Student Voice: Online exchange at AIU? Of course! -Annika EXNER, University of Passau, Germany

Ms. Annika Exner, the river Donau and the castle of Passau (the Veste Oberhaus) in the background.


I decided to study a semester abroad at AIU, even though I could only do it online because of travel restrictions related to COVID-19. I am staying in my home country, Germany, and attend classes and other activities via Zoom. To be honest, at first, I did not expect much because I anticipated that the experience would not be the same. But right from the start of the semester I was convinced that I made the right decision. AIU is well-prepared to tackle the special situation and offers high-quality online courses and a welcoming community.

I am taking an intensive language course for beginners four times a week. I have never studied with so much enthusiasm before! Even though it is a lot of (home)work, my fellow students, my teacher, and I are highly motivated. The course is a lot of fun and I am learning quickly. Not even the different time zones are a serious problem. Japan and Germany have a time difference of 7 hours, so I have to get up at 5 a.m. for my earliest course that starts at 5:30 a.m. I am also taking courses about Japanese history, Japanese society, and artificial intelligence.
The learning culture is quite different from the German one. At AIU I have to submit several small assignments during the semester while in Germany there is usually only one big exam or term paper at the end of the semester. I think it is beneficial to adapt to a different system as it makes me more flexible.

International Parcel Project
My personal highlight is the International Parcel Project that the Resident Assistants (RA) launched for the first time. I suggested the idea of exchanging regional goods among Japanese and international students and by that get into contact and build friendships. The RA made my idea come true and several students will exchange parcels with sweets, snacks, or other goods related to their hometown and country.

Online Community
Despite not being able to meet people on campus I talked to many Japanese and international students via Zoom or started chatting online. Everyone is very open-minded and happy to connect. The Parcel Project, some interviews for fieldwork related to one of my courses or online events where you could just talk – There are a lot of opportunities for social interaction. I really hope I can stay in touch and come to Japan one day after my wonderful online semester at AIU has ended.


A meeting of the international parcel project participants.