Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws, 3rd year
Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Laws, 3rd year

Academic Experience

While studying at Kobe University I took a mixture of classes through the International Student Centre (1 credit each), general courses through the Faculty of Intercultural Studies (2 credits each), as well as a 300 hour Intensive Japanese course throughout the semester (10 credits).

I highly recommend taking the Intensive Japanese program if you want your Japanese to improve quickly. It involves meeting every morning for three hours in a small class of about 10 students and learning a new set of grammar and vocab nearly every day, which you are then tested on twice per week, on top of small kanji tests nearly every day. On top of that, you have to complete about an hour of homework each night PLUS studying for your daily kanji test. There was a lot of work involved, but it really paid off. The Integrated Japanese courses are divided into each specific discipline (conversation, listening etc.) with 5 levels to choose from depending on your ability. This was really handy if you're like me and your speaking level is miles ahead of your kanji. Other than the kanji class, the Integrated Japanese courses move at a much slower pace compared to Intensive. I know that many people felt like the Integrated courses alone didn't challenge them enough to really improve in one semester.

Personal Experience

Studying in Japan was easily the best experience of my life. There's a saying in Kansai that you should study in Kyoto, work in Osaka and live in Kobe. I can certainly say that living in Kobe was an amazing experience; the city itself sits beneath Mount Rokko and between Osaka Bay, which makes for spectacular scenery in every direction. Although Kobe doesn't have the big city vibe of Osaka or Tokyo, I felt like by the end of my exchange I really belonged to Kobe; I knew all the hot spots and the best places to eat and hang out. I guess it was just easy to feel like a local without getting lost in the big city! That being said, we still made weekly trips to Osaka, which is only half an hour by train.

While at Kobe University I was involved in a number of societies, known as circles, including AGLOC (an agricultural society that made regular trips to the Kansai countryside), Queen (a basketball circle), ChaliPro (a flashmob circle) and TRUSS (an international student circle). Joining a circle is an awesome way to make new friends, see new places, experience something new and of course, practice your Japanese!

Studying in Japan is obviously a great way to see the country. The cheapest way to get around is by highway bus from Osaka (and occasionally Kobe), which can take you to just about anywhere in Japan. I was lucky enough to do a fair bit of travelling and managed to visit about twenty-one cities.

Accommodation

I lived at the Sumiyoshi dorm, which is about halfway up Mount Rokko and a 40-minute walk from uni, which was also on the mountain. Sumiyoshi was easily the cheapest dorm in terms of rent (14,000 yen per three months), however this was somewhat reflected by what the dorm offered. 

Upon arrival, the room was very basic. Unless a previous student was kind enough to leave behind their bed, you needed to buy yourself a futon on your first day. You had a toilet in your room, however the showers were communal, which in Japan means the whole onsen-style shower heads in a row on the wall, huge bathtub and nothing separating you from the person next to you. If you like your privacy, this might take some getting used to!

Personally, I absolutely loved Sumiyoshi for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s the only dorm that houses both Japanese and International students (the other two main dorms are exclusively international). Secondly, it was so cheap, which meant you could spend more on your social life and travel. Although the rooms aren’t as comfortable and fancy as the other dorms, I think this encouraged people to get out and socialise in the common room. Finally, Sumiyoshi had a great social culture; there was always someone in the common room keen to have a chat or play some Wii. Ultimately, I think it’s the people, and not the place, that shape your experience. I’m sure I wouldn't have fallen in love with Sumiyoshi if I didn't share it with such amazing people.

Budget

Living expenses:
Rent: about 4700 yen per month
Common room charge: 3,300 yen (I think we paid this 2 or 3 times)
Electricity: about 1000 yen per month
Food: this will obviously differ depending on how often you eat out, however if you eat at the cafeteria every day it will be about 3000 yen per week.

Including travel expenses, I spent about $17,000 AUD over five and a half months. You could quite happily halve this if you only consider living expenses.

Professional Development & Employability

On exchange I learnt a number of new skills, including: how to live out of home, how to dance (to an extent) and most importantly, and after many years of study, I can confidently communicate in Japanese. Studying in Kobe has motivated me to work harder at my Japanese skills so that I can someday work in Japan.

Highlights

I know it’s cliché, but the best part of my exchange was making new friends. BUT, if I had to pick one moment in particular, through my involvement in the ChaliPro Circle I had the opportunity to participate in a flash mob in Osaka. Having never danced before in my life, I certainly never considered that it would be something that I try for the first time on exchange, however it turned out to be one of the best decisions I made.

Top Tips

1. Go by yourself. One of the aspects of my exchange that I’m most proud of is that I went without knowing anyone. You might feel awkward and a bit scared, but it immediately forces you to step out of your comfort zone and meet new people.
2. Join a club/circle. It’s a really easy way to make friends and get involved in uni life.
3. Get out of your dorm room! Some of my best memories are simply studying in the common room with other students.

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