I'm in my third and final year of a Bachelor of International Studies majoring in International Relations and Japanese. As part of my exchange semester I attended Kochi University in Kochi, Japan for Semester 1, 2013.

I wanted to make the most of my exchange semester and really improve my Japanese while I was over in Japan so I decided to attend Kochi University. Kochi University is a much smaller university than UQ and does not currently offer courses in English for exchange students. At first I felt this was a bit overwhelming but after arriving and attending a few classes I was surprised how much I understood and in just one semester I feel my level has improved greatly, especially listening.Most of the other exchange students are from non-English speaking countries as well so it's an environment where every day you will speak, listen and write in Japanese.

The teachers and support staff at Kochi University were very helpful and I never once felt lost or troubled at my time in Kochi as they were always available to help and were very prompt at responding to emails. When I arrived I was assigned a mentor teacher who helped me settle in at Kochi and choose my classes for the semester and was always available to me if I had any questions. I was also assigned two tutors, second year Japanese students who helped me do various things like get my address registered at City Hall and enter the Japanese public health insurance system. The International Exchange Department also takes good care of the international students and organised various events such as dinners, seminars and sports matches for international students, Japanese students also attend and these events are a great opportunity to make friends. One event that was organised by the University was a trip to nearby town to go rice planting which was a very unique experience.

Kochi is not as built-up as the rest of Japan and has some truly beautiful scenery, especially areas like Shimanto River, Cape Ashizuri and Cape Muroto. However I think my favourite place was definitely a small shrine atop a mountain about an hour's drive north of Kochi, Buraki-ji (豊楽寺). The temple was constructed over a thousand years ago and still stands as it did then today. There was no-one but us there and with the cool, refreshing mountain breeze rustling gently through the trees you could almost feel the kami around you.

The people in Kochi are very warm and welcoming. One of my favourite memories of my time there was walking through the large Sunday markets, Nichiyo-ichi (日曜市). Wondering through looking at the stalls, a stall keeper asked me where I was from. After introducing myself and said that I was studying at Kochi University, he said it was great to see young people interested in learning about the Japanese language and culture. With a pat on the back he gave me a large bag of potatoes and told me to spread Japanese culture and language all over the world. This is indicative of the warmth of the people of Kochi, and the strength of the Tosa spirit.

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