Q: What motivated you to take part in an exchange to Japan?
A: The excitement of experiencing design within a different culture grabbed me completely, especially as Japan is known to be hot on technology. I was interested because it is an amazing country and I was fascinated by the culture, so the opportunity to experience it first hand was amazing.
Q: Could you tell me where Hokkaido is and a little bit about the location and the school / university you attended?
A: Hokkaido is the North Island of Japan and I stayed within Sapporo which is the main city. It was like going back in time. You would automatically think of Japan being a fast moving, technology based country, but this part of Japan is far from that. Our college used black boards and very old style computers and technology. It was great to experience the craft lessons as everything we made was hand crafted. I stayed in an all girls dormitory which was a 20 minute walk from the college.
Q: What did you actually do during your stay – for example, were you integrated into normal lessons? Did you have a choice of subjects? Were there other exchange students there?
A: There was two of us from 3D Design on the exchange, Myself and Catherine Down. Catherine is a spatial designer and at the time I was a product designer. We got asked which areas we would like to study and we chose: craft which consisted of metal, ceramics and wood work; photography; CAD; interior design and detail. We also had Japanese culture lessons which consisted of Japanese, calligraphy, flower arranging and ink painting. We also had a trip once a week to see the sights of Sapporo, from museums to traditional tea ceremonies. We were lucky enough to be in Sapporo when design week was taken place so we went to some design conferences, which were in Japanese but very interesting, exhibitions and also joined in with some workshops.
Q: How long did you stay?
A: I was in college from the 1st October until the 19th December. But Catherine and I decided to stay longer and travel around japan for three and a half weeks, which covered Christmas and New year.
Q: What did you have to do to get the place? Was there a selection process? A:
It was all a bit of a crazy process. One morning over summer I had a phone call from my lecturer simply asking if I wanted to go to japan for three months on an exchange. It was a bit of a shock. I think I got asked because in my first year I won a competition to design the University of Plymouth's enterprise trophy. In the end there was two of us from 3D Design who went on the exchange. Q: What costs were involved ? A:
Unfortunately this was the negative part of the whole experience. It cost a lot of money due to the fact I had to pay for my accommodation not only here in Plymouth but in japan too, plus flights and food etc. I had a small bursary which the Japanese college split between me and the other student which helped. Q: Where and with who did you live? A:
I lived in an all girl dormitory, and shared a room with Catherine. We had a view of snowy mountains everyday, and our pillows were made from beans which was strange to start with. Q: How did living and studying in Hokkaido differ from University life in Plymouth? What were the facilities like? Did teaching methods vary? A:
Studying in Hokkaido was very hard to start with as no one spoke English, but as there were two of us we helped each other out. It was all about the hand gestures to get us by, and a lot of laughing from us and the teachers in confusion. We tended to just go with the flow every day, as we did not know what we were doing or where we were going, but it always ended up to be a great experience. The facilities were basic as they had black boards and old style computers, but didn’t affect our learning. The teaching methods were very different as we didn’t quite understand each other, but we learned a lot through visual communication. Q: Tell me about the best bits? A:
There are so many where do I start. Everyday was amazing. Even though at the time everything seemed really scary as we never really knew we were doing or where we were going, but it all turned out to be fantastic!. Q: … And the worst bits? A:
Some of the food which I experienced I can gladly say I wont be eating again. Things such as pig's ears! But other than that nothing was bad. Q: How do you feel the experience has benefitted you personally and creatively/professionally? A:
The whole experience has benefitted me hugely. One main factor is I went out to Japan as a product designer but came back as a designer maker. It improved my communication skills as I had to be very clear and visual. The whole experience has opened me up to a fantastic culture which I could never have gotten from any book or website as I experienced japan from a visitor and a resident point of view. Q: Did you get to visit other parts of Japan? A:
We travelled around main land Japan - Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Nagoya. New Years Eve was such an amazing experience as we were two of 100 people to see the first ringing bells in the main shrine in Kyoto. An experience of a lifetime! Q: What would you advice be to other students considering exchange opportunities? A:
Do it!!! It may seem scary going so far or to a country where you cannot recognise the language but it is the best experience you will ever have. Just take every opportunity that comes your way, even if it sounds strange or weird, you will look back and think wow that was amazing. Q: How do you feel about your time at the University of Plymouth and the BA (Hons) 3D Design course? A:
I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at Plymouth doing 3D Design. All the lecturers are so supportive, not only your work but will push you to do things externally such as work experience and exhibitions. I have been very fortunate in all the opportunities which have come my way throughout my degree, all of which have given me the greatest times. Q: What are you doing now – what are your plans? A:
I am currently in my 3rd year as a designer maker, specialising in a process called steam bending. Also currently working on my dissertation which is based on influences of Japanese culture on western design.