Kansai Gaidai Exchange experience – by Joel Caddy

I spent two semesters abroad at Kansai Gaidai, situated half-way between Osaka and Kyoto, and close to the old capital, Nara in Japan.

Kansai Gaidai is a grand university, with conservative but impressive buildings and a great reputation within Japan. Japanese and English subjects are taught, and classmates come from all over the world – the exchange program has aound 450 students from about 30-40 countries. The Japanese program was challenging, but the effects could be felt daily. The teachers really encouraged us to debate in Japanese, and prepare and conduct presentations and interact with Japanese students – talking about subjects ranging from clothing in Japan to the contents of dreams. Being thrown in the deep end really helped me achieve much more than I thought possible before arriving.

The English language subjects on offer are varied, and the professors are passionate about their topics. I took business related subjects as well as subjects covering issues such as human rights and minorities, and cross-cultural psychology. Studying these kinds of subjects whilst abroad is a great way to really see the practical side of the information being presented. The office staff were really supportive and helpful too. There was an abundance of paperwork, but living overseas we need to adjust to the norms of the local culture, I have to admit this is one small area that was tough to adjust to!

Actually living in Japan was nothing short of spectacular. The history and heritage is preserved all around, and cultural events are common. It’s hard to walk a block over without seeing an old temple or shrine, we were lucky enough to live near Osaka’s biggest shine and “Osaka’s most clean water” – people would line up for free water from the shrine’s bore. The people all over are so friendly and love to have a yarn. I’ve heard Japanese people say “we have four seasons”, and thought, “Yeah, so do a lot of places”. However, after spending a year in Japan I now understand. Winter was freezing, freezing cold, with some snow storms, the landscape was brownish and people were less likely to be walking the streets. Come Spring, flowers and greenery bloomed magnificently. Butterflies, grasshoppers and many other insects were abundant and the weather mild and comfortable. The cherry blossom was awesome to see, and doing “hanabi” was a great experience. Come Summer the weather gets really steamy. The beach and local pools become crowded and everyone enjoy beers with barbecues. Cicadas come out fo the ground after 7 years and chirp loudly for a week beore passing on. And finally with Autumn the landscape changes once again, people travel to famous temples to see the browning leaves of Japanese maples all over Kyoto.

All year round the food is so fresh and delicious, not to mention as varied as the seasons. Karaoke boxes, free[!!] beer factory tours, walks in the mountainside, amusement parks; the Kyoto area has it all! The Kyoto/Osaka area is also really close to not just the rest of Japan, but places like Korea and Taiwan are a very short flight away, and Tokyo is accessable by Shinkansen. I can really recommend studying abroad in Japan!

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