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13.07.2015

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I studied abroad for a full semester year – meaning, in Japan, from the end of August to the beginning of August – during my junior year at university (2012 to 2013) at Akita International University (AIU). Going to Japan had been on my bucket list even before I went to college, so it was only natural (given my Japanese minor) that when the time came I decided to study abroad. Out of the three programs my school offered (in Tokyo, Sendai, and Akita), I chose Akita International University because I heard the Japanese language courses weren’t terribly intensive and that I could cancel my study abroad after only a semester, if I hated it. So, for the rest of this post, I will give you some tips and tricks, insider secrets, and just general info about my own little slice of rice-paddy-filled heaven. I knew this about the university before I went there, so I was fairly well prepared for this.  But nothing can totally prepare you for the pure lack of human civilization around Akita International University. Basically, you can get whatever you need right here.  And if you can’t find something, or you can’t find it at a price that suits you, check out the shops across the street. The primary aim of Akita International University is to have all of the students in the school graduate fluent in English, so all of the classes are taught in English (except the foreign language classes of course).  Basically, any class you might want to take is almost certainly offered in English. I had no problem blowing through my entire East Asian Studies major courses during my year there, including Japanese language courses (AIU uses the Genki textbook, for anyone who wants to know).  The Japanese language courses were right at my level, and I enjoyed taking them. The rumor on campus was that he used to be in the Russian military and learned to speak in a monotone.  Whatever the reason, I had to drink a can of Mountain Dew, eat a pack of High Chew (for those who don’t know, this is basically all sugar), and take an exorbitant amount of notes in order to stay awake in his class.
I went to visit my really good friend in Tochigi prefecture over New Year’s, and I got to do the traditional New Year’s custom where you line up right before midnight to get into a temple for New Year’s blessings and sake. Akita gets a lot of snow.  So during winter, when you’re up to your eyeballs in snow, there’s not much to do. Most of my friends survived by having a ton of drinking parties, but I don’t drink…  So most of that time I spent having lazy-time in my room, watching dramas and movies and YouTube on my laptop.  If it hadn’t been for the Exploring Tohoku Culture class, I probably wouldn’t have even gone outside (I don’t like the cold much…  Which, of course, is ironic because now I’m living in Aomori at a JET teacher).


So if it’s raining, you live in the freshman dorm (which many international students do), and you can’t find your umbrella, never fear because you don’t have to go outside to get to class.
I loved this because it meant that my cat-like tendency to avoid getting wet was never tested on those random Saturday afternoons when I wanted to pop over to the convenience store for a snack.  It also meant I didn’t have to tromp through the snow to get to class. If I were to have had to pay utilities, I would have been paying a fortune.  But living in Komachi meant I could run the aircon as much as I wanted without paying any extra.
B: You have the opportunity to live with one or two people (the Japanese school year starts in the spring, so if you go in the fall, you live with someone who’s been there from the spring who then moves out and is replaced with an incoming freshman the next spring) who are just as or about as new to AIU as you are. And that’s not including your suitemate, since Komachi’s dorms are two rooms connected by a bathroom in-between. However, do know that most of the Japanese students follow this rule, unlike the gender rule, so you will probably be alone in breaking this rule.  Furthermore, the penalty is worse if you get caught, and I think they recently revamped the system to make the penalties harsher. The biggest upside to living in Global Village for most people is that you are allowed to drink, and this is where many of the drinking parties take place. So what I did (and what many others do) was use the washers in Komachi, hang up any more delicate clothing around my room, and then lug the rest out to the Global Village laundry room.  The big dryers there are awesome. You will automatically be enrolled in the meal plan for the first two weeks, so you’ll have plenty of time to try it out and figure out if it’s for you.  And then you can decide whether you want to drop it or not. If you drop it, you will get fully reimbursed the money that you already paid for it, which you can put towards better tasting meals or groceries. If you don’t want to use the restaurant or traditional meal service, or you miss the cafeteria’s open hours, there is also a cafe located in a different building that serves a couple designated dishes per day as well as burgers, fries, hot dogs, sodas, coffee, tea, and alcoholic cocktails (after a certain hour). Or, you can always pop over to the school’s convenience store for instant ramen, yakisoba, udon, soup, etc.


Since drinking is allowed as long as you inform the office when you rent the space, it’s a great, fun, safe space to hold pretty much any event.  We held a ton of really fun events here, including birthday parties.
Lots of them come to the school all ambitious and starry eyed, wanting to improve their English and study really hard and meet lots of foreigners.
It’s a little awkward and embarrassing at first, but just making the effort to say hi and introduce yourself really goes a long way.  Playing Jenga also helps. It’s also a really great organization to join purely if you want to make friends with Japanese students because the Japanese students who join the group are those who want to make international friends.  The majority of my Japanese friends were part of the IAC, whether because I met them there or because I convinced them to join. Because it’s so secluded and you can get everything you need on campus, it really becomes a close-knit community.  During my time there, I became close friends with most of the international students, my two roommates, and a large group of Japanese students, most notably the freshman that came in the spring.
It’s held from the 3rd to the 6th of August every year, so it’s only a few extra days past the end of the spring semester (spring semester goes until something like July 30th).  You’re allowed to stay on campus for that time, so you might as well take advantage of being there and stay for the festival! Hi, I’m a Japanese uni student doing a bachelor degree (major in PR) at a university in Australia. I’m an art major, so looking forward to study art there from a non-Western point of view. I was living in Alaska for about a year, but I am not sure how the winter in Akita is like..



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