Name: Grace Jendreas

Program: Kansai Gaidai University (KGU) Exchange

Location: Back Home in the US

It’s been three months since I returned home from Japan, and to say I’m still adjusting to life back in America is an understatement. I miss the convenience of life there, my friends, and all the amazing memories we made together. While in Japan, I was able to grow a lot in my personal, educational, and professional life. I learned so much about the language and culture from the classes I took at KGU, my friends, and the places I visited. While I could talk about all the ways Japan has impacted my life for days; I wanted to reflect on some of my daily life at KGU. 

Dorm life

I stayed in the Global Commons -YUI- which is the international dorm on campus. You live with both international and local students so it gives you a lot of opportunities to become friends with people from all over the world. The rooms are all single rooms but we all spend a lot of time in the shared commons areas which allows everyone in the unit to become friends.

My dorm room!

I have so many memories from hanging out with friends in the lounges and making dinner together in the kitchen. We were always studying, watching movies, or making weekend plans together. Every month our unit would come together to do fun activities planned by our RA’s. Some of my favorite events we had were making maki rolls together for Setsubun (a Japanese holiday in February) and visiting the Sakura Festival during cherry blossom season. 

Campus and classes

KGU actually has two campuses that are only a 10-minute walk away from each other. While you can have classes on both campuses, I only had classes on the main one. YUI is located on the second campus so I had to walk to the main campus every morning. Since I didn’t feel like walking between campuses after every class I spent a lot of time in the International Student Lounge. So many students spend their time in that lounge so lots of international and Japanese students came up to me and started conversations. It’s so easy to make new friends just by sitting in the lounge!

Me and my best friend at the main campus

The classes offered to international students are all pretty interesting so it was difficult for me to decide what classes I wanted to take. They also range in difficulty so if you want to challenge yourself academically or take less tolling classes to allow yourself more time to travel there are so many options for both. Everyone is required to take a Japanese language course which really improved my language skills and confidence in speaking. I also took classes about Japanese religion and art but there are so many other courses like cooking, fashion, and even manga drawing that I would have loved to take. Class sizes are fairly small with a mix of both international and local students. And there is a lot of group work and class discussion that lets you get to know your classmates really well.

Field Trips 

My floor unit at the Sakura Festival

There are so many opportunities to experience the country through field trips as well. Many classes offer at least one field trip if not more than one field trip during the semester. It’s a great way to see the country and experience the culture first hand with your peers. The YUI dorms will also hold field trips throughout the semester with your units and others. My favorite field trip I went on was visiting the Sakura Festival. It was so pretty to see all the cherry blossom trees and there were so many delicious food vendors. 

KGU and Japan quickly started to feel like home for me in the five months I was there. I made so many amazing friends and created so many memories. I have definitely felt a little homesick since coming back but I’m already planning my next trip to Japan so I know I’ll return to my home away from home soon.