Susan - University of Kitakyushu

B. Science / Arts
Semester 1, 2015; Semester 2, 2015

Academic experience

I studied mostly specially designed Japanese courses for exchange students, but I also did one cross-cultural communications course. The Japanese courses are aimed toward the JLPT test, which most Japanese companies use to employ foreigners. I was given an entrance test to find out which class suited my level, but I was still able to change classes if I felt the need to. 

The classes are split into Kanji, Reading, Writing, Speaking and Grammar. It was a good way to focus on different areas of Japanese. 
The Japanese Education Style is notorious for being all about memorization, and Kitakyushu was no different. It was quite frustrating, but definitely gave me a better appreciation for Japanese students. And regardless, my Japanese level increased dramatically both from classwork and just being in Japan. 

There is an additional class, which isn't really a class, that gives students the opportunity to try different Japanese things. Every class is a different activity; taiko, dancing, calligraphy, etc.

Personal experience

I highly recommend going on exchange. It taught me more about myself than ever before, and I feel like I've really grown. A lot of Japanese people are absolutely amazing and will help you out and take you places all the time. I made heaps of Japanese friends, and also a few foreign friends from Taiwan, China, Korea, Thailand, England and America. 

Kyushu is an area not often visited by foreigners, so it really allowed me to see the real, not-touristy part of Japan. I was able to travel quite a bit, and with Fukuoka so close, travelling to China, Korea and Taiwan is easy and cheap.

Accommodation

The accommodation at Kitakyushu is units outside of the university. Most of the exchange students are placed in the same buildings, so you won't be alone, and the university organizes everything for you, from bedding to rental agreements. Although I chose to stay in a newer, fairly expensive unit, most of the other units were very cheap - about $300 a month (although a bit old). So if you're short on money, there are very cheap options. 

The unit I was placed in was also quite far from uni - about a 20 minute walk. I do believe this was an exception, as the other exchange students all lived very close to uni. However, the unit I stayed in was the newest, biggest and cleanest apartment. So although it was inconvenient, it was very comfortable.

Budget

Japan is so cheap compared to Australia. Rent was the most expensive, mine being about $500 per month, but other students living elsewhere were only paying about $300 per month.

Food is very cheap. Living off of the OS-HELP loan, I was able to eat out almost every day. There's not much variety around the university, but there are a few family restaurants which are always changing their menu - and with an unlimited drink-bar they are great for studying. If you're after more variety, Kokura is close by and has lots of restaurants. 

Entertainment for me was mostly karaoke and going out with friends. Again, this was cheap, and as I ate out mostly anyway, inviting a few friends didn't make a difference. 

Travel was restricted mostly to holidays and unfortunately, travel is one of the few expensive things in Japan. Kyushu does have a train pass for exchange students though, so you can see Kyushu quite cheaply. But either way, even a small holiday needs a few hundred dollars.

Professional development and employability

Most notable is my Japanese proficiency. Just being in Japan, and constantly talking with others in Japanese made me better really quick. I went from barely being able to form a sentence, to being able to crack jokes with ease.

Highlight

My highlight was definitely the people and spending time with friends.

Top tips

JUST DO IT!