Experience report
Name: Esther Diederen
E-mail: [email protected]
Exchange semester: spring semester 2014
Academic year: 3
Host University: Kyushu University
Country: Japan
TOPIC: Admission, arrival, housing
My arrival was very good. Before my departure everything I needed was already organized. I got
picked up from the airport and brought to my apartment. Kyushu University has a campus for
international students, not far from the university. This will change soon I think because they are
moving the university and campus to a place out of the city. Living on the campus was really cheap
and I had a nice appartment. The introduction activity was fine, they explained us about important
things. There wasn’t any social aspect included in the introduction, so I didn’t meet many people in
the beginning.
TOPIC: Location of university/city
Kyushu University is located in Fukuoka, a really nice city in the south of Japan. Fukuoka is quite big,
and there are a lot of fun things to do, like visiting festivals or going to the beach. Public transport is
very well organized. With the other international students we went out a lot down town. There are
many nice bars, clubs and restaurants. You can also do karaoke a lot, even in restaurants. It is helpful
however to have someone with you who talks Japanese when you go to a restaurant or other place,
since Japanese usually don’t talk English. The university is located 30 minutes by bike of the city
center and 15 minutes away from the campus. International law students have their own building, so
you don’t meet Japanese students often. The campus is quite nice, you can eat in different places
and the buildings are pretty.
TOPIC: Academics
I took four courses at Kyushu University, one of them was for political science so that I could write my
bachelor thesis. The other subjects were Comparative Corporate Law, Maritime Law and International
Law in Today’s World. The subjects are easier than at Tilburg University. Attendance is really
important, if you don’t show up often the professor’s will give you a bad grade. There are also crash
courses you can take, this means that you will have all your classes for a course in a short period of
time. Quality between different subjects differ a lot, and some were really boring. Looking back on my
exchange I wish I would have put a bit more effort in showing up at classes, because then I would
have gotten better grades. One professor did not even read our exams, and graded only on class
participation. At Kyushu University they keep a close eye on international students. They like to be
updated about everything that is going on. I think this is because Japan is a difficult country if you
don’t talk Japanese. However sometimes I did not like it when the administration office got worried
over nothing.
TOPIC: Social life
I had very close contact with other international students who studied law because we shared the
same building. I also met some people on campus. There was not a lot organized to get in contact
with other students, I had to search people myself. What was not so nice was that all other students
except me and two others were already there for a long time. Most students are master students who
come in September or April of the last year and will stay for a year or one and a half year. In spring
semester they had to write a master thesis, so I had way more free time than other students.
Sometimes I didn’t have much to do when other students were all busy with their thesis and I didn’t
feel too comfortable to go to places myself because of the language barrier. Things like taking a bus
or finding a place is really difficult if you cannot understand anything of a language. Japanese people
will usually not approach you, they feel uncomfortable talking to foreigners. One time I was very lost,
and not even the police helped me. I did go on trips, in the island where Fukuoka is located, Kyushu,
there is a lot to see. I also went to Tokyo, Kyoto etc. more far away. You can take airplanes which are
quite cheap. During the semester I had one week vacation very soon after school started in April.
Then in august summer vacation will start. August is the best time for travelling I think, because I
understood a lot more of japan after some months. This made things a lot easier. Also the
administration does not like it when you go on trips if you miss classes.
TOPIC: Living costs
Living in Japan was not a lot more expensive then living in Tilburg. This is because accommodation is
really cheap, also I did not have to buy any books. Food and other products are usually a little
cheaper than in The Netherlands. Public transport is more expensive, especially the train. In Fukuoka
you can take the bike a lot. After the exams I went travelling, this was quite expensive. I did not spent
the same amount of money every month. The first month was expensive because in the beginning I
did not have a bike yet and I also had to buy other things for daily life. Also the summer vacation was
more expensive because I travelled. For housing I paid 140 euro a month, for food the same amount
as I do in Holland. For doing thing with my friends like going out or going on trips I spend most money.
TOPIC: Culture
Japanese culture is very different than any other culture in the world. Every day of my exchange I saw
interesting things. In the first week of my stay I had a bit of a culture shock, but I didn’t have to attend
classes yet so it wasn’t too bad. In Japan everything looks different than in The Netherlands, people
are also very different. They are always very polite and shy. They have different hobbies and eat very
different (good) food. In Japan everything is very organized, sometimes to the point that people don’t
ever relax. One time I went to a big festival in the middle of the city center; everybody was quiet, there
was no rubbish anywhere, people were waiting for a cross over while there was no traffic etc. this was
very interesting. Japanese people also like to go out and do fun things, but in a very different way
than Dutch people. Another interesting thing is that Japanese culture is still very traditional in some
ways, I did not know that before I came to Japan.
TOPIC: Personal development
In Japan I learned a lot about being organized. This is something normally I am very bad at. In Japan
you will have to learn to be organized because otherwise you will get in all kind of problems. Because
I did not know any Japanese, I had to learn to live somewhere without understanding a lot of what
was going on. In the beginning this was difficult, but after a while things got easier. My friends were
from all over the world, and most were older than me. It was nice to have friends I would normally not
choose at first sight because we were so different.
TOPIC: Tips for future students
I had a lot of fun during my exchange and I am happy I choose Kyushu University. However if you are
thinking about going to Japan for exchange you do have to take into consideration that almost all
people you are going to meet will already be in Fukuoka for some months or even a year. They will
already have friends, and will be busy with their Master Thesis. You will have to make effort in finding
friends and getting included in groups. Also most other students are older than you. It is really better if
you know a little Japanese, you can take a language course. If you want to have a really wild
exchange with a lot of partying five times a week, this university is probably not a good choice. If you
are interested in other cultures and a little independent Kyushu University is a good choice. If you
don’t want to study too much this university is also a good choice.

Experience report