The main focus of my exchange was on my Japanese language studies. I was placed on the second highest level out of the 5 available ones, so at times the topics of my classes were quite challeging. In addition to level 4 Japanese reading, writing, speaking and grammar, I chose three optional courses: Contextual Japanese, Extensive reading, and the City Project course on developing Oita and Beppu. My favourite courses were by far the ones focusing on reading because I felt they were the most beneficial to me at this time. The highlight of this semester was becoming able to read Japanese books and manga without a dictionary, which was something I previously did not have the courage to do.
In terms of difficulty of studies in Japan compared to Finland, I would say they are roughly the same, although the method of teaching can be bit a bit different. Japan places an immense focus on memorising vocabulary and example sentences, rather than communication and the actual use of the language in practice. You are required to study outside of your classes since the classes do progress quite speedily but there is quite a lot of free time after classes.
During the weekends, I would often travel around Oita Prefecture and visit the multiple shrines, cafes and restaurants Japan has to offer. Some of the things I loved the most were the serenity of Usa Jingu, the small wooden ema plaques decorated with Demon Slayer characters at Beppu’s Kamado Shrine, the Moff Cat Cafe at Oita Opa mall, and the amazing food and picturesque desserts found literally anywhere in Japan. Even without venturing too far from Oita, you could find the most amazing views and places, regardless of what you were interested in.
After all my classes had ended, I decided to travel a bit around Japan and went as far as to Tokyo and Saitama to meet some friends of mine. During this trip, I had the pleasure of visiting the TeamLab art collective and viewing the city from Shibuya SKY among other places. Even someone like me who is not a fan of the crowded spaces and the concrete jungle that is Tokyo, had an amazing time there.
But what has made this exchange so memorable to me is definitely the people I met during it. Each exchange period is unique and different, but nothing is better than the connections you make with people around you. You meet people with similar interests and make life-long friendships with them and the memories stay with you for a lifetime. The only thing I wish was that I could spend longer than a few months in this country with these people.