latest in consumer electronics/technology, Australian and international politics and general national and international current affairs; all of which I have a keen interest in. I have fostered these interests by joining and partaking in activities of clubs on campus, such as the Young Liberals, ECOMS (Economics and Commerce Society), Asia Club and JAPSSOC (Japanese Studies Society). In regards to sporting interests, I enjoy playing any sport casually with friends & family,and have played volleyball competitively in the past. I love being outdoors and “exploring” nature, whether it be going to the beach with friends or going on a camping trip. Throughout high school and during my University life, I have done many forms of charity work, such volunteering at a wildlife rescue centre, and supporting larger charity organisations like Oxfam and Make Poverty History, which has led me to volunteer at functions such as an Indigenous music award ceremony and the Walk Against Want. With that said, I enjoy giving back to the community, which also includes actively supporting various wildlife and environment conservation organisations.

Have you been on any exchange program in the past?

Yes, I have done a short, two week exchange to Japan when I was in year 11 of High School. The exchange was organised by my high school for all students studying Japanese in year 11 at the time (the program runs annually). Each student stayed with 3 different Japanese host families throughout the 2 weeks, located in Ako, Aioi and Nagasaki. During such time I attended two different high schools, participated in classes and got to know many of the students. Besides attending high school and experiencing home stay, the exchange program also included travel throughout the bottom half of Japan, exploring areas such as Hiroshima and Kyoto.

Are you in the process of applying for another student exchange program or other cross-institutional enrolment?

No, this is the only student exchange program I am currently applying for.

Have you ever travelled overseas? If so, where and for how long?

Yes, I have travelled overseas many times, in particular Asia. I have travelled to Bali, Indonesia several times with family members for up to 3 weeks each time. My father lives in **********, Indonesia so I have also stayed at his home for 2 weeks and in such time also travelled to other areas nearby. I have also travelled to Malaysia twice for up to a week each time, staying in Kuala Lumpur and also travelling to other areas such as Melaka. When I was in Year 11 of High School, I went to Japan for two weeks on a short exchange where I stayed with 3 different host families (in Ako, Aioi and Nagasaki) and travelled around the bottom half of the country. My latest travel overseas has been to Singapore for 2 weeks and Los Angeles, California, in the United States also for two weeks.

Self-Reflection Worksheet

1. Why have you chosen the country you have nominated?

I have chosen Japan for exchange not only because I am interested in the nation’s language, culture, popular culture etc., but also because the country is becoming increasingly significant in regards to Australia’s political and economic landscape. The latter reason relates directly to my university degrees: Bachelor of Arts (Asian Studies)/Bachelor of Commerce. With that said, I believe going to Japan will not only foster my interests on a personal level, but also enhance my university studies and my perception of the world.

I have been studying the Japanese language since year 8 of High School, and since then I have been on a short exchange to Japan, made many Japanese friends and links with a number of Japanese families, and have become interested in many other aspects of Japan such as its technological outputs, products of its popular culture such as music, dramas and movies, current affairs within the nation and its rapidly changing culture in reaction to globalisation.  With that said, I feel as if doing a semester of exchange in the country is almost a natural progression for me, as it will throw me right into the midst of the country where I will be able foster my interests first hand, hopefully rapidly develop my Japanese language ability, and reconnect with friends/families while also, of course, establishing new relationships too, which may benefit myself and my career in the future. Overall, even though I have researched many other exchange possibilities, I really cannot find an exchange location that is more applicable to my life now, and also my life in the future. In addition to this, rather than going on exchange to an English speaking country like the US, I believe providing myself with the extra challenge of learning and communicating in a foreign language will ultimately make me a stronger, more flexible person in the end.

2. Write a short paragraph about the town in which your university is located, including information on lifestyle, population, proximity to other cities, and climate.Kansai Gaidai University is located within the city of Hirakata, in north-eastern Osaka (prefecture), Japan. The population of Hirakata, as of the 1st of January 2010, is estimated to be 411,777 people, with about 16000 of them attending one of the 6 universities in the city, giving Hirakata the label of a “University city”. The city is most famous for its chrysanthemum doll exhibition, as well as Hirakata Park – an amusement style park which includes a number of roller coasters and other attractions that change based on the season. Other notable features of the city appear to be its temples, beautiful mountains and temples, rivers and cherry blossom tree locations which residents flock to during the cherry blossom season. The lifestyle of Hirakata residents seems to have a focus on both city lifestyle and culture, reflective of the prefecture it resides within (Osaka) which has an economic turnover amount second only to Tokyo (the nation’s capital), but at the same time is said to be the “cultural heart of Japan”. The latter title could be attributed to the city’s close proximity to traditional centres of Japan such as Kyoto and Nara, both of which reside on the border of Osaka. The city’s time zone is UTC+9, Japan Standard Time, which is only one hour difference to the local time of Perth. The area has a humid subtropical climate, with four distinct seasons (Winter, Spring, Fall & Summer). During the exchange period I am applying for it will be Spring in the region, which usually starts off being mild but ends up being hot and humid. It can also be the area’s wettest season, with May said to be the wettest month of the year. Lastly, Hirakata city is connected to the rest of Japan through the nation’s extensive train network, with bus services also available to travel locally and even far across the country. With that said, many of the nation’s cities could be considered “close” in proximity, in the sense they are easy to get to. The most notable city close in physical proximity to Hirakata is the city of Osaka.

3. Are you aware of any laws, customs which are different to those that are here in Perth eg. legal drinking age?

Perhaps the most significant difference between Perth and Japan in terms of laws and customs that I am sure will affect many exchange students is the age at which people are defined as adults. In Australia, teenagers become adults, by law and custom, at the age of 18, whereas in Japan teenagers become adults at the age of 20. With that said, exchange students who are not yet 20 years old doing exchange in Japan from Australia will have to get used to “not” being classed as an adult again. Like Australia, Japan’s legal system gives more “rights” to its people when they become legal adults. For example, the legal age at which people are allowed to vote, drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, sign significant contracts and get married is 20 years old in Japan. In contrast, all of which are allowed, through custom and law, at 18 years of age in Australia. The minimum age at which a driver’s license can be obtained is also higher than in Perth, at 18 years old.

In contrast to Perth, Japan has almost a “system” of respect that people are taught from a young age, which dictates how you talk and act towards people you know, don’t know and have closer relationships with. For example, people older than yourself, especially the elderly, are held in a high regard, and thus a respectful way of speaking would likely be used when addressing them, and even bowing is considered customary when wishing to show respect. The same can apply to when speaking to those with higher positions than yourself in society, such as a teacher or doctor, or when simply just asking a favour from someone. Nonetheless, this system of respect is much more strict than any such system we have in Australia, and appears to be crucial to “learn” if the nation’s language is to be mastered and to be fully accepted by Japanese people (although, foreigners are said to be exempt from the seriousness of the system due to the assumption that many foreigners don’t know/recognize it).

Other difference in customs includes table manners, where in Japan slurping and raising a bowl to your face is considered to be ok, tipping (eg. in a taxi or at a restaurant) never happens and can be considered insulting, chopsticks are used for eating in most cases rather than knives and forks, taking off shoes before entering a house/building is essential and medical masks are often worn in public by people who are sick/ill (eg. with a cold). In addition to this, Japanese society is largely focussed on the group, rather than the individual (in contrast to Australia’s society). This means that people avoid doing things that will be a nuisance to others or a disturbance to the group and its efficiency. For example, it would be considered rude to talk loudly on a mobile phone in what would otherwise be a quiet train, being loud in residential areas at night time and apparently blowing your nose in public, or at least in a group of people, is considered quite rude.

Although their appears to be quite a lot of difference in customs, and laws, between Japan and Perth/Australia, it should be relatively easy for any exchange student to not deliberately “violate” any of the above if care is taken and a willingness to learn and adapt to such changes is expressed.

4. How do you think you will be received as an Australian Student/International Student visiting that particular country?

From what I can gather from personal experience in the country, with Japanese people and research done via other mediums such as the Internet, the stereotype of Australian people in Japan appears to be a positive one, which will hopefully aid in my reception amongst Japanese people at least in the short term. The relationship between Australia and Japan is an increasingly strong one, with Japan consuming a fifth of our nation’s exports, and Australia consuming many of the technologies and other products coming out of Japan. With that said, and the fact that Japanese people make up an increasingly distinctive part of the Australian tourism market, I believe the positive relations between the two countries can only positively aid in the reception of any Australian person in Japan, even if only on a face/surface level.

Australian stereotypes aside, as an International Student I believe I will be received fairly well. But I believe this reception will be largely dependent on my willingness to learn and fit in, rather than constantly trying to do things the “Australian way”. With that said, I am definitely willing to learn and fit in to a comfortable extent, as I believe that is a significant part of the exchange experience. I have not discovered any prevalent, negative attitudes towards International Students in the country, however as my first preference of exchange location is one with perhaps the highest amount of exchange students in Japan, I could understand if local people became a little frustrated at foreigners doing things out of character (perhaps negatively) in regards to Japan’s customs and way of life. To overcome this frustration/attitude, if it exists, all I believe I could really do is try and be sensitive to such things, and do all I can to represent exchange students in a positive manner; for example being kind, positive, adaptable to change etc.

Overall, I believe I will be received as an exchange student well if I remain positive, open for trying new things and adapting to change, outgoing and in general express myself as a good character. 

5. How do you expect living in the city/town you will be going to, will compare to living in Perth?I expect living in the city of Hirakata will be similar in many ways to living in Perth, in the sense that my day will largely consist of the same kind of routine (catching bus/train to go to university, then do same to come home) however the new environment will make such similarities seem quite different, if not new; not to mention living with a completely new family (homestay) and having to find new things to do on weekends/holidays. In terms of the city-style of lifestyle I expect to be living in Hirakata, I expect it to be quite different to my current lifestyle, as I do not actually live in the city of Perth, but rather in a rural-residential area south of the city. I expect having shops, houses and other buildings close together rather than spread out will be quite strange at first, as I am quite used to having my house and large backyard quite a distance away from commercial districts. With that said, the population density of Hirakata city is 6,327 people per square km, while the population density of Perth is 310 people per square km, which means I will definitely have to get used to living closer to other people and moving around in more crowded places in day to day life. But as long as I don’t fall into the mindset of doing everything the “Australian way”, I feel as if I should be able to make the adjustment to living in Hirakata quite smoothly; one cannot expect things to be the same as Perth, even if I am following a similar routine in life, because Hirakata is not Perth.

Another major difference will be the language – to get around within and outside of Hirakata, I am going to have to rely largely on my Japanese speaking ability, which will be a challenging but interesting experience. I assume most signage and communication will be only in Japanese, and where English is available it will only be limited, so my Japanese studies will become a valuable asset during my exchange experience. At the same time, I have heard many stories of exchange students being approached by strangers who simply want to practice their English, so I look forward to being able to help out and “give back” in that regard, in addition to offering assistance to Japanese University students with their own English studies.

Public transport is used more frequently in Hirakata, and the rest of Japan, than private cars to get around, so I will have to get used to going without the “luxury” of being able to drive anywhere at any time, and thus learn to structure my activities around the public transport system. Bicycles are a popular form of transport in the area too, in contrast to Perth where bicycles are used more for fun than a serious transport option. Other “luxuries” offered in Perth that are not available in Hirakata, and elsewhere in Japan, include 24/7 ATM facilities and widespread “EFTPOS” like services, meaning I will have to manage my funds in cash efficiently, and also the ability for exchange students to have a part time job is quite rare, thus I will need to budget such funds carefully and be a little frugal with my spending.

Lastly, I believe it will be a little difficult at first to become “grounded” living in Hirakata in contrast to living in Perth where I remain “grounded” because of friends, family and familiarity of my surroundings. I may have to resist the urge to go and “explore” from time to time as if I am on an unconstrained holiday, and instead develop a solid routine from which I can then plan to do other things within the constraints set by my budget, University, host family etc. I believe “grounding” myself in this way as quickly as possible will result in a better exchange experience overall.

1. How does the size (campus and student enrolment) of the University you have chosen compare to UWA?

UWA is considerably larger than Kansai Gaidai in terms of campus size and student enrolment. While UWA is an older, public University, Kansai Gaidai is a newer private institution, which could account for this. UWA, established in 1911, has around 20,000 students on a campus of 65 hectares, while Kansai Gaidai, established in 1945, has up to 15,000 students on a 194,427 square metre plot of land – smaller than UWA’s, which could be due to Japan’s tendency to build upwards rather than spread buildings out across the land due to the lack of land available. While the amount of international/exchange students each year at UWA, up to 4000, is considerably higher than those at Kansai Gaidai, around 700, the amount at Kansai Gaidai is very high when compared to the rest of Japan’s Universities. In fact, Kansai Gaidai is affiliated with over 300 institutions in over 50 countries around the world, making it one of the greatest internationally-linked Universities in Japan. In terms of staff members, Kansai Gaidai has around 300 faculty members, and around 130 administrative staff, while UWA’s total number of staff is over 3000.

2. What do you know of the academic reputation of this university?

The Japanese Ministry of Education and Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, which is the sole accrediting agency in Japan, has fully accredited all of Kansai Gaidai’s academic offerings. The University of Miami states that “Kansai Gaidai is a private, non-profit institution that has earned an excellent reputation for high quality education in its relatively short history”; a reputation which echoes amongst students at UWA and around the world (whose’ experiences I have read about through blogs), who praise the University for its Asian Studies program for exchange students and the educational facilities that are provided. I believe this excellent reputation is evident through the University’s achievement of establishing over 300 partnerships with other educational institutions around the world in over 50 countries in order to deliver high quality inbound and outbound exchange programs.

3. What types of accommodation are available at the University you have applied to? What type of accommodation do you hope to stay in during exchange? Why?Kansai Gaidai offers three accommodation options for international students: Homestay, Dormitories and Off-Campus Housing. The Homestay Program is the University’s most recommended program, where international students are matched with host families upon arrival, whom they will live with for the duration of their exchange. This option is a little more expensive than the dormitory option, however a more true Japanese cultural experience is promised. Kansai Gaidai has four international student dormitories, all of which are called “Seminar Houses” and are located a short distance off campus. The majority of residents are international students, so a “cross cultural experience” is promised, however a problem regarding living in the dormitories I constantly hear is that English is almost always spoken, thus the potential to practise the Japanese language is more limited. The last option, off-campus housing, is considered to be the most expensive, and entails international students finding and making their own housing arrangements away from the University, such as in small apartments.


During my exchange, I hope to find accommodation through Kansai Gaidai’s homestay program, because I want to place myself in the best possible position to learn and practise the Japanese language and experience true Japanese life and culture first hand. I have stayed with three Japanese host families in the past, so I feel as if I would be able to adjust to this style of living arrangement quite smoothly.

4. Are there any housing problems associated with the university of your choice? If yes, how will you overcome these?

There are potential problems with each of the housing options offered by Kansai Gaidai. Firstly, if students choose to pursue the homestay option, where they live with a Japanese family for the duration of their exchange, they have to be able, and willing, to adjust to life within that family – which means making the effort to get along with each family member, following their rules such as night time curfews, and showing respect, such as by not engaging in activities that may become a source of friction, or even just remembering to let them know about your plans beforehand. Host families may also find it difficult to accommodate strong food limitations, especially if such limitations are so strict that it changes the entire family’s usual eating habits. To overcome these problems, I will remain open to trying new things and make myself adaptable to change and new rules, because I believe such “trade offs” are worth the unique privilege of staying with a Japanese family. In addition to this, I will simply have to become acquainted with the Japanese characteristic of “over care”, and thus recognize that family members “meddling” in my life isn’t them being rude or a nuisance at all.

Staying at Kansai Gaidai’s dormitories also pose a number of problems. Firstly, all cooking, cleaning and other “household” activities becomes entirely the responsibility of students, and thus to overcome this issue I would definitely need to increase my knowledge of cooking independently, and make sure I take the time out every day to ensure the dorm remains in good standing. Secondly, there would be no authority figure to ensure I do “this and that” in day to day life. Thus to overcome this issue I would need to ensure I take the responsibility to organise my time and activities efficiently and effectively, otherwise my studies and general exchange experience is likely to drop in terms of quality. The last issue about the dormitories is that, being with many other English speaking people, it will be easy to fall into the “trap” of only speaking English and not practising Japanese at all. Thus, to overcome this I would need to create some sort of study plan to ensure that I study the language daily in some form.

The Off-Campus Housing poses the greatest amount of problems, mainly due to the fact that the University offers little support for students who decide to pursue this option. Thus, I would not choose this option, but if I did I would definitely spend the immense amount of time required to research all the different aspects of the situation, such as locations, costs and furnishing requirements, in order to not set myself up for a dismal experience in terms of housing.

5. What do you think will be the main differences between the academic system and style of learning at UWA and that of the University you have chosen? 

I believe the academic systems of UWA and Kansai Gaidai are quite similar: each has individual faculties which teach courses through lectures and tutorial like classes. However, I believe UWA and Kansai Gaidai differ significantly in their style of teaching/learning, at least from the perspective of my own experience at UWA. With that said, I believe Kansai Gaidai has a more practical approach to learning, if not only because most of the courses they offer, such as teaching Japanese, warrants such approach. But even many of the Asian Studies courses offered include a number of field trips to translate what is learnt at the University into a practical understanding and to provide hands-on experiences. Potential field trips include visiting temples, companies/corporations, shrines, significant archaeological sites and even a prison. During my time at UWA, I have never been on a field trip of any kind. The only other major difference between Kansai Gaidai and UWA in terms of learning that I can recognize is the separation of international students and local students. At UWA, international/exchange students take classes with local students, however at Kansai Gaidai interactions between international and local students appears limited to the occasional Japanese lesson; it appears most, if not all, of the local students at Kansai Gaidai don’t participate in the Asian Studies program – which I assume is due to such courses being taught in English, rather than the local language.

6. What student support services are available at your host university for international students?

Upon arrival in Japan, international students are offered an extensive orientation program which provides them with tips and information for settling into life at the University and Japan as a whole. During such period, not only are tours of the University offered, but also tours of surrounding areas such as Kyoto too in order to ensure international students get to experience some Japanese culture right away and that they get a good handle on the transportation system before official classes begin. During and after this period, academic advisors are available to help international students in planning and registering their course choices, and interest free loans are available for those struggling financially. An on campus medical facility is available, as well as the option to purchase additional medical insurance.

Perhaps the most significant support service for international students is the Speaking Partner Program, in which international students are paired with a local student who they will not only be able to practise Japanese with, but also go to for advice about adjusting to life in Japan, and even go on outings with them to see some of the local attractions. I have heard many exchange students say that the people they were partnered with in this program became their first true friend in Japan. In addition to this program is the Experience Japan Program, where international students get to interact with local students while participating in hands-on activities which aim to introduce Japanese culture, such as through day trips, cooking, participating in traditional tea ceremonies etc.

7. What sort of challenges/advantages, if any, do you think the differences between the host university and UWA will pose for you?

I believe the emphasis on practical learning at Kansai Gaidai can only have positive ramifications for my studies during exchange, and such experience will hopefully translate into improved learning of Japanese and Asian Studies units when I continue my studies back at UWA. With that said, I believe this is a significant advantage. Branching from this is the advantage of studying for credit towards my UWA Asian Studies degree IN Asia, which provides me with a firsthand look and even experience of many of the things spoken about in Asian Studies units at UWA.

I believe the greatest challenge for myself will be using the Japanese language to interact with the local students, and to communicate in general day to day life. While I am not particularly afraid of this challenge, I am definitely interested in finding out how my current level of Japanese is usable in day to day life. If my level of Japanese is not as high as I thought, or even significantly lower than I thought, in the very least it would inspire me to try harder in learning it and practise it in day to day life during my time on exchange. In addition to this, due to the degree of separation between international and local students, in contrast to UWA, I believe actually forming relationships with local students may pose a challenge, language barrier or not.

8. What extra curricular activities or other opportunities available at the host university interest you?

Besides the previously mentioned Speaking Partner and Experience Japan Programs which I intend to partake in, Kansai Gaidai offers an extensive range of extra curricular activities in the form of clubs and circles, which are available for international students to join and are definitely something I intend on looking further into when I arrive. Clubs at Kansai Gaidai, and any other Japanese university, take membership very seriously, while circles are less strict and take on a more “let’s get together and have fun” attitude. These clubs and circles cater for a wide range of interests. For example, for the athletically inclined students, soccer, basketball, badminton, baseball and tennis clubs are available, while students looking for more cultural clubs might be interested in the tea ceremony and flower arrangement clubs. Examples of circles include those catering for students interested in snowboarding, dancing, volunteering and hiking. Personally, I am thinking of joining a Badminton circle, but will definitely look into the other clubs and circles available after I arrive.

Throughout the year these clubs and circles, and other student organisations, carry out a number of different events that both international and local students are encouraged to participate in. International students are invited to contribute to such events, which is something I will definitely look into when each event comes along.  

9. Can you be flexible in your choice of University if places are not available? If not, please give reasons.

If places are unavailable at my choice of University, I would be disappointed but I would definitely try and be flexible if the situation arose. My choice of University is not make or break for me in terms of dictating whether or not I have a positive exchange experience, and thus I will try and be understanding and adaptable if other arrangements had to be made.

1. Please outline your experiences which demonstrate your abilities against the following criteria:    
     a) Cultural awareness and sensitivity to the needs of other people. 
     b) Ability to interact effectively with a wide range of people. 
     c) Self-assurance and confidence in a range of situations. 
     d) Adaptability and flexibility to deal with situations as they arise. 
     e) Knowledge of Perth, UWA and Australia from social, cultural and political perspectives.

2. What are YOUR stereotypes of the country you have chosen to study in?My stereotypes of Japan are largely centred around the well known saying regarding Japanese society: “The nail that sticks out gets hammered”. My idea (true or not I hope to discover) about the way Japanese society works is that people try to be of little nuisance to others as possible in order for things to run smoothly, efficiently and with little hassle. So, for example, at least in the view of the public, people will try and conform to accepted standards and ways of doing things in order to not cause problems for others, and will be nice to one another, or maybe even ignore particular issues, for the sake of not causing conflict. In addition to this, I believe the idea of a family unit is more embedded in Japanese society than in Western countries, say Australia, in the sense that there is clear structure and hierarchy amongst its members. I have the perception that this hierarchy system extends into broader society too in quite a strict way, which will dictate how people show respect towards one another, in particular those older than themselves. With that said, even with the “nail that sticks out gets hammered” idea in place, I believe Japanese people do express their individual identities in a public manner, just maybe not in extreme ways that may get themselves frowned upon (such as the “extreme” goth identities we can see in Perth). 


On a country scale, I have the perception that Japan is very advanced in terms of technology, but at the same time haven’t lost their traditional roots/culture during that advancement. For example, while they may have huge skyscrapers and futuristic technology in Tokyo, they also have traditional cultural centres like Kyoto, and many old ways of doing things still appear to exist in everyday society. In addition to this, I have the perception that the Japanese government is quite traditional in its ways.

Lastly, an idea that never escapes my mind when thinking about Japan is the idea of people, in particular young people, always looking toward the future and working hard to achieve their goals regarding it. My stereotype regarding this largely surrounds the apparent emphasis, at least from my point of view, on education within the country – my perception is that young people work extremely hard in their studies, and place their schooling as a top priority in their lives.

But while I have these stereotypes, I do expect that many will be challenged when I go to Japan, and I look forward to constructing a “truer” perception of Japan and Japanese society in my mind during my time there.

3. What do you think are the stereotypes that people from overseas have of Australia?

In terms of the country, I believe people from overseas stereotype Australia as being a large, highly westernised country with a unique natural landscape containing “strange” animals not seen anywhere else in the world. In addition to this, I think Australia is seen as a country that cares for nature and the environment and for other countries in need, and in terms of politics and popular culture, largely follows in the footsteps of the US. Although Australia is indeed multicultural to a significant degree, I don’t believe this aspect of our country is very internationally known, and instead I believe overseas people possibly see Australia as largely a “white” country. In terms of the Australian people, I think the most common stereotype of us is that we are loud, laidback, outgoing and maybe consider lifestyle more important than work. The “Aussie larrikin” definitely comes to mind here. Nonetheless, I believe most stereotypes of Australia and its people are quite positive.

4. How would you promote awareness of the Student Exchange program during and after your period of exchange?

I look forward to promoting the Student Exchange program during my time in Japan by speaking with students positively about UWA both in casual conversation and when asked directly, and why I believe Perth would be a great place at which Japanese, and even other foreign students, could study and experience Australian culture. If events related to exchange occur at the Japanese university I attend, then I would definitely volunteer to try and “sell” our exchange program to the students, because I realise how important it is for overseas students to continue doing exchange at UWA for our own program to continue, and also because I genuinely believe exchange is a valuable opportunity for all university students worldwide. I even plan on wearing the UWA jumper and/or T-shirt to just keep the name of our university “out there”.

To promote awareness of the Student Exchange program amongst UWA students, I intend on participating in the exchange information activities after the completion of my exchange to give my honest opinion of the experience and encourage others to go too. Following these activities, I will make myself available to interested students to talk with about the experience and offer tips and advice. In addition to this, I plan on writing a regular online blog about my experience on exchange in Japan, which will be accessible to a worldwide audience. I have decided to do this because reading online blogs from UWA students and others around the world about their own exchange experience in Japan is what really gave me the motivation to get over the fear of actually applying, so I would love to instil the same motivation in my own blog’s readers!