Before I left for Japan, I was a third year student in Business Management with an undergraduate Diploma of Languages as well.

At Kyoto Gaidai, I studied courses specifically for learning Japanese. These included a daily class called ‘Kiso Nihongo’ which translates to fundamental Japanese, alongside ‘supplemental’ classes such as Kanji, Grammar and Speaking, which I chose to do myself.

The school functioned much like highschool, in small classrooms, with a school bell and 6 periods a day (although I did not have classes for all of them), including breaks in-between and lunch.

I originally went to Japan to focus on learning Japanese, however, upon arriving I was met by a barrage of intelligent and interesting folk from around the globe. While this wasn’t great for my Japanese, I did make strong connections with people that will last me a lifetime. I now have a bed and a warm breakfast waiting for me all over the world. Haha.

I travelled in Tokyo and Kyoto before settling down for school (which I recommend if time permits) and saw much of the best side of Japan. This ramped up my motivation to study and I also learnt a lot of Japanese before starting. The school provides a tour at no cost in mid semester, which I found to be a lot of fun, and there are plenty of national holidays and long weekends scattered throughout.

As for money, check the exchange rates (I spent my money at an average of 85yen/AUD), I budgeted for $100AUD/day while I was travelling (stay in hostels! You WILL meet interesting people) and found that to be sufficient. The rest of the time was around $50AUD/day (including rent). The amount you spend will be determined most by travel, and extraneous purchases (stocking the apartment, pushbike, clothing). If you want to buy more stuff, budget for it, but remember that a lot will be left behind!

5 Top Tips:

Japan has terrible coffee! But not to worry! Students of Kyoto Gaidai will have the closest access to the best coffee in Japan. It’s a café called “cafellatte” about 15 minutes walk along Shijodori from Kyoto Gaidai. The owners name is Eddie, and is an Australian/Italian (raised Aussie, ethnically Italian) who has been in Kyoto for 7 years. His coffee is the best. You wont find better anywhere in Japan. Tell him Jack sent you! Haha.

Take Jeff Berglunds class “Intercultural Communication in Practice”. Jeff is an American who has lived in Japan for 43 years. He’s a famous T.V. and radio host and is well known in the Kansai region. He is also the greatest teacher I’ve ever had and an incredible person. The class is a faculty class, meaning it will have Japanese natives taking it, it is taught mostly in English and the homework is easy!

Learn all 2000 Joyo Kanji before going. This isn’t as hard as it sounds! Pick up a book called “Remembering the Kanji” and follow the sequence. Get an app called Anki to drill them into your brain. This is not optional! They will be learnt sooner or later. For me, learning them sooner has been invaluable (I also went to Taiwan while in Japan and amazed myself at how much I could understand).

Eat plenty of fruit and veg! The Japanese diet may work for Japanese people, but that may not be the case with you! If you feel like your liver has taken a beating, your clothes not fitting or your energy levels dropping, it may be the diet. Check the rice and white carb intake, and also the alcohol intake (the most popular drinking event in Japan is called 飲み放題(Nomihoudai) which means “all you can drink”.

Get exercise! Either join a club, such as the dance club, the bodybuilding club, or the track and field/running club and do it that way; use the gym at Residence B or school; or join a private gym. Private gyms are very expensive ($120/month and $100 admin sign up fee), so I recommend the other options. Your body will need to exercise with the diet change, sleeping changes, and all the sitting down in classes.

Over-all, going on exchange has been an invaluable experience. It has improved my confidence as a person in all areas and has opened my mind to the differences in cultures around the world. Living in Japan has also made me appreciate the great aspects of Australia more, alongside an array of little things in life that previously passed me by. I can’t recommend it enough!
 

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