Eloise - Kwansei Gakuin University

Bachelor of Arts
Semester 2, 2017 and Semester 1, 2018
There is no set formula for life, everyone has come from a different background and is headed in a different direction to you.

Academic experience

I studied in the Modern Japan track, taking courses in Japanese, international relations and Japanese culture courses. My favourite course was a creative writing course taught in Japanese where we wrote short stories in Japanese. Japanese universities are quite laid back, so it was more of a relaxing year abroad, even though I got a lot out of my studies. It was sometimes difficult juggling eight courses at once, but the work load compared to UQ is a lot less and you are not marked as hard. Class registration is relatively easy, you sign up for classes during the orientation period in a classroom with all the other exchange students, so if you have any questions the teachers are happy to help you. There are also class drop periods where you can choose to drop a class if you aren't happy with it.

Personal experience

I have become more self confident, a better communicator and a more empathetic person through my interactions with Japanese students and exchange students. I was lucky enough to go to Hawaii during the winter holidays which was exciting. In my spare time I travelled extensively through the Kansai region and got to know Kyoto very well - it is an exquisite city. I have made some life-long friends throughout the year and I am so grateful to have met people from all around the world. I am more confident in my Japanese now and cannot wait to see where my knowledge about Japan and my language skills will take me in the future.

Accommodation

I lived a 10 minute walk from campus in a women's only student run dormitory. 
There were some good things about the dormitory. It was only built in 2015 so the facilities are modern and comfortable.  You are given a small room for yourself inside an apartment that you share with 3-4 other Japanese girls. There is (generally) only one exchange student allowed per unit.  You are given plenty of opportunities to practice Japanese because you are living with Japanese students.  The dorm is very close to the uni and there are small shops nearby where you can buy groceries. For those that don't mind walking, the train station is 15 minutes away.  It's situated in Nishinomiya, which is a quiet suburb, although there is a primary school next door which is often noisy.
I will say this outright because of the experience I had at Seifuryo: DO NOT recommend female students to choose this dormitory if they are considering going to Kwansei Gakuin University.  I was aware that the rules were strict before choosing this dorm (it's the only dorm at the uni with a curfew, 11:50pm, absence from meetings is taken very seriously etc) however I was unaware that the students would be so reluctant to negotiate when discrepancies over the rules arose.
I spent most of Semester 1, 2018 in an uncomfortable living situation whereby I was living with the appointed leader of the dormitory and we had multiple disagreements. The first time this happened, I was intimidated and shamed and forced to read a public apology in front of the dorm because I went to see my visiting Grandparents in Kyoto instead of attending the monthly meeting. The exchange office in charge of our well being was reluctant to help me. I was able to resolve the situation myself by reaching out to the dormitory warden to change the rules for future exchange students so that they are given greater representation in the dorm. When I was there, we had no one to support us and were given no opportunities to voice our opinions about the running of the dorm. It would have been so much harder if my Japanese wasn't as strong as it was, I couldn't imagine what this experience would have been like for someone who didn't understand the language as well. Whilst there are some advantages to the dorm, the overall lifestyle that you experience is sub-standard and is a continual barrier to enjoying exchange.

Costs

If travel is a priority, I would personally budget around $10,000 per semester. I lived in a low-cost dormitory, so I was paying around $350 a month in accommodation fees.  Food can be cheap in Japan if you're not eating a lot of meat and vegetables, the university cafeteria served lunch and dinner and meals wouldn't go above $5 or $6.  I spent on average $50-$100 a week on food, and this included eating out (I was always buying fresh groceries). Transport can be a little expensive if you're travelling to difference provinces, but you can always find cheap buses or domestic flights for under $100. I would recommend seeing as much of the country as you can, each region is so different and offers so much. I would have as much money as possible so you can fully enjoy Japan without worrying about the finances.

Professional Development

A greater knowledge of the Japanese language, customs, culture and history; more insight into the East Asian political climate; greater confidence and decision-making capacity and enhanced communication skills.

Highlight

Hiking the Kumano Kodo - a World Heritage listed pilgrimage trail - in the height of summer showed me the beauty of seasonal change in Japan and encouraged me to spend the year focusing on building up my strength, physically, mentally and emotionally.  I improved my self confidence, bettered my understanding of East-Asian politics and Japanese and also started writing a novel.

Top tips

Even though Seifuryo advertises an authentic experience living with Japanese girls, the lack of freedom and strict rules do not make this dorm worth living in. I would recommend the international dorms!
Also, join the uni gym. It's only $25 for a whole year and it's totally worth it.