Nathan - Kyoto University

B Arts/Laws
Semester 2, 2018

Academic experience

I studied mostly Japanese language courses, but also took some courses in communication and culture in the Asian region. The registration process for Japanese language courses was complicated and involved as placement test, however they were very lenient in allowing students to change levels once they had attended a consultation.

Personal experience

Going on exchange allowed me to make a wealth of new friends, both amongst Japanese students and other exchange students. I definitely recommend participating in language classes, as it's a great way to find fellow exchange students with similar interests since you all chose to come to the same country.

The city of Kyoto offers a huge number of cultural attractions to see in Japan. It holds the most temples of any single city, and as an ancient capital of Japan there is so much history to be found. The golden temple Kinkakuji, and the temple of Kiyomizudera were my personal favourites. It's also extremely close to the largest lake in Japan, Lake Biwa, which offers a short cruise out on the water which is definitely worth the trip.

Accommodation

I lived in a Kyoto University dormitory, however it was in the next city over. While the facilities themselves were great, as I had a room with my own bathroom, it took almost an hour every time I went to university. I would definitely advise future students going to Kyoto University to do everything they can to get into the Shugakuin or Yoshida dorms, as the cost of travel really adds up over time. The rooms are all going to be much smaller than we're used to in Australia, but the facilities really are well kitted out.

Costs

The rent in the dormitories was extremely cheap for what was offered to you, and cheap food is readily available. Be careful with transport costs, because while they appear cheap at first, travelling every day adds up extremely quickly. Travelling around Japan is particularly expensive, however, as trains between cities can be very costly. Heading from Kyoto to Osaka is rather affordable, but travelling to Tokyo can often cost over 13,000 yen. I would recommend a budget of $13,000 for a 6 month stay at the current exchange rate.

Challenge

The biggest challenge I had to deal with in Japan was probably the lack of transparency regarding how your work is marked at Kyoto University. Professors all have their own papers and their own ways of marking each project, and there's rarely a criteria sheet or explicit topics on which you are to write. The best way to get through this uncertainty is clear communication with your instructor, and not to panic.

Professional Development

An overseas exchange teaches a number of professional skills. My time in Japan helped to develop my intercultural communication skills, as well as trained me to quickly adapt and integrate to different environments. Switching between friend groups consisting of local Japanese friends and fellow exchange students from abroad really develops that adaptability quickly. It's also a great way to practice and develop networking skills.

Highlight

The highlight of my experience was probably sharing my first white Christmas with my new friends on exchange. Many key locations like Kyoto station, shopping centres, and many of the theme parks around the prefecture all had special Christmas decorations and events. Attending these in the snow with my friends made for a really special festive season that was really great, and helped to cheer me up from being away from my family.

Top tips

My top tip is to not be afraid to try new things while you're on exchange. The best part about going overseas to study is all the new experiences you can have and all the new perspectives you can find along the way.