Living in Japan, and studying in the Maple program at Osaka University proved to be the most interesting, stimulating, and rewarding year of my life.

The first thing you need to know about Osaka University’s Minoh Campus (the campus you will live and study at) is that it is not centrally located. It is in fact on the side of a mountain, over an hour on public transport to the North of Osaka city itself. Of course, it is Japan, so there is still a supermarket, combini, bus stop, and monorail station within walking distance, and it actually is a good base for travelling around Kansai (it only takes an hour to Kyoto), but it is definitely not an inner city campus. Apart from the slight inconvenience of its location, the Maple course at OU is spectacular. The classes are conducted solely in Japanese, which, although daunting at first, is the best way to kick start your Japanese learning, and you’ll find that within a month your listening comprehension will have greatly improved. They do offer a limited number of courses conducted in English, but I would recommend getting the most out of the fantastic language courses offered there. They also have a great tutoring program where they match every exchange student with a Japanese student who you get to meet once a week and chat with. The university also took us on countless free excursions and three incredibly cheap overnight study tours, where we got to stay in huge Ryokan, and were provided with a traditional Japanese banquet for dinner and a buffet breakfast! All in all I’m really happy I chose OU, as their program lead to a huge improvement in my Japanese language skills, as well as furthering my understanding of Japanese culture.

Japan is an unbelievably beautiful, crazy, intriguing country, and there really is a never-ending pool of experiences to be had. Apart from the obvious things you can find in guide books, I would recommend going to a rooftop beer garden in summer, checking out the underground music scene in Osaka, going to a cat café (google it), seeing the ‘PL fireworks’ in August, and having a beer by the river in Kyoto at sunset. Despite all these experiences you can have, I think the most amazing part of going on exchange is being able to meet so many wonderful people. Over the year I spent in Osaka I made countless friends from across the world. Living and studying with such a diverse group of people is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity; I learnt so much about so many different cultures, and it really was an eye opening experience.

Expenses wise, the rent for the dorms is incredibly cheap; my dorm worked out to be about $50 per week, including utilities (internet is paid separately). However, what you save on rent you probably spend on public transport. The bus, the train, and especially the monorail, are really quite expensive as there is no concession price, and the go card equivalent doesn’t give you a discount either. Fruit and vegetables are ludicrously priced, but you can get discounts if you go just before closing time. Taking everything into account, I would say you could happily live off around $1000 a month.

5 Top Tips:

  • Be prepared when you get there. There is (an incredibly boring) placement test, a report, and an interview in the first week. Don’t be too stressed out about it though, it is just to assign classes; they’re not going to kick you out or anything!
  • If you have an iPhone/iPod, and don’t already have it, download the free app called ‘Imiwa?’ (it was formerly called ‘Kotoba!’). It negates any need for an electronic dictionary. If you turn on Chinese input on your phone, the app can even recognise kanji that you write in. It is the best thing in the world.
  • Go to Sweets Paradise in Umeda. It’s an all you can eat dessert buffet for \1490.Basically you have 90 minutes to shove as much cake/pie/ice cream in your mouth as possible. You will sicken yourself, but it will be amazing.
  • Go to the supermarket called Gyomu (業務)at Onohara. It’s the cheapest place for groceries by far.
  • If you have the chance, please take a trip to Okinawa. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to, and it feels like this amazing laid-back version of the rest of Japan. Jetstar have now started selling ridiculously cheap flights (around $50 each way) between Osaka and Okinawa. Make sure to check when the rainy season is though (it usually finishes around the end of June in Okinawa).

For those about to go on exchange: The time will fly by, so please enjoy every moment and take nothing for granted. Do your best to study hard and improve your Japanese, but remember you can study in your room anywhere, go out and make the most of the amazing opportunity you’ve been given!

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