Kyushu University Summer Exchange 2004

The summer of 2004 was when I took the first step to challenge myself, to change my life. While I enjoyed my days studying about Japanese society, writing research papers and learning Japanese, I wanted my student life to be different. I wanted to study in Japan, to experience Japan with my own eyes and not just through books. The only thing holding me back was my finances. A good friend then told me that there was a scholarship that would pay for EVERYTHING for a 6 weeks long summer programme at Kyushu University, Fukuoka. I thought to myself “Yeah, I’ll apply and see how it goes”. I had decent grades but surely there are others better than me. I filled in the application form and submitted a short essay on why I should be selected.

Weeks later (what seemed like forever), I received a phone call from the Japanese Studies department informing me that I had been awarded the scholarship. I was more than ecstatic. I was finally able to study in Japan and witness what I had read about modern Japanese society with my own eyes.

That summer changed my life. I made great friends from all over the world, many of whom I still keep in touch with (thank you Facebook!). It was the best summer of my university life. Apart from attending language classes in the mornings, I signed up for Japanese history and Agriculture classes in the afternoons too. My favourite was the agriculture related module taught by Shingai sensei. Many girls (including me!) thought he was quite cool. As part of the module, we went on an excursion together to a rice paddi field where we got the chance to get dirty in the fields. The agriculture industry in Singapore is almost non-existent hence it was my first time knowing what it was like being a farmer. With the sun high up in the skies, we bent our backs in the fields planting rice. It was hard work.

Tanada rice field 001
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Tanada Rice Field

The farmers were awesome. We were treated with Japanese beef and plenty of Asahi Super Dry beer. And how could we miss out on their own harvested rice. It was literally reaping what we sowed.

Copyright Craftymemories.wordpress.com
Copyright Craftymemories.wordpress.com

I lived in a all girls dormitory which was half-board (breakfast and dinner included). And gosh, did they have strict rules. I had a curfew even though I was 20! Although I lived nearer the university in a nice area, I missed my friends who were living further away, leading a more carefree student life.

Here’s a photo of a typical dinner I had. The dormitory was very simple but I was satisfied. It was my first time living away from home and I felt like a female lead in a Japanese drama. Where’s the link? I don’t know.

Copyright Craftymemories.wordpress.com
Copyright Craftymemories.wordpress.com

Back then digital cameras were hell expensive. I paid more than £300 for a Sony Cybershot which then accompanied me for 4-5years before the lens died on me. It felt like it was the latest technology on the market and I could keep on snapping but I didn’t. I wished I did now.

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Copyright Craftymemories.wordpress.com
Yamakasa festival

Despite it being only a 6 weeks long programme, I reckoned we made lifelong friends then. I remember being in tears when I left (emotional 20 year old!). Two of my Japanese friends who promised to send me off didn’t turn up. I was a little disappointed. But guess what? They went to a different terminal! Most people would probably shrug their shoulders and say “Damn, too bad”, but these two begged the ground staff to pass me a handwritten note. I had the entire row to myself on the plane. As tears rolled down my cheeks uncontrollably, a stewardess tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a note – a farewell note from my friends. That was such a sincere and sweet gesture. I couldn’t see them from the plane but as it took off I waved them goodbye.

It has been almost a decade since I was on that programme but memories are still fresh in my mind. The summer of 2004 spurred me to make certain choices in life which led me to where I am now. Choices which I have no regrets for. What an amazing summer it was.

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One thought on “Kyushu University Summer Exchange 2004

  1. Pingback: Miyajima Island, Japan | Chronicles of Yoyo

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