I was given a chance to attend the university in Germany as an exchange student during the winter semester in my second year. I truly appreciate that I was able to have this precious experience at the end of my school life.
It was my first long-term study abroad and I honestly didn’t know where to start at all. But with the encouragements from Ms. Aoshima and senior members with study abroad experience, I made a decision to apply for it. It wasn’t easy increasing English scores and improving my grades, while earning credits for graduation or studying for the Civil Service Examination. However, I was able to pull it off by setting my priorities and milestones to work on. The preparation period before departure also gave me a good opportunity to understand more about myself and grow up.
As being in a position of an exchange student, I could take a wide range of classes regardless of the department. Out of all the classes I took, “1968 Japan” was the one I put my efforts the most. It was a seminar class that focused on Japan in around 1968. I was able to deepen my understanding on the history of Japan such as student movement, New Left movement, and feminism, which I had ever heard but not understood well at all. Before getting a job, it was lucky for me to face and consider of my own country “Japan” seriously.
Heidelberg University had their facilities spread out all around the town and offered many varieties of departments. Unlikely in Europe, they also had a major called “Japanologie” for studying about Japan. Thus, there were many students interested in Japan and some of them helped me with everything from the admission procedure to my leaving for Japan. In addition, a partner system called “Tandem”, in which people teach their mother language to each other, was widely common. I myself had a chat with German and American girls in German, English and Japanese at cafe every week. We sometimes went out to the Christmas market together or participated in exercise classes. It was a really great time.
One of the best things about studying in Heidelberg was that it was relatively easy to travel around Europe. The city I stayed was just an hour away from Frankfurt Airport, which is considered to be the largest airline hub in Europe, so I was able to go on a trip three to four times a month. Traveling around the unknown world and sharing emotions and funs with many friends gave me precious memories I will never forget.