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S M

She/(she/her)
SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › International Studies | Arts + Social Sciences › Global Asia

Program:
Location:
I studied for one semester at Kansai Gaidai University (KGU) in Hirakata, Japan from late January to early June. As an International Studies major with a minor in Global Asia, I was under the Asian Studies Program at KGU.
Experience Details
Semester
Spring
Year
2023
Introduction + Preparation

Before my journey abroad, I had known that I wanted to study at KGU for a long time. I had learned about the school in my first year through a booth at SFU’s study abroad fair, and I was drawn to the school and the Asian Studies Program due to the location of the campuses, the intercultural dorm, and the variety of both Japanese language and culture courses offered. Throughout my one-semester-long experience, I not only learned more about Japan, but about myself and my future goals as well.

Location Research

Before I went on exchange, I spent a lot of time searching through the different course options provided at different partner institutions in Japan.

Financial Preparation

During my exchange, the Japanese yen and the Canadian dollar were almost equal (1 CAD = 100 JPY), therefore the price of living was similar and even cheaper than in Canda. Food and drink were especially cheaper in Japan, while transportation was a bit more expensive than what I was used to in Canada. Although smaller restaurants and stores were mostly cash only, chain restaurants and stores took credit cards, and I was always able to take out cash from the ATMs at 7/11 convenience stores.

Packing

As I was accepted to live in the dorm at KGU called YUI, I only needed to pack my clothes, school supplies, and personal care items. I decided to pack lightly, as I knew Japan had a lot of things that I would want to buy and bring back. As I was leaving in winter and returning in the summer, I had to pack both winter and summer clothes. For any other students visiting Japan, I would recommend bringing clothes like T-shirts, jeans, knit sweaters, dresses, and skirts, but not too much athletic clothing like sweatshirts and pants, leggings, shorts and low-cut tops, as those are not often worn by locals and may make you stand out.

Travel and Transportation

To get from Vancouver to Hirakata, I had to fly to Narita airport, then transfer to Itami airport near Osaka. From there, KGU had a bus service organized to get us to the campus and our dormitory. On the bus there, I was able to meet fellow students and residents of the dorm and made friendships that lasted until the end of the semester.

Preparation Tips for Future Students

Although I knew that I wanted to study in Japan, and was very interested in KGU, I still took the time to explore all my options. However, through my research, I found that KGU was in fact the best fit for me. One of the biggest reasons for that was the courses required and offered at each institution. For example, other institutions required a minimum of six courses a semester or didn’t offer the proper difficulty of Japanese course for my level. However, KGU had a lower requirement of 4 courses a semester, similar to my course load at SFU, and also offered both Japanese language and special Japanese reading courses that were suitable for my personal goals. Through researching my options thoroughly, I was able to find the institution that was best suited for my needs. Therefore, I suggest all students looking to study abroad consider all options carefully before applying.

During my Experience
Orientation and First Weeks

When I first arrived at KGU, I didn’t feel too nervous or experience much culture shock as I had visited Japan many times before. On the first day after arriving, we were given a tour of KGU’s two campuses, the dorm, and facilities. We were also given advice on how to meet new people, how to navigate transit, and recommendations for places to shop and visit around the campus.

Accommodation and Living

I stayed in KGU’s international dorm, which housed both international students from a wide variety of partner institutions around the world and local students interested in studying English. 

Each floor of the dorm was split into units of around 20 students, and I was able to become very close friends with all of the girls within my unit. We would always eat and go out together, and whenever one of us travelled to another place in Japan or another country, we would always bring back souvenirs to share with everyone. Because I chose to stay in the dorm, I was able to make friendships that I hope will last a lifetime.

Learning and Adaptation

As I mentioned, one of the reasons that I chose KGU was because of the courses offered. I knew I wanted my semester to consist of half language and half social sciences related courses, so I took two Japanese courses: Japanese Language and Kanji and Readings. In terms of my English-language courses, I took one on globalization in Japan and another on gender and sexuality in Japan. These two courses taught me a lot about modern Japanese society, aligning well with both my major and my minor.

Accomplishments and Challenges

I was placed in level 6 out of 8 for my Japanese Language course, and it was held 3 times a week, meaning it was not only a high level, but also frequent and intense. However, thanks to this course, my Japanese improved faster than it would have ever done if I continued to self-study back in Vancouver. My Kanji and Readings class was less intense but was extremely useful as it focused on reading and writing kanji, which are the Chinese characters used in Japanese. Through this class, I was able to read signs, menus, and other information easily, which made navigation around the country much easier.

Social and Extracurricular Activities

Outside of the classroom, I visited both Osaka and Kyoto many times on weekends and free days with my friends as they were both only a 30-minute train ride from the nearest train station. Both these cities are very different, with Osaka being loud, modern, and exciting and Kyoto famous for its quiet atmosphere and various historical and religious sites, but there was always something new to explore. My friends and I would try new foods, visit different places like aquariums, malls, zoos, and famous Shinto and Buddhist shrines and temples. There was also a lot to do around campus, with the closest train station and mall being a 20-minute walk away from our dorm. On campus, there were also sports, hobbies, and language-related clubs that international students could participate in, but because of my schedule I wasn’t able to attend regularly. I was able to visit the Kendo club a few times and pick up the sport for the first time in over 2 years. Finally, the Resident Assistants at the dorm put together a dorm-wide fieldtrip to Ise in Mie Prefecture, where I made new friends, tried local food, and got to extract a pearl from an oyster.

Reflection & Tips
Reflection

As I’ve now returned to Canada, I can say that my time in Japan changed me deeply as a person. Not only did my knowledge improve through what I learned in the classroom, but what I experienced outside of the classroom, including navigating a country in a different language, making new friends, and taking care of myself and living away from family for the longest time in my life, helped me mature and develop as a person extremely quickly.

Most Valuable Aspects of This Experience

Although at times I was worried about fitting in or making friends, in the end, all students at KGU – local and international alike – were all looking to make new friends and learn new things from one another. Keeping that in mind, I was able to come out of my shell in ways that I was never able to back in Canada.

Advice for Future Students

My advice for other students looking to study abroad is to be confident, push yourself out of your comfort zone, and try new things. Through these steps, although hard at times, I was able to make irreplaceable friends and memories through my time in Japan.

Author

S M

She/(she/her)
SFU Student Undergraduate
Arts + Social Sciences › International Studies | Arts + Social Sciences › Global Asia
visibility  99
Jun 20, 2023

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