Student Experience - Japan
Exchange Student, Andrew Abordonado
Hakodate University, Japan – Fall 2007 to Spring 2008
“The quality and the caliber of teaching of the classes that I was taking were superior. The rigor is somewhat intensive, but I learned a lot. The teachers often think of creative ways to teach the material.”
Prior to leaving, I applied for my visa at the Japanese Consulate here in Hawaii, located on Nuuanu Avenue. I was required to submit 2 passport sized photos, my passport, and my Japanese Ministry of Justice Acceptance paper (to expedite the process). It took about a week. There were no interviews prior to my arrival, however when I went through foreign customs at Narita Airport, they asked me a few questions about the nature of my stay. It’s important to know the address of the school you will be attending. My visa, I believe, is good for multiple entries; however, I did not intend to leave Japan at all during the year of my stay.
My travel and flight arrangements were done for me by a Japanese tour company called AMNET. My ticket cost $800 one way, however that was also because I wanted to stay in Tokyo for a couple of days before I going to Hakodate. A school official by the name of Kurosawa, was at the airport to pick me up. Afterwards, he took me out to eat, and then took me to my apartment. Over the next couple of days, I was accompanied by various school officials to get my Hakodate City registration card, cell phone, bank account, etc. The people to contact, who assist exchange students with problems relating to their exchange or other matters, are Professor Millar, Scott, Okajima-san, Kurosawa-san, Omiya-san, and the rest of the front office staff.
There were no class choices offered to me. However, the program at Hakodate caters to the level of each student, and constructs a program based off of that as well as any expressed interests you gave the teachers. Originally, they asked simply what I would like to study and then gave me a placement test.
It is best to have studied Japanese for at least 2 years before coming to Hakodate because very few people speak English. I’ve had to use every fiber of my Japanese knowledge to get by in some interactions. However, there are students here who are studying English, so they have helped me out from time to time.
Foreign exchange students at Hakodate University are provided subsidized apartments, which costs $100 a month in rent. Electricity and water, I’m told, totals to about $200-300 (higher costs in the winter). The apartment was furnished with all basic things including a rice cooker, gas cooking range, microwave, mini refrigerator, bed with blankets and pillows, some storage space, desk, and a TV. All of it is squeezed into a single room. There is also a separate bathroom. I use skype on the internet to make long distance calls to other computers as it is free. I have a cell phone which costs about $40 a month. For me I didn’t have to worry too much about exchange rates because my ATM card works internationally, so I was able to access funds from home.
As for things on campus available to students, there are Class clubs available for people to join, there is also a gym open to all students, If you have a laptop computer and a Hakodate University student ID, then you are able to hookup to the internet in the computer centers on campus, and there is internet access in the school library.
The language barrier initially is very daunting, but you get over it with time. Initially it’s a bit lonely as making friends in a foreign country also takes time. The people are wonderful and Hokkaido itself has various beautiful and exciting places one ought to visit. Studying abroad is certainly something all students should experience. You truly become more worldly.