Madelyn - Ritsumeikan University

B. International Studies
Semester 1, 2015

Academic experience

At Ritsumeikan University, there are three tracks of study available. OSE (all International Relations related courses in English), IJL (Intensive Japanese Language) and the Business Track which is conducted at a separate campus. I undertook the IJL program and studied 8 credits of Japanese as well as Japanese Economics, Japanese Politics and Shamisen (Traditional Arts course). At the beginning of the semester all students are required to take a placement test and are placed into a Japanese ‘track’ from A-E (A being roughly equivalent to JLPT N1, B is N2 and so on). I had three Japanese subjects, and eight lessons a week (lessons are 1.5 hours long) plus lectures for my electives. The courses were extremely well structured and there was no English spoken in the classroom which was extremely rewarding. My Traditional Arts course was quite a big commitment but it was also a highlight of my semester. The workload for Japanese subjects was quite demanding and the teaching style was very different to what I was used to at UQ with kanji quizzes, presentations, chapter tests and essays each week.

Personal experience

After living with 40 people from 20 different countries in a dormitory for the semester, I have developed long-lasting friendships and gained knowledge about other countries as well as cultural awareness. My Japanese language skills have sky-rocketed and I have learnt to be more independent and take every opportunity that comes my way, as cliché as it may sound. I also had the opportunity to travel. Kyoto is a great location because it is central to cities in the Kansai region – Osaka, Kobe, Nara etc and Nagoya, Tokyo etc are extremely accessible. I also travelled to Wakayama, south of Osaka and Uji, famous for green tea.


I was lucky enough to be placed in Ritsumeikan International House II - dormitory style accommodation. I-House II is the newer of the two dormitories offered by the university and consists of two floors with approximately 20 rooms on each floor. Each room has its own toilet, fridge, bed, desk etc and showers/kitchens are shared. If you are planning to study at Ritsumeikan University, I would definitely recommend applying to stay at I-House II. It is a 10-minute bus ride from campus, close to supermarkets and there is public transport available at your doorstep. There are two live-in house managers, however, there are no curfews etc. Each month the RAs and managers organise a party for everyone. The only downside is that is it a bit ‘rural’. Although it is close to the university, it is about an hour to an hour and a half by bus to the two central areas of Kyoto – Kyoto station and Kawaramachi, so this is something to keep in mind. Some of my friends also lived in apartments allocated through the International Centre and were satisfied with their accommodation. The apartments are also relatively close to the university.


Regarding expenses, rent at I-HOUSE II cost 45000 yen a month (roughly $490). I thought this was extremely reasonable considering unlimited internet in your room is included as well as wifi in common areas and electricity, water usage etc. Although it may seem trivial, crockery/utensils etc are all available which reduced costs as well. 
Food: Fruit and vegetables are expensive in Japan (in general). However, eating out is generally very cheap. In addition, the cafeteria at the university is open until late and offers cheap meals (500 yen – 1000 yen ($7-$12). There is also a convenience store on the campus! I spent $50-$100 a week on food. 
Transport: The flat rate for travelling around Kyoto on buses is 230 yen (around $2.50) wherever you go (one way). I bought a bus pass for around $300 for the semester and this included unlimited travel on city buses. In addition, I-House II provided rental bikes for $30 a semester which was a lifesaver. 
Travel: Domestic travel is very convenient and decently priced, in general. From Kyoto to Kobe it cost approximately $10 for the train and $5 to Osaka. As I mentioned the workload is quite demanding, so I didn’t have much time to travel during the semester apart from the Golden Week holiday period (however this week is made up by attending Saturday classes) and an extra week I stayed in Japan after my exchange. 

Professional development and employability

My Japanese skills and knowledge of the language as a whole have improved more than I could have imagined. As I graduate this year and plan to pursue a career or further study in Japanese/International Relations, the skills I have gained will prove invaluable in achieving my future goals.


The highlights of my experience were learning to play the Shamisen from one of Japan’s most prominent Shamisen performers and instructors in Gion, the entertainment district of Kyoto, and sightseeing within Kyoto, in general. There is always something to do or see and it is a very liveable student city!

Top tips

If you are considering undertaking an exchange through UQ Abroad I would definitely recommend it!!! This semester has been such a fantastic experience and the process was made easy by supportive staff at UQ Abroad as well as Ritsumeikan University. My only regret is only coming for a semester instead of a year! Good luck on your exchange!

Madelyn - Ritsumeikan University