“The land of the rising sun”, renowned for its distinctive culture, technological prowess, and delectable gastronomy, Japan is famous all over the world and my stay in its capital city of Tokyo created a collection of memories I will cherish forever. Fitting six marvelous months into two pages is an impossible task and will not do my stay there justice but I will try my best nonetheless.
Starting off with my accommodation, it was not only delightfully easy to find through the university but it was also part of what has made this journey of mine so incredibly beautiful. I stayed at the ‘Rikkyo Global House’ which was unfathomably cheap as well as an environment I feel confident to call “home”. The manager, Kurihara-san, is one of the nicest individuals I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. Him and the residence supporters made the entire process of moving in and out of the dormitory swift and easy. After a long flight and a first, nervous encounter with the public transport system in Japan, I was glad to have them at my side. There were four other dormitories that were offered, some of which I have seen up close and they seemed to be equally warm and welcoming as ours. Even private accommodations are much cheaper and surprisingly uncomplicated to find. Countless memories were made in the Global House and I met people who I would and will travel thousands of miles for just to see them again.
The Rikkyo University offers various courses and extracurricular activities on its two campuses in Ikebukero and Niiza which made my semester thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. The application was undoubtedly the hardest part since both countries’ bureaucracies are notoriously difficult to deal with. Coupling that with the lingering pandemic, it was definitely time-consuming. This, however, is also an opportunity to acknowledge the continuous support from the international office at Rikkyo. Most of the application took place on their online platform which was very easy to grasp. Over the span of the first couple of weeks, orientations will commence so that students get to know all the facilities, as well as learn some helpful tips about living in Japan ranging all the way from sim contracts to disaster responses. Courses will also be chosen during this time and international students are blessed with an extensive amount of choices. Not only that, but students can also test out said choices for the first week and drop the courses right after if they feel like it which alleviated a lot of the initial worries of choosing your own courses after four semesters of a fixed curriculum. The courses were so engaging and entertaining that I, personally, selected enough to have officials from both universities verify that I am certain of the amount. Among many others, some of my choices were ‘Human Resource Management in Japan’, ‘Asian Economic Development’, ‘Language and Culture’, ‘Argumentation and Debate’, and ‘Japanese J0’. The latter was my first proper introduction into the Japanese language which was one of the most defining parts of my student life there. It was three times a week and got me from knowing little to no Japanese to being able to give a short presentation at the end of the course. This also emphasizes the support for internationals there and further proves that not knowing Japanese restricts neither the choices nor ones’ experience in Japan significantly. Moreover, the professors in both the language courses as well as regular ones were friendly, communicative, and motivated. The courses were often very mixed and getting to know Japanese people is not a problem at all.
It is also worth mentioning that both campuses offer an insane amount of opportunities outside of class. No matter what kind of linguistic, athletic, or social endeavor you are raring to go for, you will find it. I was actually in shock when I saw everything from archery to an actual swimming pool on the Niiza campus, not to mention that they have multiple free gyms on their grounds. Events to support intercultural exchanges are hosted regularly and free excursions to e.g. museums occur on a frequent basis. There was even an entire floor dedicated to this, the so-called ‘global lounge’ in which you would usually hear at least half a dozen languages when it was full.
In terms of sightseeing, even six full months could barely put a dent into the list I composed beforehand which only grew larger every single week I spent there. Restaurants are surprisingly cheap, activities are limitless, essentially every second thing can be done 24/7, and reaching your destinations is a breeze with Japan's jaw-dropping public transport system. Oktoberfest near Tokyo Tower, Halloween at Shibuya crossing, a sunset at Mount Inari, lunch at Sensō-ji, karaoke with friends, relaxing at an onsen, eating your full at an Izakaya, and buying tons of merchandise in Akihabara - these are merely a few of the many things I am fortunate enough to have experienced. Naturally, many people will think about their budget which is a worry I can ease. Accommodation, cost of living, and health insurance were much cheaper than one would think. The latter can even be paid at your nearest convenience store without a problem. Tuition fees were covered, public transport is affordable for everyone, and even a night out in Shibuya will not set you back too much. In fact, a lot of what I did and had a lot of fun doing did not cost anything at all. Many parks, museums, temples, and shrines are either free or offer discounts for students. Food, especially, is something I was worried about at first. However, not only is it comparatively inexpensive, but it is also super convenient. I would not be able to count the amount of times I have gotten a bento box at my nearest ‘Konbini’ and I never had a one I did not enjoy. Whether it is a bus ride to Mount Fuji, taking a plane to Okinawa, or going from Tokyo to Kyoto by Shinkansen in two hours - the possibilities are endless and going to Japan was one of the best and most defining decisions I have ever made in my life and I urge you to follow my example - experience the many wonders of 日本 and grow from it. My advice for students who are considering going there is simple: Do it. You will have the time of your life.
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