Crossing Borders

Messages from Exchange Students

Wattanapmmongkol Yada, from Thammasat University (Thailand)

I stayed in Kobe University for one year, and I’m very glad that I chose to do so. I was the first exchange student from Thammasat University to go to Kobe University, so I was quite nervous as I didn’t really know much about Kobe or its university. Kobe is a stylish port town and it’s also very beautiful with the mountains to the north. I liked it almost as soon as I arrived. Kobe University is situated in the mountains, and the Rokkodai campus provides an excellent view, as well as a good environment for studying.

Exchange students at Kobe University are not only able to learn Japanese at the Exchange Student Center, but can also study at some of the faculties. I was already at the department of Japanese Language at Thammasat University, so I had mostly studied Japanese until then. The Faculty of Intercultural Studies, however, has many different interesting classes. For example, I had a lot of fun studying new things at the American Polygenic Cultural Expression Studies class. The Japanese Communication class is largely aimed at exchange students, but some Japanese students attend as well. I think that speaking to Japanese students – having my grammar corrected by them and so on – helped a lot.

I had many priceless experiences as an exchange student at the Faculty of Intercultural Studies. I was able to interact with foreign cultures and meet students from all over the world on an almost daily basis. I think it’s wonderful that I was able to have such an international experience through Japanese. The Japanese tutors looking after exchange students were also very kind, and always willing to help with any problems. The tutors were always inviting me to all sorts of interesting activities, and helped to create many good memories. Traveling around Japan also helped me to make many Japanese friends. I was also able to act as a teaching assistant in a Thai class. At first, I had no idea that any Japanese students would be interested in Thai. I was happy to see everyone trying hard to learn the language. I really enjoyed teaching them Thai pronunciation and everything about Thailand.

Beyond learning Japanese in my time here, I feel like I’ve grown through all my experiences in Japan. Everyday life in Japan is completely different from Thailand, which taught me a great deal. I’m also very glad that I was able to meet all the wonderful teachers and students of Kobe University. I will never forget the year I spent in Kobe.

 

Amaud Grivaud, From Denis Diderot University (France)

I had already gone to Kobe twice before I decided to study at Kobe University. I even took a tour of the university. As such, when I was picking a location for studying abroad, Kobe was the obvious choice. Even after two years, hardly a day went by without being happy that I chose to go to Kobe University.
Kobe, as you may know, is a large port city in the Kansai region. I feel that Kobe is a very easy city to live in. It may be a large city, but it still feels rather relaxed. This might be because the streets are clean, and there are lush green mountains just north of the city.

I chose to study at the Faculty of Intercultural Studies. I think one of its greatest attractions is the sheer number of courses it offers. It offers courses in very divergent fields, such as art, international relations, foreign languages and more. I also strongly recommend attending the seminars, not just lectures. In seminars there is an actual exchange of opinions from those attending, unlike courses where the teacher speaks and the students listen. Your Japanese is sure to improve by leaps and bounds if you attend one of the debates. And getting to know the students at the seminars will lead to a great deal of fun from parties and stayovers down the line. If you’re not too confident in your Japanese skills, you can take classes in the university’s Exchange Student Center, from beginner to advanced levels.

The Faculty of Intercultural Studies is, as you might expect, tailored towards students with an interest in international exchange. Since many students have an interest in other countries and want to study abroad, they should be easy to talk to. Everyone at the university is very friendly, and I feel that making friends with the Japanese students and tutors should be fairly easy. You also have a chance to meet other students from abroad. Seeing many different values and points of view should help to expand your views, giving you a better understanding of many other countries, not just Japan. You will also be able to re-examine everything you took for granted about your country, which I feel makes studying abroad worthwhile in itself.

After returning home, I spent every day wishing I could go back to Kobe. In fact, another opportunity to study at Kobe University has come up since, and I’m currently studying to become a professor at the Department of Intercultural Sciences. Looking back at the time I spent at Kobe University two years ago, it is not exaggerating to say that the exchange program changed my life.

 

Noaad Beahava Gayle, a department exchange student from Canada

The first thing I felt when entering Kobe University was a sense of release. The exact studies might differ a little, but like everyone else, I’d been through exam hell. After being released from this, I entered the incredibly free environment that is Kobe University’s Faculty of Intercultural Studies. I think this department is a little unusual in some ways. There are teachers who specialize in almost every field, so students are free to learn more about anything they find themselves interested in. The classes are also numerous and diverse, covering psychology, political economics, contemporary philosophy, arts, cultures of various countries, and more than I could possibly write here. I even listened to a few lectures I thought I had no interest in, and enjoyed myself a lot more than I expected. It felt like looking into a world I didn’t know for the first time.
The seminars are also interesting. Seminars involve a very different style of study from high school, where instead of the teacher speaking one-sidedly, students research by themselves and trade opinions in small groups. Unlike other schools and departments, at this faculty you can attend seminars from the first year, letting you get used to it quickly.

Of course, a student’s life isn’t all studying. We also have a lot of fun. For example, I often went to places with students I got to know at seminars. I had many friends – Japanese and otherwise – from clubs and circles, and I have fond memories from our parties. We often helped each other, especially when a report needed to be checked by a native speaker. Whenever I had time, I went to the Hub, to participate in Japanese and Chinese language exchange. Learning new languages goes without saying, but I also enjoyed it because it was a chance to interact with people from many different countries and learn their customs. It should help you to understand the differences and similarities between various cultures, and broaden your views. In general, life as a student here is very fulfilling.

Once you finish your grueling exams, you have a wonderful experience waiting for you here.

Good luck!

 

Nichole Erika Koontz, from University of Georgia (USA)

I came to Japan on trips many times from when I was a child, but I only first came to Kobe as an exchange student. Kobe is a very lively and beautiful city. Thanks to all the mountains, the view of the city and scenery from the campus is incredible. The view from the dormitory, situated on high ground, is also quite a sight. If you go to Sannomiya, there are many shops and restaurants, and if you want to shop in a more urban area, Umeda in Osaka is not far away.

I came to Kobe University to study Japanese. So far, most of my classes have been at the Exchange Student Center. With regards to this, I got to know exchange students from many different countries, and I think my Japanese has improved greatly. Since the classes at the Faculty of Intercultural Studies are not specific to exchange students, you can take any class you wish. There were teachers to teach every subject you could think of and very interesting classes. I was able to learn a great deal about Japan and many other countries.

I can safely say that no student will ever be bored here. There are events and parties all year around, and I add a few more fun memories every month. In my case, I came here in October, but so far, nothing has stuck with me as much as the fun I had participating in the Rokko Festival in November. Unfortunately, universities in the US – my own University of Georgia included – have nothing comparable to Japan’s culture festivals. At the Rokko Festival, I participated in the IC Cafe (Intercultural Cafe) as a volunteer. The IC Cafe was a place where the exchange students and Japanese tutors go to talk and study, and I feel like I come away from there with new friends every time I visit. At the IC cafe, I helped tutors with English interview preparations, as well as getting help with my homework, but there were also frequent parties. I also had fun going to Kyoto for a day and watching the autumn leaves with everyone at the IC cafe. I’m very grateful to everyone at Kobe University for all my experiences here. If I ever have an opportunity to speak to someone considering studying in Japan, I will definitely tell them about my experiences and recommend Kobe University. I will never forget my time here.


End-of-year party with exchange students and tutors

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