I am currently in my third year of the Bachelor of Arts program at UQ, and decided to go on exchange in my final semester before starting my Honours year. At Ritsumeikan University (RU), I studied not only Japanese, but also cultural courses taught in English, which are part of the Global Gateway Program (GGP). It would be best to note that studying only Japanese will not give you the equivalent of a full-time load at UQ.

The Japanese language courses were a lot more intense than the ones at UQ. I studied whole chapters in 4-5 days, and there were quizzes at the end of every chapter, and also major exams after every 5 chapters. Similar to advanced-level Japanese language courses at UQ, self-study is necessary for kanji and vocabulary, but grammar is explained thoroughly in class. The GGP courses, on the other hand, relied on presentations and essays as main modes of assessment. Although GGP courses don’t really contribute to learning Japanese (beside being able to meet and work with Japanese students), the contents are relevant and beneficial, particularly to those going abroad for the first time.

If you’re into sightseeing, Kyoto is the ideal place to be in. There is a famous temple (Kinkaku-ji) walking distance from the university. The bus fare is relatively cheap in Kyoto (¥220 one way, or you can get a day-pass for ¥500), or you can buy a second-hand bicycle for as cheap as ¥5000. I recommend joining a club or society while at RU to maximize your study abroad experience. Quite a few of the students do speak decent English, but written information or announcements are all in Japanese, so it’s probably not ideal to join with no knowledge of Japanese whatsoever. However, some clubs and circles cater specifically towards international students, so pick up all the flyers and pamphlets during orientation and take your pick.

Since the campus is so small, there aren’t any accommodations on campus. From what I can gather, the dormitories, although cheap, are actually quite far from the university. I stayed in one of the university-recommended apartments. The room itself was surprisingly spacious. There were some minor things I wasn’t pleased with, but overall it wasn’t a bad choice. I would suggest checking out Google Maps or something similar, and not relying on the info guide given out by RU to determine the distance between the house and the university though.

Credit cards are not generally accepted, so you would need cash to pay for rent, utilities, public transport fares, groceries, textbooks and so on. Rough estimates of the costs (based on my expenditures) are:
Textbooks: ~¥6000
Rent and utilities: ~¥50000/month
Transport fares (no bicycle): ~¥5000/month
Groceries: ~¥1500/week

I didn’t bring much cash so I was consciously trying to save money, so these estimates are possibly on the low side. If you really need cash though, Japan Post ATMs do not charge any fees for withdrawals using foreign credit cards.

TIPS:

  • Bring a lunchbox to uni. Lunch break is from 12.10pm-1.00pm for everyone, so the cafeterias are always packed.
  • Use Hyperdia if you’re planning to travel by train.
  • Buy anything and everything from ¥100 stores.
  • Buy CDs/DVDs/books from Bookoff or Amazon. There are a bunch of Bookoff stores in Kyoto, but taking into account the bus fare, it’s actually cheaper to buy things on their online store.
  • Be prepared for no Internet access the first few days. There’s Wi-Fi on campus, but you’ll need a username and password to access it.

 

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