FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

I’ve been getting quite a few questions on Instagram and Twitter about my exchange and life in Japan, and I thought I’d cover some of them here for your convenience.

#1 Why did you go to Japan

This is probably the question I have been faced with most, and I’ve even answered it in an NHK interview before [although that segment was cut due to time constraints]. It is also the question that varies the most depending on who is asking, with the short versions consisting of things like;

  • The food is better than in Austria [oh yeah, I’m from Austria, I get asked that a lot too, Austria not Australia…]
  • Everybody here is so polite and friendly [Which is very true.]
  • The nature here is breathtaking [Shiratani Unsuikyo, google it, it’s the park Mononoke-Hime is based on]
  • I like the language, Kanji are really pretty…

And when it seems like the other person expects a long tale I give this answer;

  • I am really interested in Japan’s art history, be it Ukiyo-e woodblock prints [blog about that here], Calligraphy [blog about that soon] or Kabuki [extensive blog here]. The way culture and art shape each other is really fascinating and I thought it to be a good place to learn more about it.

All of the above is true, and you can choose whichever answer you like best.

#2 Why did you choose AFS

There are many different reasons why I chose AFS, and I thought I’d list a few of them here;

  • AFS is one of the oldest if not the oldest exchange student organization there is, having operated for over 60 years. They have a huge network and a big history that backs up their claims of quality.
  • AFS is safe and trusted. That sounds really cheesy, trust me, nobody is incentivizing me to write any of this. There is a lot of screening and paperwork for both the applicant and the host family [which is not paid to host], health-insurance and so on are all included and there are 24h contact lines.
  • AFS offers a lot of things. There are quite a lot of orientation camps, 2 before leaving and so far in Japan we have had one big opening camp that offered talks and group sessions where we learned and could discuss any questions we had, and then another big local orientation within the AFS chapter. We have had many get togethers with the Liaison Persons [LP] and volunteers, as well as with all of the other exchange students that really helped getting settled in and feeling at home. AFS also helps with your host school a lot, not only is the entire tuition and textbook fees covered, they cover your commute to school [my train ticket is super expensive so thank you!], and even offer to provide you a bicycle for the duration of your stay to make your commute easier. Every exchange student has a LP assigned to them and they help you whenever you have any concerns or problems. During my first month my LP called my host family almost every day with news and advice and updates, and we have had several meetings since. My LP helped me find Japanese lessons where I am and even organized, in conjunction with my homeroom who has been really kind as well, for a Japanese teacher to come to my school once a week. We also had many smaller events such as an LP taking me and a fellow exchange student to Tokyo for 2 days to experience a more of the culture. They arranged for us to see the Ghibli Museum, get a special tour of the Shueisha Manga Publishing Company, and see Kabuki at the National Theatre. There is also a one week exchange within the year where you are hosted by a different family in a different part of Japan.

Those are some of the reasons why I chose AFS, but some of the things vary from place to place, AFS is active in over 40 countries, so I’m not guaranteeing that your experience will be the same. So far I have had absolutely no problems with AFS Japan and I would genuinely recommend it.

#3 How did you learn Japanese

Lots and lots of studying. My Japanese really isn’t perfect, and when I came I could barely speak it, but it has gotten better over time. I had classes for roughly 2 years before coming, and made slow progress at the time, but after coming to Japan it really sky-rocketed. A fellow exchange student in the same chapter came here with no prior learning experience and she seems to be doing fine. As I mentioned earlier AFS will try and help you find lessons and with all of the immersion, you should be able to pick it up pretty quickly. At the end of the year, most students take the N3 or even N2 JLPT exam. [I’m aiming for N2, I have a big Kanji textbook that is staring at me at this very moment and I’ll get back to studying after writing this.]

#4 Which club did you join

In Japanese schools, most people usually join a club, and there is a wide variety ranging from sports clubs [soccer, baseball, dance, kyudo, kendo, tennis, etc. etc.] to culture clubs [tea ceremony, broadcasting, flower arrangement, English debate, calligraphy, drama etc. etc.] For the first few months I was in the English debate club [we won Nationals and did quite well in the World Congress], and as the season has come to an end I am currently in the calligraphy club. If you would like to read a post about that, leave a comment below.

#5 Why do you blog so inconsistently

Because I am really busy is one answer, the other is that I am just very lazy and forgetful. The answer certainly isn’t that I don’t have anything to talk about. I have taken over 4500 pictures and I am just past the halfway point. If there is anything you would like me to write about, just leave a comment and I’ll see if I can answer it. Also, blogging takes so much time. As an example, the Kabuki blog post I keep mentioning here took over 7 and a half hours to write and I read 2 books and dozens of articles as research prior to even starting. I’m trying to find a balance between everything here and writing a blog, expect a blog post every 1 to 2 weeks, or whenever I feel like it really.

#6 What equipment do you use

This one gets asked quite a few times actually. I use a Canon EOS 700d [called Kiss X7i in Japan or as the Rebel T5i in the Americas]. It’s the standard big Canon you see everybody use to be honest. I have the kit lens and the Canon EF-S 55-250mm F4-5.6 IS STM lens. I think that’s the one, I have to go check later. I use Photoshop for all of the images and that’s about it. Lots of tea… lots of tea.

#7 Aren’t you afraid your host parents will commit suicide

This is a question I actually got before coming to Japan. The answer is no. No. Japan has a suicide rate of 18.5 per 100.000 people, which is lower than that of Hungary. For example, the suicide rate of South Korea is 28.9 per 100.000. Also, I tell you I am going abroad to Japan and the first thing you ask me is that? Really?

 

Anyways, if you have any other questions, please leave them in the comments, and I’ll do my best to answer them all.

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Yona