Shimonoseki! What a year! While not quite as popular as the big cities like Tokyo and Osaka, Shimonoseki is a quite, more relaxed town by Japan standards. It’s one of those towns where you go if you really want to improve your Japanese. Because hardely any English speaking students go there, you’ll either be by yourself, or with one or two other like minded students. But because of this, you’ll be forced to speak the language, which will not only cause you Japanese level to skyrocket, but will also make you many MANY friends. From the first moment you enter the university you’ll be met with stares by almost everyone; something that you may get used to, but never gets old.

When it comes to the language difficulty, being someone who wasn’t that great at Japanese when I first came here, it was quite hard to understand and get used to, especially because I came at the start of the second semester the study material was well past my ability (although it did force my Japanese ahead a little but quicker). Being a student in the Bachelor of Arts at UQ (4thyear), I also found that classes are much more frequent (although not nearly as hard) then UQ classes. For one full time equivalent, you should expect to be going to uni at least 4, probably 5 days a week, with Japanese class taking up the majority of time, with 3 hours (2 classes) on wed, thurs, and friday. The international center, along with your tutor can speak English to a certain extent and are always more then happy to help with any problem you might have. It’s almost certain that by the time you leave your best friend will be your tutor. Even though I wasn’t too good at Japanese, my tutor never stopped helping, and a great help he was. I can easily say that my year in Shimonoseki was the greatest year of my life so far, and provided me with countless amazing experiences and stories for when I get home.

Being a small town, while there are a few shopping malls and the famous fish market (with the best tasting sushi you will likely ever eat), if you find your bored one day, Kokura is only about 40mins and 500yen away, while Tenjin is about an hour and a half and 1500 yen by bus. Both of these places provide ample entertainment for a day.

Living expenses are (compared to Australia) very low. Rent and utilities add up to about $300 a month, whereas food will probably cost you around $50 a week (depending on how much you eat and how often you eat out, it could be as low as $40 or as high as $120 a week). Apart from these expenses you can expect that most things (clothes etc) will cost about the same as in Australia, so the amount of money you go through will depend entirely on what kind of lifestyle you enjoy.

My 5 top tips would have to be:

  • Don’t worry about whether or not your Japanese is good enough to pass subjects. If you try your hardest, show up to class and do the exams, you have nothing to worry about.
  • (Unless you’re a big guy/girl (because larger sizes can be hard to find)), don’t bother bringing many winter clothes. Winter clothes are MUCH cheaper in Japan and they take up too much room in you luggage.
  • If your Japanese friends invite you to a nomihoudai (all you can drink), do it. There ALWAYS lots of fun, even if you don’t drink a lot. Izakaya are littered all over the place and all of the ones I’ve been to have offered a great atmosphere.
  • Try to make friends with as many people as you can (including other exchange students), it will very often lead to unexpected and amazing experiences.
  • Be the “yes” man. Unless you already have plans always do what your invited to do. More likely then not, you won’t regret it.

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