My semester studying abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Japan was the best experience of my life. I learned plenty from my classes but even more from my Japanese and international friends. There was never a dull moment and I was able to experience parts of Japan’s rich cultural history as well as explore the countries technologically rich modern society. It truly offered the best of both worlds, and provided me with an experience I will never forget.
My housing was in a suite style dorm with four double rooms, a common area, and a large, shared kitchen. The best part of living in the Seminar House was that I made friends with students from all over the world. I had suite mates from Japan, Finland, the UK, the US, and Spain and made friends with guys living in the next suite over from Sweden, Australia, and Korea.
We were each provided with our own set of dishes and silverware and had access to two refrigerators, two stoves, two fish grills, and plenty of cupboard space. My dorm room was a traditional Japanese style room with tatami mat floors and fold-up futon beds. Perhaps the biggest adjustment I had to make in my semester abroad was in terms of transportation. With the Seminar Houses about a five minute ride from campus, biking was the primary mode of transportation for Kansai Gaidai students.
I had class Monday through Friday, Beginning with a Japanese speaking class, and a Japanese writing class. These were followed by the Cultural Studies classes that each student had selected in line with his or her major. Apart from my language classes, I attended classes on Buddhism in Japan, Visual Anthropology of Japan, and Globalization at Home and Abroad. Classes were taught in English and were composed of international students as well as Japanese students who were fluent in English. My classes started at 9:00am and were generally finished by 3:00pm, giving students the afternoon and evening to explore the local area.
In between classes both Japanese and International students were always hanging out In the lounge of the Center for International Education (CIE). I found this lounge to be a great place to make friends as well as to practice my Japanese conversational skills , and get help with my Japanese homework.
My Japanese friends brought me to do all the things that Japanese students usually do for fun. This included taking purikura pictures (photo-booth pictures) and going out to sing karaoke at the local karaoke club.
By far my favorite experience in Japan was attending Hanshin Tigers baseball games at the famous Koshien Stadium. Koshien is a massive stadium that can seat 55,000 fans. Hanshin Tigers fans are notorious for being the rowdiest and most dedicated sports fans in Japan. Many fans wear Happi-Coats with team logos to the games and cheer sections lead rehearsed cheers for each player.