Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Arts

My name is Natalia, and I took my third year in my Bachelor of Arts majoring in Japanese studies overseas with me from March 2013 to March 2014. I went on exchange to Komazawa University for one year in Tokyo, Japan, and the experience was incredible. I couldn't recommend this university more for people! The area was perfect, everything was convenient, and it's only 7 minutes away from Shibuya and the JR Lines, so it's super close to all the main Tokyo sites! If you love shopping, or sight seeing, this is just one very good reason to study at Komazawa University.

During my exchange, I studied a multitude of subjects, ranging from--of course--Japanese to French, Spanish, Japanese History and Japanese Culture. As a Buddhist school, it offers many different subjects including ones such as meditation and calligraphy. If you want to submerge yourself in culture, this is it! Compared to UQ, the way you choose your subjects, and also when your classes are conducted, is very different, so be wary about this! Ask lots of questions and read up before choosing subjects because once your subject is chosen, you're stuck with it for the year, can't drop it and can't pick up new ones. The major difference is that every subject is conducted in Japanese, and that helps you pick up so many words and grammar structures just by listening to teachers during class. Homework and exams can get a bit difficult when it comes to being hit with lots and lots of kanji, but I found all my teachers were happy to either give me a special sheet with Furigana readings, and if during a test, simply asking them to read the question for you worked, as they're very understanding!

Once you're at Komazawa, I highly recommend joining the PEACE Club. Not only is there no entry fee, but everyone there is extremely friendly, you can make friends really easily, and they will take you to many different places on day trips varying from trips to Kamakura, Nikko, Hakone, Disneyland, FujiQ Highlands and tonnes more. The friends I made in that club are definitely for a lifetime as well! My Japanese speaking skills improved like crazy talking to them, but also messaging them with my phone so my kanji reading improved a lot too. There are plenty of other clubs to join with pretty much every hobby, but most have a joining fee and once you join attending every practice lesson or club meeting is compulsory. It is most definitely worth it though!!

I lived off campus in a dormitory provided by the university in a studio apartment, and let me tell you, that was fantastic. You have about 20 metres squared as your personal space including your own bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, and back balcony area for laundry drying. The only thing you have to share is laundry space, and unless your neighbours are grubs and can't keep it clean, there's no issues with using the washing machine or dryer. Living on my own with no room mate was probably the best year experience I could ask for--not only because it was my own private space to decorate, live and relax in, but I knew any mess was mine, I could clean whenever I wanted, didn't have to worry about waking others if I showered early or late, getting home whenever time (no curfew!), and I got to cook for myself which is very important in building independence, I feel.

In terms of how close everything is, here's a lost of everything you really need to worry about:

  • Supermarket (Maruetsu) - 10 minutes bicycle ride
  • Train station (Komazawa Daigaku Eki) - 10 minutes bicycle ride
  • Komazawa University campus - 5 minutes bicycle ride
  • Convenience store (Lawsons) - 2 minute walk
  • Park - 2 minute walk
  • Shibuya - 7 minutes train ride
  • Bulk buy food store (Niku no Hanamasa) - 3 minutes train ride

Some other helpful things you would need to know; buy your groceries from the Maruetsu or Seiyuu, but for bulk buying rice, meat, or just anything in general, buy it from the Niku no Hanamasa at Sangenjaya Station, the bulk buy supermarket being only a two minute walk from Sangenjaya Station. A bicycle is a necessity, I feel, not only because it gets you places fast, but helps when you have something heavy to carry--like groceries! I honestly don't know how I could have survived without my bicycle, and one with baskets is highly recommended! All the more things you can fit in there. The bicycle will cost approximately 10,000¥ ($100-ish) if you buy brand new, but it's worth it! Rent is cheap and includes electricity, water, gas and internet for the monthly bill which must be paid between the 1st and 15th of each month. Travel costs can get a bit expensive if you travel far, but the immediate train lines shouldn't be a problem. Just keep an eye out if you're catching trains to Disneyland or Yokohama or even Hakone!

While in Japan, travel, travel, travel, travel. I can't stress this enough! You're in a beautiful country with lots of culture, so explore! Also, keep a close eye on the Japanese calendar for festivals, special events, musicals, plays, and conventions. There's plenty to do, both traditional and modern, and if things start to get costly, get a job nice and early because that will be more spending money for you. Travel north to Sapporo in February for the famous Snow Festival, attend Tanabata Festival in July, go sakura viewing during Hanami with friends--just get out there! If you do plan to travel, unless you are loaded with lots of money, I recommend going long distances (like to Osaka or Kyoto) by night bus. It costs roughly 4,000¥ depending on when you travel, and takes roughly 8 hours, but you can just sleep it through and spend that excess money you didn't spend on a Shinkansen (bullet train) instead on merchandise, souvenirs and food.

Live and enjoy!!

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