Emma - University of Kitakyushu

B. Arts / International Hotel and Tourism Management
Semester 2, 2015

Academic experience

I went on exchange in the third year of my Bachelor of Arts/International Hotel and Tourism Management degree. As I had not been to Japan prior to my exchange, I wanted to experience the ‘real Japan’ and live within its culture. I chose the University of Kitakyushu (UKK) because it is a smaller university and is in an area less travelled by foreigners. Another advantage of choosing UKK is that cost of living in this area is significantly cheaper than other universities on offer. 

The class sizes at UKK are small and are personalised, with teachers and classmates becoming your family. The teachers go above and beyond to ensure that you get the most out of your learning experience. The nature of the assessment process, consisting of; regular and ongoing small tests and daily homework forces you to stay on top of your studies. As I personally prefer this mode of learning and assessment, I thoroughly enjoyed my classes at UKK. As all classes are taught only in Japanese, the main challenge I faced was misinterpreting grammar points in relation to literal meanings in English.

Personal experience

Going on exchange is definitely a ‘once in a lifetime’ experience, and one I’ll never forget! I made friends with such a wide variety of people from around the globe. Despite only going for one semester, I managed to see quite a lot of Japan; from the major cities, as well as Mt Fuji, Hakuba, and right down to the south of the Kyushu island, to Kagoshima. 

In terms of language ability, I had the expectation that going on exchange would improve my Japanese skills out of sight. Although they have improved quite a lot, if your main goal of exchange is to improve your Japanese, I recommend going for a whole year!

Accommodation

As the university does not have on-campus accommodation, they assign you to an apartment building nearby. Prior to exchange, I was quite daunted by the idea of living by myself, but it turned out to just want I needed. It allowed me time to myself, while still knowing other exchange students were nearby, if not in the same apartment building. 
My apartment was a ten-minute walk from the university and had a small table, lamp, television, futon, fridge, microwave and rice cooker. All of the apartment buildings are within walking distance to the monorail and university. I recommend not buying much furniture, as, keep in mind, you will need to get rid of it before you leave! 

Budget

My exchange, as well as travel before and after the semester, cost me around $9000. With university and supermarkets within walking distance, and shopping centres only a few monorail stops away, low-cost living is easy to do. I was fortunate enough to acquire 3 small part-time jobs which helped with paying the bills. My biggest expenses were definitely fresh fruit and vegetables, as well as travelling (particularly the Shinkansen). 

A word of warning; the UQ page for the University of Kitakyushu says that the university will lend you a bike. This is no longer the case. Although it's not necessary, I bought myself a bike, which cost 10000 yen. This was beneficial for me, personally, as it gave me opportunities to see other areas in Kitakyushu.

I received a grant and took out the OS-Help loan. I definitely think one semester abroad is achievable with the grant and loan alone. However, if you are a keen traveller, I would suggest saving up extra!

Professional development and employability

Going on exchange has enhanced my ability and confidence to interact with people from different cultures. In addition, I have further gained an appreciation for Japanese history and their customs. Of course, living in Japan has developed my Japanese skills which I intend on using for future careers.

Highlight

The highlight of my experience was definitely visiting Mt Fuji! If you are planning on going to Mt Fuji, stay in a Ryokan (Japanese-style Inn) in the Kawaguchiko area, go to bus stop 22 for the Sunset, and make sure you get up for the Sunrise! As I was there during winter, climbing Mt Fuji was not possible, but seeing a snow-covered Mt Fuji up close is definitely worth a visit!

If you are in Japan during December and want to experience a traditional Japanese New Years Eve, make sure to go to a Temple! I was lucky enough to be at Sensouji in Tokyo for New Year's Eve, and it was an incredible experience.

Top tips

  • If possible, say yes to every invitation you get! You get enough free time, so spend it meeting new people, seeing new places, and experiencing new adventures!
  • Finding a sim card in Japan was quite challenging for me. Make sure you find out the conditions of the sim card contract cancellation, as I had to work my way through a Japanese website to cancel, as well as return my sim card in the mail to the company, to avoid extra charges. 
  • Find a job, even if it’s just marking English essays. You will have enough free time to do so, and it really helps with paying the bills! 
  • Join a club! It is a great way to meet Japanese students, that you wouldn’t otherwise meet, as you are likely to spend a lot of time with other exchange students.
  • I recommend spending as much of your spare time in the ‘Kokusai Centre’. You can meet Japanese students, and practice up on your speaking skills. Keep in mind though, most of these students are looking at or have already been on exchange, so they will most likely want to practice their English on you. If their English is better than your Japanese, don’t feel defeated. Keep at it! 
  • If you are thinking about exchange in Japan, do it! You won’t regret it!
Emma - University of Kitakyushu