When I arrived at Kitakyushu University I was in my third year of a Bachelor of Arts. I chose this university due to it's distance from the big cities of Tokyo and Osaka, and this turned out to be a great decision, as the small number of foreigners really allows you to immerse yourself in the language. Foreigners are more of a rare-sight, so you will attract some stares, but it also means there are plenty of opportunities to practice your Japanese, and there is still plenty to see and do if you look around!

Accommodation and Expenses:
The accommodation is chosen for you, and is well organised. There were three separate, but close buildings, ranging from 5 minutes to 15 minutes away by foot Basics like a futon, table, rice-maker etc. are all provided, and the university even lends you a bike! The one thing I would spending money on is a low chair - your back will thank you! Living expenses are quite reasonable - 100yen stores are invaluable and alcohol is cheap, but be warned, fruit and vegetables were my biggest expense.

At KKU all subjects except Japanese culture are conducted in Japanese, though there is the option to take subjects with Japanese students should you want a challenge. Based on your placement test you are sorted into one of six levels, resulting in small class sizes (2 to 8) and allowing you to move at the perfect pace. If after the first week you are finding it a little easy, I would recommend asking to try a higher class, as you will find you pick up words and kanji much faster than at home. It's a great feeling when walking along a street you can read a kanji you learned only yesterday, or understand more of the news because of a lesson! You will also be assigned a tutor whom you can meet, to help with homework or even just for more Japanese practice. Class content isn't difficult, but homework is fairly constant, and every week you will have mini-tests.

All in all Kitakyushu University is a small, close-knit community, which is conductive to study and improving your Japanese, while allowing you to experience many different facets of Japanese culture. My only complaint is that I wish I could have stayed longer!

My top tips:

  • The International Exchange Centre is a great place to make friends with other exchange students as well as Japanese students. There are also microwaves to heat up your lunch, and facilities to make coffee for 20 yen!
  • The (Willer Express) night buses are a really cheap way to get around Japan. Wait until about a week or two before and prices are reduced even further!
  • After 5pm or so the 弁当 at Red Cabbage become half price - a cheap and quick dinner when you're in a rush, or are feeling a little lazy
  • At Queen's Echo Karaoke, 6 hours of Karaoke from 11pm to 5am will set you back a mere 350yen, plus one drink order! I also recommend checking out the various 飲み放題 bars - K's Cafe is a personal favourite.
  • Take advantage of the many extra activities posted on the centre notice board - from part time jobs marking English essays, to school visits and lectures at the local city hall.

Most importantly - get yourself over here! If you can, stay for a whole year, as your Japanese will improve the most after the first few months have passed, and this allows more time for travel. I cannot recommend going on exchange enough, in particular Kitakyushu, and I will treasure these memories forever.


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