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Outgoings back at uni.li - Tokyo

For her exchange semester, Isabella Furrer, a Swiss student in the Master’s degree programme in Architecture, attended our partner university Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku in Japan. Following her return, she shares her experiences in relation to culture, language and studies, and offers tips for other exchange students.

For her exchange semester, Isabella Furrer, a Swiss student in the Master’s degree programme in Architecture, attended our partner university Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku in Japan. Following her return, she shares her experiences in relation to culture, language and studies, and offers tips for other exchange students.


Why did you choose this country and this university for your exchange? In what language were the classes held?

It was very clear to me since the beginning of my programme in Liechtenstein that I wanted to go to Japan. The reason for this is that I was already fascinated with a few Japanese architects, and with their sense of space, when I was pursuing my Bachelor’s degree. Before my studies I visited Tokyo for two months in order to get acquainted with the language. The classes were actually held in Japanese, therefore you must be willing to ask a lot of questions and hope that you are lucky enough to have friendly classmates who speak a little English. 


How did you prepare yourself for your exchange semester? How did the International Office team assist you in your preparations?

I continued to take language courses and tried to inform myself about Japan through books, the Internet and some friends who are from there. The International Office particularly helped me with my contact with the school. All e-mail correspondence was sent through the International Office. In addition, the International Office submitted my application and was always on hand to answer any questions.


Discussion in the lab



What did you look forward to the most? What was the greatest challenge?


I really looked forward to the experience of being able to study in a country with a culture so different to mine. The biggest challenge was, of course, the language. Not all of the teaching staff, and also not many students, could speak English.  Therefore, it could sometimes be very difficult to meet the local students or even to follow during the classes.


How were you received at the partner university, and how were you assisted during your studies?

I had the impression that how well you are able to integrate depends heavily on which studio you are in. I was actually very lucky to be in a class with nice students and an excellent lecturer, who made an effort to show me around. 
Having said that, there is usually not a lot of information available for foreign students and you must really be proactive, for instance, if you intend to take another language course or want to find out what projects are being carried out by other studios. Therefore, it is mainly other exchange students who are willing to assist new students. Due to the language barrier, the foreign students often don’t contribute to the projects. However, you can work on a project yourself.


Trip to the Nihon Minka-en museum


What was the highlight for you? What can you take with you from this time abroad that can help you personally or in your studies?

Of course I enjoyed the country, but the time spent at the university was an unforgettable experience. I was really able to encounter many new aspects of architecture, especially in my studio and through my lecturer. Students spend an incredible amount of time on research, and I found the methods very thorough. That is definitely something that I will try to maintain. 


What recommendations would you offer to students at the University of Liechtenstein who are planning an exchange semester in Japan ?

I would definitely advise them to properly acquaint themselves in advance with Japan, so that they don’t only have a one-sided perspective of the country. In addition, I would recommend that they learn a bit of the language in advance. Some of the exchange students who didn’t know any Japanese became somewhat frustrated after a while. Those who could at least understand the language or maybe also knew a few phrases found it a lot easier to socialize. The students are much more open when you are able to speak at least a little of their language, as many don’t feel comfortable speaking English.



PROFILE: Isabella Furrer
  • Home country: Switzerland
  • Resident of: Lenzerheide
  • University of Liechtenstein degree programme: Master’s degree programme in Architecture
  • Semester: third

Exchange semester
 
  • Country: Japan
  • Partner university: Tokyo Geijutsu Daigaku
  • Number of semesters: one
  • Type of accommodation: shared house