I have been talking with a lot of the Japanese exchange students at my home university and I have come to realize just how different the treatment of international students is between my home university and my host university in Japan.
About a month before heading to Kansai Gaidai University ( 関西外大 ) I received an email concerning where I wanted to live, how long I intended to stay and where, information relating to when I could apply for classes and most importantly information on how to get from the airport to the university. Housing was straight forward, listing all of the details of the five off campus, by a mile, Seminar Houses (similar to dorms) as well as the steps in requesting a home stay. I checked out the details and knew within two weeks where I would be living (seminar house 4). I gave a rough estimate of my housing dates, using my definite move in and a tenuous move out date. Housing: check. I found out that I would have to wait until physically arriving at Kansai Gaidai before I could choose anything. Classes: to be determined. Seeing as most of the exchange students heading to Gaidai have never been to Japan before, are unfamiliar with the area, or just outright do not know how to navigate Japan as of the first hour off the plane at Kansai International Airport, Kyoto Station and Osaka Itami Airport, the option of taking a group bus (for incoming international students only) to the Seminar Houses is available and recommended. Ride to Seminar House: check. There is a ¥2000 fee (roughly $24.00) for the bus, but the alternatives would be either a taxi, costing well over ¥5000 (~$60.00) or taking the train which ended up costing about ¥3000 (~$36.00). It was nice to have the choice to go directly to the Seminar Houses or to take our time exploring if we wanted to. Usually everyone is so excited to meet the people at the dorm, to set up their rooms and to see what the area is like, so they go straight to the dorm.
International students on our way to Seminar House 4
For international exchange students coming to my home university the story is a little different. The students use the same system as the full time US students to register for classes and for housing. This site is confusing enough for native English speakers that have dealt with it in the past and heard the best ways to use it. The students are told to use the site and are on their own. What needs to happen to successfully apply for housing is;
- Request housing appointment
- Wait for authorized housing sign up date
- Search for available on campus housing
- Try not to get stuck in forced triples or quads
- Try not to end up in the smallest dorms on campus
- Select a room and wait to hear back from the university
Not the most enjoyable process. Once the students make their way to the USA they have to find their own way to the campus. There are recommendations for them on how to do so, but that usually goes as far as “we recommend you use either a Peterpan or Greyhound bus” and an address for the university. From there they are on their own. As for the students that arrive a few days early they need to look for hotels and make their way there by taxi. Housing: check, Transportation: Unknown.
That is saddening for me to hear. For me how I was treated every day played a large role in my absolutely loving my experience in Japan. I hope that any difficulties dealing with the university do not put a sour taste in anyone’s mouth. It might take a little more time and effort for the very busy staff, but to request a university bus to pick up the incoming students as an option would probably be a reasonable request.