Bachelor of International Studies, 3rd year
Bachelor of International Studies, 3rd year

Academic experiences

I am currently in my third and final year as a Bachelor of International Studies student, and I cannot stress enough to you that studying abroad will be one of the best experiences in your entire duration as a university student.

Initially, I was still indecisive as to which host university to select before I reached my decision of settling on Keio University located in Tokyo.
Out of all the thirty-plus universities to choose from in Japan, why did I select Keio University?
Keio is the oldest institute of higher education and known as one of the most prestigious private universities within Japan.
The campuses, facilities and architecture are archaically beautiful; however it was the teaching staff in Keio’s Japanese Language Program (JLP) that evidently created a rewarding experience.

The JLP is specifically designed for exchange students to focus on developing their Japanese language skills.
Courses can range from intensive or weekly-paced, consisting of short tests, daily homework and final exams.
The semester began with a placement test to allocate students into levels, and from there, students were able to select courses which best suited their ability.

Although the workload became tiring and was strict at times, it was incredibly worthwhile.
Each of the teachers pushed all their energy into improving our Japanese, which ultimately became the reason of my new found confidence in my Japanese skills.
Additionally, JLP students were able to take international courses in English, together with Japanese students.
By doing so, I was able to meet and speak to Japanese students each week and practice my classroom conversation with them.

Kusatsu Onsen

Personal experiences

Overall, studying abroad at Keio University was filled with warmth, laughter and gratifying results owing to the structure of the language program and hard-working teachers.
I can honestly say I never imagined studying abroad would be so life-changing; I will never take for granted the opportunity I was given and genuinely encourage you to do the same.

Matsumoto Castle

Accommodation

Keio University’s famous gothic-red building is located at Mita campus, which takes around 50 minutes to commute from my student accommodation.
However, don’t panic!
50 minutes may sound like a nightmare but the ride is surprisingly very short as the Japanese are fantastic with schedules and express trains.

Organising accommodation with the university was easy and convenient and I was lucky enough to stay at the newest apartment complex – with a supermarket and sushi-train located downstairs.
The dormitory was built in 2013, so as you can imagine it was exceptionally new, clean and included your very own shower, bath, toilet, washing machine, fridge and kitchen.
Despite the distance from campus to the dormitory, I happily accepted this beautiful location as it brought me closer to new places to explore as well as meet the people that became my closest friends during my time abroad.

Shibazakura

Academic development and employability

After completing one semester abroad at Keio University, I was able to visibly improve my Japanese, gain valuable experiences and form life-long friendships with Japanese students and other exchange students from around the world.
Although you may have heard similar sayings from previous returnees, there really is no better way to experience the life-lessons from study abroad other than to go out there and experience it yourself!

Tokyo Disneyland

Highlight

For a city bursting with life and colour, I recommend studying in Tokyo.
Keio University is popular for its top ranking and prestige.
Not surprisingly, the process for the local Japanese students to enter Keio is quite difficult – in fact so difficult that they decided to create a movie (called ‘Flying Colors’ or ビリギャル) dedicated to this very strenuous journey.
It just so happened that I was able to catch the movie in the cinemas with my fellow Keio friends, where we gaped at how outrageous the entrance difficulty really is (so be grateful if you do happen to be accepted into Keio!).

Top tips

Join a circle!
Keio has a wide array of clubs ranging from sports to music to food to general everyday hobbies.
I joined a volleyball circle while I was abroad and met such friendly and welcoming Japanese people who of course, shortly became my good friends.
Circles are much more lenient towards the practice schedules and intensity than clubs so it is perfect for exchange students.

Travel!
Even if it is just to the local park or the other side of the country, travelling is part of the abroad adventure.
I managed to travel around Japan before and during the semester (from snowboarding in Nagano to the summer beaches in Okinawa) and acquired new cultural knowledge and witnessed breathtaking scenery you would never possibly imagine to find in this country.

Plan activities!
Whether it is with your closest friends or a large group, go to a festival, or eat a meal together or simply sit down together with a couple of beers.
People are the road to new worlds and by spending time with more and more people, your abroad family will grow.

Start a budget planner!
By writing down the amount of expenses you spend, it will help with calculating your weekly budget.
100 yen stores are the to-go stop for the initial settling down stage.
I kept track of my expenses the time I was abroad and was able to see where and what I was spending my money on, and decided to work from those calculations.
It is not absolutely necessary, but it gave me an idea of roughly how much money I required each week.

And lastly, don’t be afraid to speak in Japanese.
Use it wherever possible, and with your Japanese friends.
They will teach you vocabulary and perhaps even the local slang.
Embrace the immersion and have fun with it!

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