Study abroad in Japan, Kyoto University

Posted by: Students Worldwide

Published on: 24/06/2021

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Madeleine Baker, Kyoto University


University life

In 2019-20, I took the opportunity to complete a study abroad year away from the University of Exeter and travelled to Japan. I enrolled in Kyoto University as a KUINEP exchange student for the full year exchange programme – although there is also an option for half a year.


Kyoto University and its famous clock tower


First of all, it is worth mentioning that module selection felt much more flexible in Japan than the UK. Rather than just taking History modules, I was admitted into the ILAS (Institute of Liberal Arts) and selected from a range of arts and humanities classes. This meant I could try out everything from Philosophy to Economics to Literature courses at university for the first time. It was especially exciting to take these courses while being in Japan, a country boasting a very different culture to the UK. For example, I was able to study a ‘Popular Culture’ class, where we looked at manga (cartoons), Godzilla, baseball and Nintendo. I was also able to continue studying the Japanese language, and classes are available whether you are a new or advanced learner. Although the workload was quite intense, with assessments being less lengthy but more frequent than those I received in the UK, I made sure to balance my studies alongside enjoying the experience of actually living in Kyoto.


The Kamogawa river, just a few minutes from my dormitory


Everyday living

Luckily, scholarships to Japan are possible to come by through the existence of JASSO, which can provide exchange students with funding each month and is the perfect alternative to Erasmus when studying in Japan. It was also fortunate that I was able to live in a university-provided dormitory, where I met a core group of fellow exchange students, who became the perfect companions throughout my time in Japan and helped stave off feelings of homesickness while away from family and friends.

Another crucial aspect of living in Japan, and Kyoto especially, was the food. Japan is famous for its sushi, ramen and wagyu beef, and while of course they were all in the city in abundance, I equally had the chance to try other food like okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes) and karaage (fried chicken). Not to mention the fact that us exchange students lived on delicious and cheap onigiri (rice balls) that we could buy from nearby convenience stores.


Okonomiyaki in Osaka



I think the best part of my time in Japan, other than meeting many other exchange and Japanese students, was travelling around Kyoto and the country as a whole – and this is something that is worth prioritising doing during breaks and weekends. Some of my favourite places included: Osaka, where I tried okonomiyaki for the first time; Kobe, with the beautiful Mount Rokko and harbour, as well as a great football team and Sapporo, situated in Hokkaido, which was stunning with its snow-covered scenery, snow festival and regional delicacies to try. The only downside was that I personally did not get the chance to travel to the capital Tokyo – so I would advice you to put that as the first on your list!


Football in Kobe


Overall, if you study in Japan, ensure you make the most of it. You will be surprised by the culture, surroundings, but perhaps most importantly by the friends you make.


Credit – Madeleine Baker

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