One Thousand Paper Cranes 千羽鶴

Golden Week is a week from late April to early May containing four different Japanese holidays, in which every Japanese person takes a week of off work or school, meaning that all of Japan will be travelling during this week. Hence, trains and train stations are crowded, domestic flights are overpriced, and hotels and hostels are overbooked. Many people form the countryside wish to visit the big cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, and many city-dwellers prefer to get out of the buzzing metropolises. I did the same, instead of spending this week between tourists in Kyoto, where I currently live, I decided to go as far north as possible: to Hokkaido. Hokkaido is known for its stunning mountains and ski-resorts, and also for its beautiful flower fields in late spring, both of which were not in season in that week of early May. It was a nice visit anyway, I went to a chocolate factory and a cheese factory in the same day, which, being Swiss, I absolutely had to do. But that is not what this blog is supposed to be about. I would like to tell you about a very short, but impressive encounter I had in Otaru.

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The importance of considering why the unfamiliarity arises

I have been staying in Switzerland for almost eight months. Recently, I have become completely accustomed to life in Switzerland and feel almost none of the difficulties I felt at first. I don’t get lost or have trouble shopping. This is probably because the fact that life here is so different from Japan has become more natural and I no longer feel stressed. There are several things that were unfamiliar to me at first that I have become accustomed to, and two of them are particularly impressive.

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Informal Teaching Style at UOW

At the beginning of my stay the teaching style, classes in general and the way of interacting with classmates and professors at University of Wollongong were highly unfamiliar to me. It started in my first seminar in the first week of the semester when everyone had to introduce themselves and our professor showed us personal pictures of his family, his newborn daughter and unflattering ones of himself. I quickly realized that classes were held a lot less formally than in Switzerland.

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Security in South Africa: navigating personal and social mobilities

There are several aspects (or cultural practices) to life in Stellenbosch that I could write about. The range reaches from load shedding, bureaucracy, greetings, time management, relationships between lecturers and students or – “simply” –  the way in which race influences all those areas and areas beyond that. However, since I can never tackle such an intricate debate in this one blog entry, I decided to write about something more concrete, something that requires that I adapt my behaviour, and is also linked to race and inequality. It is the subject of security. After introducing a few words on security, this blog will illustrate how the reality of inequality and the resulting desire to move socially upwards with the example of course advertising and the number of economics students at the University of Bern (UniBe) and Stellenbosch University (SUN).

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Multilingual environment

There are two things that I found most unfamiliar when I started my studies in Switzerland.  First, the fact that there are people who can speak several languages and that it is normal for many different languages to be spoken. Secondly, there is a memorable question that I was often asked when introducing myself in the early days of my study abroad experience. The question was, “What languages do you speak?”

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When the People Strike

Paris is burning. Lately, social media and the news have been full of pictures of burning garbage containers, rioting crowds, anti-macron banners, and a lot of police, all on the streets of Paris. Since the due date of this blogpost aligns perfectly with the current social movement in Paris and the rest of France, I will attempt to elaborate on this political, social, and cultural issue that has been dividing, uniting and mobilising millions of citizens in the past few weeks and even months. What issue is so pending and relevant that even famous intellectuals like Annie Ernaux form a group with other celebrities and intellectuals that protests this “inegalitarian” reform?

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The Ins and Outs of the US University System

After living in the US for more than 10 weeks, I would say I have become familiarized with some of the cultural practices and institutions, but there has still been nowhere near enough time to get comfortable with all of them. It would probably have been delusional to expect it otherwise, though. However, there is one major part of my daily life that I really had to get used to, namely the US university system.

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Lost in Frenchlation

To begin with, I think it’s important to be aware that what I’m seeing and experiencing right now is but a very small part of the whole of French culture. Paris being a bustling European metropole, it doesn’t represent the more rural parts of France neither can it even be compared to other big cities in the country. There are a lot of French students coming from other parts of France like Lyon, Marseille, and Toulouse. Even for them, Paris is something else and I learned that the capital has a special status among French people.

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