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[Study in Japan Report] By Themba from UNZA

Themba MAPULANGA our former exchange student from University of Zambia, Zambia, who studied in Japan from September 2022 to July 2023 wrote an essay of his one year stay in Japan. Please check it out!!

My Exchange Experience at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.

As a student hailing from the University of Zambia, embarking on an exchange program at Tokyo University of Foreign Studies (TUFS) was a significant milestone in my academic journey. Japan’s vibrant culture and prestigious academic environment beckoned me, promising a transformative experience. In this report, I’ll share the highlights of my 10 months stay.

Annet and I posing in front of the TUFS monument on our first day at TUFS (2022).

Stepping foot onto the vibrant campus of TUFS marked the beginning of a transformative journey. Over the course of 10 months, I had the privilege of forging friendships with individuals from diverse nationalities, fostering cross-cultural friendships and enhancing my understanding of global cultures. Through these interactions, I gained valuable insights into different cultural practices and traditions, enriching my intercultural competence.
Settling down at TUFS wasn’t challenging as I had many people to help with ensuring that I had settled in smoothly. Dr.Chihiro and Yuko San from the IAfP office were ever helpful as they helped us with various processes regarding our stay. My study buddy from the university’s buddy program also helped ensure that I settled in well at TUFS. The other African exchange students (Jato, Paul and Kajad) who had already spent a semester at TUFS also helped us settle in by showing us around. Yazaki Cooperation also assisted us by sponsoring us with some funds that helped us in our early months at The University.

Posing with my bicycle which was given to me by the IAfP office for use during my time at TUFS (2022).

One of the defining highlights of my exchange experience was delving into the essence of Japanese tradition through the art of Kendo. Joining the school’s Kendo team was more than just a physical pursuit; it was a journey of self-discipline, honor, and respect. My club mates and The Sensei at the dojo were very welcoming and they ensured that I settled in very well with the team and didn’t feel out of place.

Me in my Kendo attire at the TUFS Martial Arts Dojo (2023)

One of the most interesting experiences was attending the Kurayami Festival. This event celebrated Japanese traditions and folklore with music, dance, and beautiful street lights and decorations. I got to experience the vibrant atmosphere and learn more about Japanese culture. Meeting other locals helped me understand the importance of community and spirituality in Japan. The festival left a lasting impression on me, making me appreciate different cultures and the connections we can make through shared experiences.

Posing with other exchange students at the Kurayami Festival (2023)

Academically, my experience at TUFS was equally fulfilling. I had the privilege of attending engaging classes and lectures, where I gained profound insights into various disciplines. It was quite interesting to operate in an academic environment that has different systems from my home university. This also provided me with practical lessons with regards certain things that can also be replicated in the systems at my home university. Additionally, I spent my time outside class learning about the various administrative and public systems in Japan. As a Development Studies major, I had a plan to utilize my time in Japan learning about Japan’s development path and various administrative and public service systems in Japan. Learning how the Japanese public transport systems work for example provided me with valuable information on some of the lessons my home country can pick up.
Furthermore, my involvement in the intercultural learning class, led by Fukushima University was a significant highlight in my academic experience. To sum up my intercultural learning class at Fukushima University, I visited Fukushima for the 10th Anniversary of the Sakura Project. My friends and I participated in the project by making PR videos promoting the project. One of my favorite moments during this trip was receiving the Chief Award from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism which was presented to us by the Director of the Tohoku Regional Development Bureau as recognition for our participation in the project. Receiving this award underscored the importance of fostering international collaborations and promoting cultural understanding.

Receiving the Chief Award at the 10th Anniversary of The Fukushima Sakura Project (2023)

Planting Sakura trees along the highway as part of the Sakura Project (2023).

My exploration of Japan extended beyond the confines of the university, as I ventured into the vibrant streets of Tokyo and neighboring prefectures. From the bustling streets of Shibuya to the serene landscapes of Kamakura, every corner revealed a new facet of Japanese culture waiting to be discovered. The warmth and hospitality of the Japanese people left an indelible mark on my heart, reaffirming their reputation for kindness and welcoming spirit.
Me at Tokyo Tower (Left) (2022) and at The Summit of Mt. Takao (Right) (2023).

One of the most memorable aspects of my stay was indulging in the exquisite flavors of Japanese food, with ramen emerging as a personal favorite. During my stay, I tried different Japanese foods which served as a gateway to understanding the rich culinary heritage of Japan.

My favorite bowl of Shoyu Pork Ramen

My second favorite meal “Otoko Meshi Don” at Sanchanchi

My exchange experience at TUFS was nothing short of transformative. From cultural immersion and language learning to academic pursuits and culinary delights, every facet of my stay contributed to a profound personal and academic growth. I am deeply grateful to everyone who supported me throughout my journey as an exchange student, including my friends, professors, the IAfP Staff, the ASC staff, Yazaki Corporation, JASSO, and my home university. As I reflect on my time at TUFS, I am filled with gratitude and optimism for the continued partnership between Tokyo University of Foreign Studies and African Universities, with the hope that many more students will have the opportunity to embark on similar transformative experiences. Looking ahead, I eagerly anticipate the possibility of returning to Japan for my postgraduate studies, further deepening my connection with this remarkable country.

Dr. Chihiro seeing us off on our last day at TUFS (2023).

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