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 ten-minute walk from campus in a women's only student-run dormitory. 
I think the best part about this dormitory was the convenience.  It was refurbished 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 close to rice paddy fields (even though it’s in the suburbs) 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.

This dormitory is very well suited to students who are invested in becoming fluent in Japanese – the opportunities to learn are endless there!  Whilst there is some English translation provided, the dormitory challenges you to get out of your comfort zone and speak to many Japanese girls and learn vocabulary about daily life in Japan.

As long as you don’t mind a dormitory with more structure – they have a lot of rules to follow and it’s important that you adhere to them – you can get a lot out of living here.  Make sure you don’t miss the monthly meetings as they’re mandatory! But the girls are kind and helpful and they occasionally have parties such as for Halloween and Christmas. 

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

If you’re thinking of keeping fit while on exchange, join the uni gym. It's only $25 for a whole year and it's totally worth it.  Also, if you’re someone who enjoys socialising and exploring the Kansai surrounds, I would recommend one of the international dormitories instead since they’re more suited for adventurous types.

Lastly, if you have the funds for it, make sure you see as much of Japan as possible.  This is the experience of a life time and I’m so glad I took every opportunity to see as much of this beautiful country as I did.