Utskrift från Malmö universitets webbplats www.mah.se

Rainald Baier da Silva

Rainald studies International Relations at Malmö University and decided to spend a year in Japan. Starting from zero he is now able to have conversations in Japanese.

Where did you go on an exchange?

Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, for one academic year.

Rainald Baier 

What was the best thing about studying abroad?

For me, the best thing was the language. When I arrived in September I couldn't even read the menu in a restaurant. I was so lost and realized nobody understood me. So I decided to switch to a Japanese track after the first semester. My strategy to achieve my Japanese proficiency goals was to look for foreign friends who also wanted to speak Japanese. I had three language exchange partners and I entered two sports clubs: Basketball and a Life Guard club. I was the only foreigner in both.

The first six months I could barely communicate with the people in my sports clubs, but in the end I travelled and even worked as a life guard at Shirahama beach. I was able to hold conversations and now I watch movies in a language that was totally strange to me when I first arrived. It's amazing!

What was the biggest difference between Malmö University and Ritsumeikan?

 I would say it's the system. The classes in Japan seemed so different to me and I couldn't understand why they checked attendance or why we rarely took home exams. At Malmö University we have to do scientific research and the teachers don't always care if you are absent from class a few times, it is your own responsibility. The important things are that you are able work independently and perform well in the seminars.

I think universities in Japan are more school-like because the teaching is much more based on participation, presentations and in your final exam you just sum up what the teacher said during class. Of course it varies from teacher to teacher too. I am not saying that one system is better than the other, there are advantages in both systems.

What is your advice for other students who want to go on an exchange?

 I would say definitely take a three month language course if you are going to Japan, Korea or countries in southern and eastern Europe. I did, and it helped a lot to learn faster. I suggest that you should use your time abroad wisely, because this when you can improve your language skills the fastest and most intensively. Try to have local friends as well, they can show you what daily life is really like. I know that you will miss the food or people of your own country, but never forget that this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

There is not much to plan beforehand because the exchange is always different from how you expected it to be. Just be open for everything new and always try to see the good sides of your destination. And be aware that you are the one student chosen from your home university to represent your country, and that millions of students around the world wish to be given this opportunity. Make the best out of it!

Last updated by Maria Wennerberg