Feeling nostalgic for Japan, I've decided to write a piece on my experiences studying there. In this piece I will share what it was like to study in Japan for 17 amazing days. Imagine beautiful geishas, mouth-watering sashimi, samurai castles, cherry blossoms, anime, insane non-stop clubbing in Tokyo, and much much more..

Japan Airlines(JAL) has been running a scholarship program for young people in the Asia Pacific region since 1975 to educate about Japan and strengthen relations with it's neighbours. I decided to take a leap of faith and applied for it, writing a required thesis and waited. And waited. I was contacted for an interview a few weeks later. A few days before the interview I found out that only ONE Australian would be chosen in the year I applied. In previous years at least two Australians had been chosen. The pressure was on. And then..the interview happened!

The day I landed in New York for an internship, I received the email informing me I had been awarded the JAL Scholarship, I couldn't believe it. It is something I had only dreamt of. The JAL Program took me on the most defining adventure of my life.

Growing up in Australia on a diet of popular Japanese culture such as anime, sushi and the latest hi-tech gadgets, I was very excited at the prospect of visiting Japan for the first time. The scholarship opportunity was the perfect opportunity to travel, study and see the real Japan for the first time.

My seventeen day journey in Japan included visits to Tokyo, Narita, Kamogawa, Kanazawa, Tono, Hakusan, Chiba, Kiyunan and many others. Each place had it's own unique charm, it's own character, cuisine, traditions, temples, shrines, and scenery. I loved how the diversity of the Japanese landscape and the various cultures and sub-cultures always work together resulting in a harmony, uniting the Japanese people and environment.

My impressions of Japan were shaped and evolved by the experiences I had. I was very happy to be able to fulfil many wishes I had about Japan. I have always wanted to learn and experience Haiku poetry writing, Taiko drums, and the art of Japanese flower arranging - Ikebana. In addition to this, I was able to try on traditional Japanese dress, such as the Yukata, learn a form of Japanese dance. I was able to practice my new Japanese skills with the JAL staff and Japanese buddies.

I learned of the intrinsic and close connection the Japanese people have with the natural environment. This was reflected by abundant tranquil green gardens, the healthy food we enjoyed, as well as the folk tales that were regaled to us in the peaceful village of Tono. I found immersing myself in Japanese culture and customs a way to really attain some inner peace. The life lived in Japan may be fast paced, but I found that the Japanese value what we Australians call "down time" - the act of unwinding, from the stresses and busyness of city life in a modern nation. Such an austere lifestyle is an asset the Japanese possess, and offer to visitors like us - something we can learn from.

Japan is where the old meets the new. The ancient meets the modern. This is a common perception in the West, and I was able to confirm this. Japan is so multi-faceted and layered, with it's busy modern cities full of skyscrapers, museums, and quaint ancient towns such as Tono, where one can find myths, legends and natural scenic beauty. I was able to experience group travel, and independent travel during our free time during the program. Both experiences helped me understand better that Japan has so many things on offer for tourists, in terms of culture, history, heritage, cuisine, art and so much more.

I also learnt of the high calibre of Japanese universities, and the educational opportunities available here. Given that I studied in Japan, I can say with confidence that Japan has world class universities, facilities and services to make the educational experience for an international student very worthwhile.

The high standards of the Japanese educational system can be traced back to the Japanese people themselves. I found the JAL staff and my homestay parents to be very efficient, hard-working and full of humility. I hope I have acquired these qualities from them. A bonus on this program was that I appeared in the Japanese newspapers three times! What luck!

As I write my reflection on my experience in Japan, I am reminded of my JAL interview back in April. One of the questions asked was "What do you hope to get out of the JAL Scholarship?"

My answer was: "Other than immersing myself in Japanese language, culture and customs, and exploring the land, what I really really want to do, is make friends."

I am so glad that this prophetic wish came true for me. During the seventeen days, I became such good friends with the JAL Foundation staff, local Japanese students, my host families and of course, my fellow JAL Scholars. We all became one close knit family, something which I hold very close to my heart. I made friends for life, whom I will always keep in touch with, and hope to see in future.

I am very honoured to have represented Australia in the JAL Scholarship Program. As a proud Australian I believe I was able to represent the true Australia to Japan. That Australia is a proud, multicultural and embracing nation. I have found that Japan is a very accepting and embracing nation also. By focusing on our similarities and working on our differences, Japan and Australia can continue to become closer friends.

One of the most important lessons I have learnt from the JAL Scholarship Program is to always believe in myself. I feel very lucky to have experienced all this. It is never a question of if I will come back to Japan, but when. Japan is a country with heart, and she has left an imprint on my soul.

The JAL Scholarship Program begins to recruit university students aged 20 and over in March/April every year. Keep an eye on the Japan Airlines website or ask your university for more information.

Some websites that offer study tours in Japan to help you get started:




I highly recommend a study program or a study tour in Japan. Not only does one see much of the beautiful land of the rising sun, but you get to learn a lot of Japanese language and culture, which is not only enriching for the individual but also great for the professional marketplace. And the people there are totally delightful. Start Googling now!