Name: Jean Haapala
Study Programme: Bachelor’s Degree in International Business Administration (BA) in Helsinki
Exchange Location: Nagoya, Japan
University: Nagoya University of Commerce & Business
Why did you choose to go abroad?:
From the beginning since I heard about the exchange possibility at EBS my goal was to go and study abroad in Japan as I wanted to do it in high school but was unable to. With the EBS mobility window I really had no excuse to not fulfil that one dream I used to have. I also wanted to study at a revered university abroad and luckily the school in Japan was also a really good institution.
Did you experience a culture shock?:
I absolutely did like anyone would expect to experience when coming from a small country in Europe with 5,5 million people and landing in the world’s largest metropolitan area with almost three times the population just in Tokyo. Landing in Tokyo and later traveling to Nagoya via the shinkansen (bullet train) was like being in a whole new world. Other cultural shocks at the start surfaced during the times we were trying to deal with all the mandatory steps and procedures you have to go through when moving to Japan especially during covid-19. It became quite clear very quickly that things might be a bit difficult in Japan outside school as the communication was sometimes extremely shaky even with the immigration officers at the airport due to the language barrier. We all knew beforehand how English is not as widely spoken in Japan and not on the same level by most when compared to what you have learned to expect in Europe. Luckily Japanese customer service is just as good as rumored or maybe even better. Even with the language barrier they will find a way to help you.
How did covid19 affect your studies and life in Nagoya?:
While my studies were mostly all online even during my stay in Japan the school did have a few courses on campus during our second semester. Covid-19 did not affect my life too hard in Nagoya to be honest as there were a lot of times when we just stayed in the small countryside area where our dorms were located. Although there was actually a time when the pandemic sort of helped me to have better experience in Japan as the government for a while had this campaign that was called “go to travel” when the pandemic was slowing down for a while. This campaign they had actually gave massive discounts on hotels etc. when traveling to another area and also based on your room price we actually got coupons we could use around the area we traveled to. Best example I have to give is the time I traveled back to Tokyo and found this hotel during the black friday sales. With the combined discount of black friday and go to travel I paid 120 euros for 3 days in the largest suite of the hotel with its own jacuzzi, breakfast delivered to the room and a coupon worth a bit over 70 euros to use in Tokyo. Due to the go to travel campaign I was able to travel in Japan and not spend all my budget for the year.
How do you feel this experience has affected you and the way you see the world?:
My time in Japan helped me to really get out of my comfort zone which used to be a massive problem for me and helped me to become even more independent. It gave me friends from places around the world. I got to know people from countries I previously had never even talked to, like my best friend in Japan who was from Qatar.
What was your most memorable moment during your exchange?:
I had many memorable moments in Japan like traveling with the shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagoya and just watching the scenery, finding this weird and small coffee shop in Nagoya where I had the best cup of coffee of my life or seeing all the temples, parks and other wonders of Japan for the first time. But the most memorable moment has to be the time we visited this place called Nabana no Sato during the winter. It was a sort of a park where every place was full of lights and multiple different choreographed light shows and all sorts of plants and flowers. When we walked around the park and reached this area with the main light show it was the most spectacular and beautiful sights I have ever witnessed. It is something I can’t even do justice to by trying to describe it and all I can say is that even if you don’t have the chance to go and see it you should watch it from Youtube.
Would you recommend going for an exchange to Japan?:
I would definitely recommend it. If I was able to have the most memorable year of my life during covid-19 while almost every activity at the school was cancelled I can only imagine how much more people are able to experience during their exchange in Japan after we finally get past this pandemic. The school was absolutely beautiful, everyone I met was extremely nice to me and the whole country was like a big amusement park. The amount of interesting and weird things you see even when you just walk around the city is so large I can’t even scratch the surface in this article. It was a nice change of pace from the studying you are most likely used to and it didn’t hurt that we did not have a single exam during the year I studied in NUCB and instead we just had final reports we had to write at the end of the course. If you want to experience a completely different kind of studying and exchange experience filled with fun, weird and definitely memorable moments all I can say is Japan is a place to consider.
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