Campus Life: Rena

Well, it’s almost 2 months since I’ve arrived in Japan and I can safely say I’ve settled well here. One of the major difficulties that I experienced during my first month was adjusting to the balance between doing assignments and attending events during the weekend. I went out during most of the weekends, either sightseeing, teaching English to local students, or hanging out with my host family. It was really tough for me in the beginning, but I have definitely challenged myself and gone out of my comfort zone.


At Fukuoka Women’s University, I am taking 5 Japanese Contemporary culture courses (JCC for short), 4 Japanese language courses (grammar, integrated grammar, conversation and Kanji course) and an independent research course named ISP. The hardest course for me is definitely Japanese language. We have 4 levels; beginner, elementary, intermediate and advanced. Back in UoA, I’m actually suited for the pre-intermediate level as this my second year of studying Japanese. I had a choice to take either level 2 or level 3. In the end, I chose level 3 because I wanted to challenge myself and since I’m just here for half a year, I didn’t want to learn things that I already knew. This explains why I haven’t tried many of the Fukuoka specialities dishes, I’m too busy to enrich my taste palate!

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 Here’s my timetable for the semester. Each course is one hour and a half long. Compared to the standard 4 courses I take back at home, 10 is a very big change!

Class style:

Except for Japanese, I have one JCC once a week. The courses are not set in a lecture style as they are in UoA, but rather in a tutorial style. The courses are held in a classroom, and the teacher will explain the topic for the first 40-60 minutes, then we will be given worksheets to do in class or topics to discuss on. After that, we will discuss the answers with the teacher.


Before coming to Japan, I already knew that doing presentations is a common thing in Japanese universities. As a matter of fact, I did my first ever individual presentation on vending machine culture in my food and environment course yesterday! Presentations usually go for 5-10 minutes long and are usually done by an individual or 2 people. I have many more presentations coming up in the future so I’m glad yesterday’s one went well. I’m off to a great start!

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My friends presenting on Hakata Dialect in our Linguistics course

Field Trip:

As you can see from my timetable, the Wednesday slot has been left blank. This is because we usually have field trips on Wednesdays. For my first field trip, we went to the Fukuoka City museum and Disaster and Prevention center. We also have a field trip report due the following week and it makes up the coursework for my Hakata history course.Speaking of field trips, I just came back from visiting a shrine called Umi Shrine and watched a live Sumo tournament. It was so much fun!

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One of the main attractions in the Fukuoka City museum is the King of Na gold seal which was found in Fukuoka. It’s 99% pure gold and shows that the oldest Japanese kingdom is actually in Fukuoka

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Definitely one of the coolest things I’ve experienced here

Glover Magazine:

Our university also has a student magazine. I had the the most amazing chance to be interviewed by the reporters and my interview landed on the front page of the magazine!

It made me feel really special to see myself on the cover page. Being the first and only student from UoA was a bit of a struggle for me during the first few weeks here because it seemed like the other exchange students already knew the university life from their former exchange students in their home universities. Seeing the magazine will always remind me of how accepting the people are here and that Fukuoka will always be waiting for me when I come back.

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Hey, that’s me!


Last weekend, my university hosted their own 2-day festival. Us exchange students had our own booth where we sold Krapow rice from Thailand and Swedish chocolate balls from Sweden. We also performed a song on stage which we practiced for a month.  The turnout on both days was incredible despite the bad weather on the second day. It was such a cool experience and we even made profit! (159,000 yen in total and we got 3500 yen or $44.8nzd each)

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Swedish chocolate balls in cups that we decorated


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Fukuoka Women’s University’s campus facilities boast a gym, a sports auditorium, an ATM machine, a Café, a convenient store, a library, an infirmary and a cafeteria.

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So in love with this campus!

If you have any other questions concerning campus life at FWU, please do not hesitate to contact me! My email address is:


Adobe Spark (13)

First Impressions: Rena

After a few delayed flights and overnight stays along the way, I finally made it to Fukuoka, Japan! I’ve been here for 5 days now and it’s been hectic with meeting new friends from other countries, trying to communicate with my roommates with the limited Japanese that I have, and generally setting in to the dorm life. Though I arrived at Fukuoka pretty late, everyone has been helping me catch up on the activities that I’ve missed. So far, I’ve got my residence card, opened up a bank account, and settled all my health insurance bills. So far, so good!

Pre-departure: Before coming to Japan, you must apply for a visa. For me, my host university sent me a Certificate of Eligibility along with an application form.  I then had to submit the certificate along with my passport to apply for a Visa at the Consulate-General of Japan (or Japan Embassy) which is in Auckland CBD. The Visa itself took around 3 days to issue, but once that’s done, all I have to do next was to submit a copy of it to FWU, and it was all sorted!

Opening Ceremony:

At the start of a new academic year, Japanese schools hold an Opening Ceremony for new students. This Ceremony marks the start of a new stage in each student’s life. Our Opening Ceremony was held last week and it was to encourage and allow students to feel welcome in Fukuoka, and to motivate them to study harder throughout the next few months.

At our Opening Ceremony, the head of each faculty was present, along with the co-ordinators of the exchange student programme (WJC) and our buddies (JD-mates). The Opening ceremony started with a speech given by Shoji Shinkai, who is the vice president of FWU, and is also in charge of international affairs of the university. His speech was a welcoming and inspiring one, and it truly motivated all of us to challenge ourselves and grow to be better people throughout this course and beyond.

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Vice President Shoji Shinkai welcoming us at the Opening Ceremony
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JD mates and Exchange students at the Opening Ceremony

Reception party:

The university also held a reception party for both international  and exchange students. There was a buffet and was catered by the university’s café staff. It was an amazing opportunity for students to mingle and have dinner together. Before we could eat, the director of the International Center, Rie Kawabe gave a warm message to all of us and raised the toast. It was a night of laughter and we made some great memories.

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Rie Kawabe starting the night off with some heartfelt words

JD mates:

Fukuoka Women’s University has also arranged a buddy programme for us since more than half of us haven’t learned Japanese before or haven’t even been to Japan before. The JD-mates had to go through interviews with teachers from the International Center to prove that they could be responsible and committed to help all of us settle in. They also had to show that they had a good command of English, in order to communicate with us better. They are very helpful and understanding and are always online on LINE. I don’t know where I’d be without them!


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Thank you JD-mates, for everything you’ve done for us so far!

Adobe Spark (13)













The University of Auckland students have the opportunity to study at one of eleven partner universities in Japan: Akita International University, Fukoka Women’s University, Hiroshima University, Hokkaido University, Keio University (incl. Law), Kyoto University, Sophia University, Tohoku University, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, University of Tokyo, Waseda University.


Let’s hear what our students have to say!

“Tokyo is a mix of new and old; they have kept many traditional aspects of their culture and old buildings while transforming their city into a high-tech mecca. This makes the city that much more exciting and there is something for everyone. As the majority of the population cannot speak English, it can be difficult for those with no background in their language. However, the people are very accommodating and always willing to help.” – Jennifer Park, Keio University


“Kyoto is considered the cultural capital of Japan, and while there were several busy areas, I felt a tranquil air that seemed different from other cities like Tokyo. While riding on my bicycle around town I could see various temples tucked around regular houses and shops, while famous tourist destinations like Arashiyama and Ginkakuji were a simple bus or train ride away from the center of the city. I had plenty of opportunities to visit many wonderful places. My exchange took place during the autumn/winter seasons, and certainly it was colder than Auckland! But the changes in scenery, from the fire-red maple trees in autumn to snow in winter, were beautiful in their own right.” – Ariani Vania, Kyoto University


On orientation:

“Orientation began as soon as we arrived so there was no time to feel lonely or homesick, and we very quickly made friends with other HUSA students. The best part of studying at Hiroshima University was without a doubt the people I was there with. We all met during orientation and got to know each other very quickly. The only danger with making so many friends from the HUSA program is the temptation to speak only in English all the time! But there are plenty of other ways to meet Japanese people and practice speaking Japanese; there are lots of Japanese students who want to meet foreign students, so you will find it easy to make Japanese friends if you make a small effort. There are also various clubs and programs through which you can meet students or arrange language exchanges.” – Anna Mace, Hokkaido University


“Just after the orientation, I had already found out how amazing and exciting my life in Japan was going to be. Campus locates at center of the city with Tokyo Tower coming into view. As its long history, Keio has a few old buildings as well as newly constructed ones surrounded by many greens. The combination of these gave a great environment to study in.” – Conny Hsu, Keio University


“On the day that I arrived, my host university had sent a student representative to guide me from the airport to my dormitory. I soon met a bunch of other exchange students, and with the two weeks of holiday we had before school started, went exploring together around Tokyo. The first thing that surprised me the most was how packed the trains were around peak hour, as the train was filled with people to the point where none of us could move (or barely breathe). As we entered downtown Tokyo I was immediately captivated by the tall buildings, flashing signs, giant and busy crosswalks and the never-ending list of places to visit and things to see and do. Overall, I was excited about getting to know Tokyo more. The streets were clean, the people were extremely friendly, and the food was some of the best I have had in my entire life.” – Bobby Chan, Sophia University


On housing:

“I stayed in one of the Keio’s dormitory, where both Japanese students and exchange students lived in so people can meet others from different backgrounds. The single room of the dormitory equipped plenty of facilities, which gave a comfortable and convenient place to live. The dormitory managers were very friendly and helpful. I seriously wanted to live there forever!” – Conny Hsu, Keio University


On courses:

“Besides these fun adventures outside the class, Keio offers a comprehensive range of courses with a focus on Japanese aspect taught in English as well as Japanese language courses. I chose a combination of both, and I found it really helped develop my knowledge about Japan and Japanese proficiency. There were a lot of student clubs to join and meet local students, and there were always some clubs you have never heard about. One of my goals was to learn Japanese culture so I joined the Tea Ceremony club. I was completely new to Tea Ceremony but the teacher and other members were very kind to teach me and explain the reasons behind each step. I appreciated the spirit of customer service, which is fully expressed in Tea Ceremony.”   – Conny Hsu, Keio University


“The HUSA courses (classes made just for HUSA exchange students) were enjoyable and I learnt a lot, but for students looking for more depth, other non-HUSA courses may be more suitable. You have the option of taking classes with regular Japanese students, some of which are taught in English and some in Japanese, and you can choose to take a mixture of these courses as well as HUSA courses.” – Anna Mace, Hokkaido University

On the lifestyle:


“My favourite place on campus would be the student cafeteria! That is one of the reason why I think Japanese student life is wonderful. The food there was cheap, yummy and healthy! Outside the campus, several shops restaurants are there to explore. There are two stations nearby the campus with four different subway lines you can access to. That basically can take you to all the major places in heart of Tokyo, which is also the heart of Japan I would say. I usually hung out with friends after class as the train takes you everywhere until very late at night. That was why I always ended up being out late, having heaps of fun.”- Conny Hsu, Keio University

“For me, the best part about Tokyo was their great attention to detail. This makes their food delicious and always of high quality. It is also extremely clean, possibly one of the cleanest places in the world. The cost of living is comparably cheaper than Auckland, especially because the university dorms are subsidized for students and the diverse range of food available that can fit every budget.” – Jennifer Park, Keio University

“Hiroshima University is in the countryside in a town called Saijo, about an hour from Hiroshima city by public transport. I stayed in student dormitories, which were arranged for me by the HUSA staff and were very cheap compared to Auckland! One difficulty I had was the lack of ovens – Japanese kitchens rarely have the typical big oven we have here, so going 5 months without roast dinners and baking was quite a challenge!” – Anna Mace, Hokkaido University


“Japanese people are generally extremely orderly and love to queue up flawlessly for everything from famous ramen shops to public transport. It is amazingly simple to get around Tokyo by public transport, and rarely is there any delay except for snow-related anarchy which makes sense in a city where it rarely snows. People are polite to a fault and generally very friendly. Tokyo citizens both interested in and welcoming of foreign people despite language barriers. Compared to New Zealand, food is amazingly affordable as well as being of a generally much higher standard- absolutely exceptional! The city is extremely clean, almost rubbish free and has an amazing recycling system in place. Also, Tokyo never sleeps but feels very safe.” – Lisa Tate, Sophia University


“I found Tokyo to be an extremely easy place to live. The public transport is amazing, everything is very convenient and on time, food and drink is cheap, and my rent at the dorms was also very cheap, contrary to normal Tokyo prices.” – Erin O’Flaherty, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies


On travel:

“Some highlights of the exchange were, of course, travel. I managed to travel quite a lot, not only within Japan but also to some other South-East Asian countries, where I got to encounter some totally different places. But one of my highlights which I feel is unique to me was working as an actor and model in Japan. I have been acting since I was a child and being a professional actor is something I am currently working towards. I decided I wanted to do all I could to pursue that while I was in Tokyo. I joined a talent agency for foreigners and I had two jobs while there. The first was modeling for a catalogue shoot, and the second was filming a promotional video for the city of Shinjo in Yamagata prefecture. That experience was possibly my number one highlight. I got to go to a beautiful town in the middle of the Japanese countryside and eat delicious food while doing a job that I love. I had some really unique experiences interacting with the locals and being part of a Japanese short film. I also joined the drama club at TUFS in my second semester. I was extremely nervous about acting in Japanese, but the other club members were very kind and supportive. They helped me to perfect my Japanese and I was able to play the main character in a short play entirely in Japanese.” – Erin O’Flaherty, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies


Top Tips:

  • Of course, amazing food is a highlight. Students recommend trying Uji Matcha and Yatsuhashi, which are Kyoto specialties.
  • Push yourself outside your comfort zone
  • Travel to different parts of Japan
  • Take part in a Japanese language course