Cooper - Kobe University

B. Arts / English
Semester 1, 2017; Semester 2, 2017

Academic experience

During my year at Kobe University, I aimed to take only courses which would improve my Japanese or enrich my knowledge of Japanese culture. I was enrolled in the Faculty of Letters but I was still able to take courses from the Faculty of Intercultural Studies as well. I found courses in both faculties which focused on language, such as Linguistics, with the courses done in Japanese. Fortunately, the teachers for these classes let me use English in tests and homework when my Japanese skills weren't up for the task. Besides the language-focused classes were those which were about Japanese culture, taken in English, giving a bit of a rest from a Japanese intensive week of classes.

In addition, the Center for International Education provided Japanese language classes for international students of all levels. Each class focused on a different part of the language thus I could choose the skill level which best suited me for speaking, reading, etc. These classes were enjoyable and I left feeling like I had improved my skills further.
The biggest difficulty with taking classes at a Japanese volume was the amount. While each class is only a 90-minute class each week, I was taking around 9 classes each semester which meant a lot of different tests that I had to study for. With a lot of study, this was doable, but adjusting to this workload took getting used to for me.

 

Personal experience

There's no mistaking that this will be one of the best experiences of my life. Living in a dormitory made it easy to make friends and being in Kobe gave me immediate access to most of Kansai. Kansai has a bit of everything and really made for a great home in Japan. Each different area had something to offer and it felt a bit more laid back compared to how it felt when just visiting Tokyo, especially in Kobe, and the food is just amazing everywhere. Overnight buses made Japan a lot more accessible when on a budget as commuting far can often be expensive.

At Kobe University, a few of the classes actively encouraged students to become friends which helped develop friendships.
Along with this are the societies and I joined ISA, the International Student Association, where there were weekly activities with other universities and within Kobe university. Some of my closest friends were made through these classes and ISA, and made being in Kobe a lot more enjoyable.

I personally bought a 50cc scooter for getting around Kobe. This made life so much easier, as for local areas I no longer had to catch the train or walk and was probably the most fun you could buy. Buying through a bike shop, it’ll cost about 40,000 to 50,000 yen including insurance. As I bought it without asking my faculty, it turned out I couldn’t use it for commuting to university with my faculty, but my friends who were part of the Faculty of Intercultural Studies were able to. If you want a scooter I recommend asking first.

 

Accommodation

I lived in the International Residence on Port Island about 10 minutes from the heart of Kobe by an automatic train. It would take roughly 40 minutes to get to class each day including walking or taking the bus. While this was a more expensive option due to transport costs, the atmosphere was great at the International Residence. Students would often gather in the lounge on Friday nights to hang out with everyone or watch movies together. The area it was situated in was great too with 3 large convenience stores not even 5 minutes’ walk away, a supermarket not far away and IKEA was down the road. This dormitory wasn't my first choice but I'm very glad that it was chosen for me. I enjoyed the experience there.

My room was an E type room meaning it was larger than the normal rooms that most people stayed in. I believe it had an extra 4 square metres over the D type rooms for an extra 3000 yen per month. After seeing how small the D type rooms were, I was quite relieved to have been given an E type room, but it doesn’t seem to be a choice that you’re able to make. The residence had been renovated recently and it was very clean and modern. I can’t compare it to the other dorms but I remember visiting Sumiyoshi dorm on my scooter and it struggled to go up the hill where the dorm was situated, so Port Island is great if you’re not a fan of walking up large hills as it’s completely flat.

 

Budget

Rent was 21,000 yen each month + ~3,000 for the common fee.
Electricity: ~4000 a month.
Water: ~2000 (billed every 2 months. I noticed water got more expensive each time I was billed, so be careful how much you use.)
Transport: ~3000 a week if you commute from the International Residence using a commuters ticket for the Port Liner.
Food: 1000-2000 yen a day as I didn't cook myself.

 

Professional development and employability

Besides the obvious language improvements, I feel like being in Japan has helped me become more outgoing and given me more confidence when it comes to presenting myself in everyday situations. I was quite shy when it came to asking for help but by the end, I noticed I was more comfortable speaking up.

Japan really helped me get out of my comfort zone and learn to deal with anything thrown my way.

Highlight

Nothing in particular stands out to me as everything was amazing, but I'd have to say the variety that Japan offers. No matter what it is that you're into or what you're trying to find, there's likely going to be something to suit your needs. Japan just kept surprising me at every turn and it was an enjoyable experience all-around. There's an almost endless amount of activities in Japan and I wasn't able to experience nearly half of what I wanted to so I'll definitely be back many times to come.

 

Top tips

  • If you want to visit Tokyo or other cities, an overnight bus can sometimes be as cheap as 1800 yen one way from Kobe or Osaka. This saves a lot of money on transport and you don't need accommodation for a night.
  • If you live on Port Island, get the commuter's ticket for the Port Liner as this saves an incredible amount of transportation. However, I heard this was only available for those who stay for 2 semesters or more.
  • I'd also recommend signing up for Amazon Prime as you get free next day shipping on pretty much anything you'll need to survive in Japan.