Bachelor of International Studies
Bachelor of International Studies

I'm in my third and final year of a Bachelor of International Studies majoring in International Relations and Japanese. For my exchange semester, I attended the University of Kitakyushu.

 

Far from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo and Osaka, Kyushu offers a unique experience of Japan. Kitakyushu is a small and quiet city. The locals are friendly and open, if intrigued by foreigners- you’ll certainly be noticed. It is close to the more metropolitan Fukuoka, good for weekend trips. Otherwise, Kitakyushu is the gateway city between Honshu and Kyushu, meaning there are opportunities to travel to many beautiful regions of both islands.

The University of Kitakyushu is a small and welcoming university community. The staff genuinely cares for each student. From the moment I arrived I was looked after. I was assigned a “buddy” to help me with settling in, including the intimidating government arrival procedures. It makes an enormous difference to have such a supportive community while on exchange.

The language program of the university is highly regarded. Classes are given entirely in Japanese and are separated into grammar, reading, writing, kanji, speaking and culture class. The workload is intense with nightly homework and assignments and tests weekly. However, classes are given based on ability so nothing is outside the students capabilities. Generally it is a five-day week timetable and attendance is heavily weighted. Additionally, international students are assigned a Japanese tutor to meet weekly. Tutors are assigned by shared interests so it is a good opportunity to make a local friend.

Aside from studies, university life is active. There are many opportunities to attend different events, organised by the university, students and clubs. In addition, the university assigns each student to a Japanese host family. Host families often take students on day trips to experience Japanese family-life and local activities, be it karaoke, a matsuri (festival) or baseball. Participation in local life is an overwhelming highlight of the exchange experience.

Matthew with robot

 

Accommodation is organised by the university at one of two apartment buildings. This is apartment-style living, meaning you will share a building with locals as well as other international students. It is small but comfortable with your own kitchen, bathroom and balcony and furnished with the basics (fridge, microwave, futon, rice cooker, small television and air conditioner). Both apartment buildings are within a 5-minute walking distance from the university. As well as several shopping centres and convenience stores on every corner, there are countless affordable and delicious restaurants.

Tips

  • Once you are assigned your apartment, your first destination should be a 100 yen store. There you can find the most basic necessities.
  • You’ll get an invite to a nomihoudai early on (if not the first day). I highly recommend it. It’s a great way to meet Japanese people and practice your language skills in a relaxed social environment.
  • If you’re anything like me, internet is a necessity. I recommend getting a “pocket-wifi” from any of the electronic stores. It is cheap compared to Australia and data is unlimited.
  • If you want to stretch your ability, or need to refresh on some basics, I recommend taking audit classes.
  • No exchange to Japan is complete without attending at least one matsuri.
  • Plan any major travels for before or after the semester because there are very few holidays during semester (no mid-semester break).
  • If you have a particular hobby, there is probably a corresponding university club. Joining is a good opportunity to make friends.
  • The university will offer to lend you a bike - its a great way to get around the city.
  • Be prepared that any large furniture you buy will need to be disposed of before leaving at a cost.

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