Imogen - Kyoto University of Foreign Studies

B. Arts
Semester 1, 2017

Academic experience

I took 15 classes (equivalent to our 4-course load) including 10 covering all four skills of Japanese, conducted in Japanese: reading, writing, listening and speaking. I then took 5 elective classes; Kanji, Grammar, Japan Seen through Anime, a Model United Nations course and my favourite, Ikebana (Traditional Japanese flower arrangement) Altogether, they amounted to 22.5 hrs of class a week, a lot more than at UQ. In general, there was a lot more homework and classwork but the level of difficulty was about the same

Personal experience

At Kyoto Gai Dai, all students study at least two languages, so everyone was keen to get to know the exchange students and practice various languages. I also had the opportunity to meet many other exchange students from all around the world. Immersion really is the best way to learn a language, and being in Japan helped me improve my Japanese enormously. I'm a little biased, but I think Kyoto is one of the most beautiful cities in Japan, and living there gave me the opportunity to experience festivals, the many temples and shrines and simply be able to soak up the culture and history of the ancient capital. I also improved my ability to problem solve and understand public transport as I travelled to far-flung corners of the city, sometimes without internet!

Accommodation

At Kyoto Gai Dai, the International office organises accommodation for students, and I was lucky enough to be allocated Residence B, a dorm about 5 minutes walk from the university. Residence B was quite new and has the typical Japanese style of a small one bedroom apartment, with bed, desk, bathroom, toilet, small kitchen and a washing machine. Res B also had a common room where we had most of the welcome parties and gatherings, so it was always a lively place to live! I wouldn't recommend sharing a room (which you could do in some other residences), the rooms are big enough for one person but any more is too cramped.

Budget

Living costs were almost the same as Brisbane, if not cheaper. Rent was about $3600 for 6 months (including utilities), and as for food, its almost as cheap to eat out and at the cafeteria as it is to buy groceries. Public transport is very expensive in Kyoto, but you can ride your bike most places in Kyoto, so you only really pay for transport when you are going sightseeing. As for travelling around Japan, you can take buses which are half the price of the Shinkansen. $7000 should be enough to cover living costs and cover some travel as well!

Professional development and employability

As part of my MUN subject, I was lucky enough to be a Chair for Meeting 3 on the Commission on the Status of Women, as part of the Japanese University English MUN held at Kobe University of Foreign Studies. Over this three day event, I guided 40 delegates over the procedures and supported them in creating 5 resolutions. This greatly increased my leadership skills and was a great opportunity to be able to work with students, many with English as a second language, to create potential solutions in the area of Women's peace and security. Exchange, in general, made me more resilient and adaptable to be able to critically solve issues, as well as giving me greater self-confidence in my own capabilities.

Highlight

Cherry blossom season is a sight not to be missed: not only is the whole city blanketed in blossoms, everywhere you look are people throwing parties and picnics beneath the trees, a very fun cultural experience. The chance to attend the Gion Festival in a yukata was also one of my highlights, the festival has been happening for over 1000 years and is quintessentially Kyoto. Lastly, the hiking trip with other exchange students from Residence B and Kyoto Gai Dai students, where we saw Mt Fuji, climbed Mt Yasugatake in the snow and then warmed up at an onsen looking on to a waterfall, was one of my favourite experiences.

Top tips

Persevere with the paperwork! It takes a long time but is definitely worth it in the end! Look into all the scholarship and financial support options available to ease the pressure on your savings. Once the semester starts you may not have as much time to travel, so consider travelling before or after to make the most of your exchange time! On that note, take advantage of the wonderful public transport system to explore every inch of Kyoto, including the beautiful hikes to the north and north-west. If you have a suit or blazer/formal jacket, bring it with you as you will probably have to dress formally for ceremonies. Brush up on as much of the language as you can, and especially for Japan, learn as many kanji as you can!

Imogen - Kyoto University of Foreign Studies