Japan – There and Back Again

Study exchange stories from Fukuoka, Japan in fall 2019.

Practicalities of going to exchange / thoughts before going

In this post I’ll talk a bit more in-depth about how my study exchange applying process went, and in the end I share some thoughts of leaving Finland.

Applying

I applied for exchange in February 2019. I chose Japan as my first choice because I wanted to go outside of Europe, and have always wanted to visit Japan. The applying for exchange through JAMK went smoothly, and some time later I got a call that I had been nominated for the school that I had chosen, Seinan Gakuin University in Fukuoka.

After that the real work began, when I needed fill a lot of paperwork for an online application. Throughout the process, I received a lot of help from both Finnish and Japanese schools, and even though it felt a bit overwhelming at times, in the end it was a great feeling when I could finally turn in all the needed papers. I suggest that if you find yourself in trouble at any point of the applying process, just turn to someone at JAMK or the exchange school!

Preparations for the exchange

I think it was in April or May when my application got accepted. I started looking into all the necessary preparations early on. Most important things to remember are:

  1. Applying for visa once you get your Certificate of Eligibility (applied for in the before-mentioned applying process)
  2. Buying flight ticket(s)
  3. Following instructions from the exchange school carefully / checking their website regularly
  4. Applying for the appropriate study/housing grants
  5. Making sure you have a place to stay at in your destination country (I recommend checking if your school offers accommodation!)

There’s of course a lot of other things that need to be taken care of, but I think if you can check all of the above off your do-to-list, you’re pretty well off already!

When applying for visa, it’s best to check in with the embassy what should be done. In Finland, Japanese embassy is located in Helsinki, but they reply pretty quickly to emails. The certificate of Eligibility is a document that Seinan Gakuin sent me after I had been accepted in their school. It’s necessary for obtaining a visa.

Also, about the flight tickets. I noticed that it’s much cheaper to get a two-way ticket than just a one-way-ticket. Finnair flies straight flights to Fukuoka until November this year, so my flight to Fukuoka has no stops and lasts a bit over 9 hours. On the way back, I have to first fly to Tokyo, but I don’t mind that.

Thoughts before departure

So, my flight leaves tomorrow afternoon. I have everything packed and all the documents should be in order. This will be my first time traveling on a plane alone, and I hope it’ll go smoothly and without much trouble. Actually, I’m most nervous about using the metro from the airport to my hotel in Fukuoka. It can’t be too difficult, right?

On Friday, I’ll meet my Japanese contact that was given to me from Seinan Gakuin. She’ll show me around Fukuoka, and on Saturday she’ll take me to the on-campus accommodation. I look forward to seeing where I’ll stay for the next 5 months, and meeting other people staying there. But before that, I’ll have two whole days on my own in Fukuoka. I probably spend them getting over the jet-lagĀ  and getting used to the new country.

I’d be lying if I said I haven’t been stressed over the last couple of weeks. I’ve never before been in exchange, so this is all new and exciting to me. I’m sure I’ll miss Finland, my family and friends very much, but fortunately we live in a world where everyone is just a message/call away.

Overall, a bit terrified, excited a lot, and hopefully ready for my adventure in Japan.

 

– Mirva