Osaka Gakuin University
Student Experience - Japan
Exchange Student, Michael Blodgett
Osaka Gakuin University, Japan – Fall 2003 to Spring 2004
“OGU I believe is quite good if you want to learn Japanese. It’s rigorous, but you have enough time to enjoy the experience of living and studying abroad.”
After turning in all of the required paperwork to Dr. Davidann, I received some paperwork from OGU in the mail. Along with that paperwork and my visa I went to the Japanese Consulate in Chicago. It only took one day to process. I went the next morning to pick it up. Actually, the document I received in my passport was a kind of “landing permit.” After I went through immigration in Japan, my passport was stamped and this permit became my visa. It was valid for one year, from the date of arrival. To get a re-entry permit for this visa, after arrival in Japan one needs to go to the local immigration office to complete a form for a single re-entry permit (3000 yen) or a multiple entry permit (6000 yen). My main recommendation is to take care of things early and on time. If you listen to Dr. Davidann, and are motivated to get the all the needed paperwork completed, then there will be no problems. The visa application items are quite simple I think. Before my departure, Osaka Gakuin University (OGU) sent a brochure about their school (in Japanese). They also sent an orientation pamphlet about life in Japan and things you should know such as money exchange, doctor, etc.
For flight arrangements, I flew with United. The price was about 800 dollars, one way. I flew from Chicago, had a layover in Detroit for an hour and then flew directly to Osaka. I think in total it was about 16 hours. I just searched on Yahoo and Travelocity for my ticket; if you have a fairly flexible schedule you usually can find a good price. The reason why I got a one-way ticket is that I left from Chicago, but came back to Honolulu. In Japan I purchased a one-way ticket, Osaka-Honolulu, at a travel agency for $850. This was rather expensive, since I left Japan during the Obon “high season” vacation period when many Japanese travel abroad. I arrived at Kansai International airport in Osaka. I wasn`t met by OGU contacts, but I have traveled here before so I said I didn`t need to be met. Besides, I had special permission to live with a Japanese friend, rather than with a host family. OGU will pick you up, though, if you give them your flight info. I believe that the host family will also meet you at the airport.
The first week at OGU was mostly orientation. The first day we had a campus tour and a meeting. In the meeting they gave us all the details about living in Japan - how to get a resident card, how to open a bank account, and things you need if you go to a hospital. They also gave us some papers about the school. The second day we spent with some Japanese University students having discussion and playing some games. The next two days we had placement testing. On the last day of orientation we had a welcome party with some students, host families, and staff. The following day we began class.
The placement testing was used for determining Japanese language competency, and what language courses to take. We had a written test involving grammar and kanji. The following day we had an oral test that consisted of listening and responding. Based on those tests we were placed either in the beginner class or the intermediate class. Five of us were placed in the beginning class, and the rest were in intermediate classes. Since I had completed 2 semesters of Japanese at HPU, it was natural that I was placed in beginning level classes.
All the classes are taught in Japanese, so at first that was very frustrating but gradually became easier. There is definitely a lot of homework; I would say at times more than HPU, but only studying one subject, so its easily manageable. You will receive homework everyday. Another important thing to remember, which is different than studying at a regular university, is that your main study is being in Japan, experiencing the culture, and using the language in Japan. The class work is a great starting point for learning about Japan and the Japanese language, but outside the classroom is where you will obtain the skills to reach fluency and how to really communicate with people in their language. Good social atmosphere was always a key for my practice, for example, going to an Izakaya (Japanese Bar) or Karaoke. In these situations you loosen up and feel more confident using the language.
While in Japan, I stayed with a friend. I lived in the city in an apartment. OGU is about 55 minutes in total including walking and train from the apartment. If you stay with a host family rent is taken care of before hand, but I pay about 400 dollars including utilities. For Transportation to school, I bought a train pass. Anything over 5,000 yen a month OGU pays for (reimburses you for it). That is approximately 50 dollars. I spent about $150 a month on transportation between my home and OGU. Each month OGU reimbursed me $100. Recreational use of public transportation aside from going to school can vary depending on where I would go. Public transportation is convenient but can be expensive. You can buy a teiki (set time period train fare card) for one, three or six months. A small discount is provided for tickets of a longer duration. Night buses are more reasonable. For example, I went from Osaka to Tokyo on a night bus and the fare was about $40, much cheaper than traveling during the day on regular transportation. Taxis are expensive, but if you share a ride with several friends and split the fare it is more reasonable. Student discounts are available for purchasing tickets from the Japan Railway for travel within Japan. You can covert money at an exchange booth at the airport or at a bank. It’s quite easy. Also, if you have an ATM card you can take money out that way, but will have to pay exchange rate(s).
For meals, I would usually bring lunch to school, but if I buy lunch at the school cafeteria it’s usually about 400 yen (4 dollars). I eat dinner at the apartment with my friend. I usually help with buying groceries, that’s about 50 dollars+ a month. As for eating out, it is best to talk to other students at OGU and get recommendations on reasonably priced restaurants. Teishokus (set meals) are usually very reasonable. Entertainment is quite costly in Japan. I would say you would spend about 400 dollars a month maybe more depending on what you like doing. For example, going out for dinner once or twice a week, going out for drinks (usually 500 yen per drink), and the movies (about 15 dollars).
On average an exchange student would spend about $1000 dollars a month. After awhile like anyplace you find the cheaper ways of eating or going out and stuff like that. SO it’s possible to live a little cheaper. This number I gave is really a rough estimate. It really just depends what you are doing, if you are trying to travel throughout Japan a lot (which I highly recommend), or what you do for fun. I believe you will see after a month or two how to gage your budget.
There is an international center on the same floor as our classrooms. The staff is there to assist us. They are always quite helpful if you need something. Also, there is a Professor from Hawaii named Daryl Arakaki (I think that is how his name is spelled). He is kind of your advisor while you there. He is great. If you have any interests in Japan, he will try to help make them happen, and if you have problems or concerns you can confide in him.
I highly recommend traveling throughout Japan as much as you can to fully experience all aspects of the culture. As in any country things can vary from one location to the next. It would be convenient for you to travel to other nearby Asian countries as well. Take care of everything early to make your plans less stressful. I would say be prepared financially because Japan is an expensive country.