A semester abroad from home

07 Jul 2020

It has now been around two months since I returned home from my semester abroad in Japan. When I left, I feared what would become of my Bachelor: I was only missing a couple of elective courses to finish my degree this year and I had planned to take those electives in Japan. So, just to be sure, after my return I enrolled in a few courses at Radboud which by now were all taught online.

After emailing back and forth with Japan, I still managed to enroll in my planned courses there. Two months in, I have gotten a taste of what it’s like to study at a Japanese university, just without all the physical walking around and getting to know others. I am taking six courses at my host university, and half of them are taught via Zoom while the other half only asks me to upload weekly assignments.

This type of teaching has been very new to me (as to probably all of us), especially because my professors are quite literally sitting at the other end of the world. Besides me, also the professors have to get used to this new method, some being better at it than others. The ones having problems figuring Zoom out have turned to the realm of weekly assignments without any further contact. Others try their best to show their face at least once a week, but internet connection problems have also made that a challenge at times.

Following courses online does not give much opportunity to get to know one’s fellow students. But even if that was possible, there are not a lot of students I could get to know: from the 120 international students that were supposed to follow my courses, only around 20 have remained. Most of them are Japanese students living in Japan, which makes me the only real ‘international’ student in my classes at the moment. Most other internationals have taken a break from studies or gone back to their own universities. This was also an option for me, to go back to Radboud courses. In the end I decided against it because in a way, my courses are helping me to get to know Japan from home.

So for the time being, I am busy exploring Japanese religions, culture, psychology and environmental issues – all while being at home. It’s not the experience I asked for, but I am happy that in this way, I at least get a remote taste of my semester abroad.

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