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SGIA Student Attends Cultural Exchange in Japan

Note: Each year, SGIA provide opportunities for deserving students to attend summer camps in different parts of the world. Here’s a narrative from a 2016 camp participant in Japan.


I am Galvien Cia and I recently came back from the APU’s Academic and Cultural Exhange (ACE) program, or also known as APU summer camp in Japan. The camp was from 31 July to 8 August 2016.


Let me begin by saying that acquiring a spot in the program was very competitive this year. Last year was easier as there are two different camps but this year, there were a total of 36 spots only, offered all over the world. There were six (6) of us who applied but I was the only one who got lucky. To go through the application process, I got a lot of support from my IB coordinator, Ms. Jovelyn. She helped me a lot on what should I do as this was my first time at a summer camp.

Traditional Japanese house.

Day 1: Upon arriving at the Fukuoka Airport, I was greeted by two APU students. We had a short introduction and they immediately made me feel quite welcome. After few minutes of chit-chats, the waiting time for the shuttle bus, delayed because of a festival begun. The shuttle bus finally came and I was prepared to sleep – I was on the bus for 2 hours plus of course the hours spent on the plane from Singapore, lay over time in South Korea and now, the bus.


Then finally, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University (APU).  The APU-ACE program “creators” and other APU student mentors greeted us gleefully then we started our long walk to the dormitories, which I surprisingly enjoyed even with the fact that I had to climb 100 steps.


The dormitory rooms were relaxing. The view from the window was superb too. After settling in, we proceeded to get dinner in the University cafeteria, dropped by the convenient store with so many cool things on display and then we were introduced to every other APU students. These APU students are called TAs, or assistants for the summer program. 


Day 2: The second day started with Japanese and culture lessons. The culture lesson was a weird highlight for me as the professor talked about how anime affects history. I was interested yet confounded at the same time. The Japanese lesson meanwhile was interactive and I had loads of fun. I learned plenty and I think this day was a great one.


Day 3: This day’s highlight was interaction with the APU club, known as the Wadaiko club. They prepared an astounding performance for all of us as well as gave us a chance to play with the Wadaiko. Wadaikos are drums, by the way. And yes, we also get to wear Yukatas on that day. On one moment, I didn’t know how Yukatas looked like for boys and carelessly snapped of a part of the belt. I was sweating real hard feeling guilty but chose to keep quiet. We then went back to the dormitories to have a good night sleep. I was able to keep the Yukata as a souvenir. We all did.


Day 4-6: The following 3 days came by so quick that I thought the fun will never ran out.

  • sightseeing at Beppu. We went to Onsen Jigoku, which meant Hell’s Hot Spring. Literally hot and a part of the Hot Spring was red coloured. Yes, red.

  • ate at a captivating sushi restaurant. Menus for orders were touchscreen. Yes. I am dead serious. They also had a mini race car toy that delivered our food on the conveyor belt. Students at my table were shocked at the modern restaurant. We also had Natto sushi (Fermented beans), which were said to be the most disgusting food in the entire world. A table nearby us also finished 50 plates of sushi.

  • after the meal, we departed for Usuki City and went to a Buddhist temple with a lot of interesting structures. I prayed a lot at the temple with another TA because it looked like we were the only Buddhists in the bunch.

  • went to the town hall to start our homestay.

The homestay was the BEST PART of the trip.


The family that I was assigned to was really awesome. Kayo-san was the host of the family and she was tender-hearted. No matter how noisy and naughty we could be, she seems to forgive us at times. I was with 2 other participants and a TA. Although she doesn’t speak English, we had our trusty TA to assist us by translating. Without him, the 2 days stay would be weird for us. The family had the most comfortable futons that just sink you in, they also have the automatic toilet, and all modern amenities Japan is so famous of. Kayo-san is also a great chef and each meal is served at its finest.

End of Day 6: At the break of dawn, we went with the other families to create lunch. I finally know how tofu is made. A visit to a cave in Beppu at a temperature of 15 degrees Celsius was exhilarating.


Day 7: This is not a good day as we had to say goodbye to our host family. A lot of people cried. I cried inside my heart too. To feel less sad, we all dropped by a mall for a quick shop then went back to APU for our tea ceremony. The ceremony was intriguing. I also have a word to describe the ceremony -- leg-ache. Doing it right means plenty of patience.

Day 8: A highlight for a Japanese fan  -- shopping in Park Place. The place was absolutely enticing. Summer sales were everywhere. If wallets could cry, I can hear mine crying loudly. The place is as huge as two football stadiums. Going there means preparing to splurge LOTS of yen.


Towards the day end, a farewell ceremony took place followed by a karaoke night. We all had very little sleep yet had to wake up as early as 5:30 the following day.


Day 9: Goodbye Japan. At noon, I had to say my farewells and headed back to the airport, with a very heavy heart.

Galvien and his foster family Kayo-san.

Did I have a great time?

Absolutely! This experience was “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. I have no word to describe the excitement I had. This experience really helped me understand life in Japan more. I am a shy person, so I didn’t make as many friends as others but I am happy to have met few good ones.


Being in Japan at a perfect time, Pokemon Go was a thing at APU and everyone had fun playing it right at the birthplace of the famous yellow monster.

The famous 'hot' spring in Jigoku.

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