1. Upon arrival, did you have to change any classes you chose? How did that go?
I did not have to change any classes but I did, it went just fine, there was plenty of room in all classes.
2. Did someone pick you up from the airport?
No, I arrived a week earlier, but everyone had the option of using a shuttle bus service to get to campus from the airport.
3. How was your first week adapting?
My first week was spent alone in a hotel. I was a bit scared to go out to restaurants or bars or exploring because I was scared I would get into trouble or get lost or something, so I mostly stayed at my hotel and ate food from the convenience store. However, once I moved into my dorm and met all of these people in the same situation as me, it became a lot easier to learn how to navigate Japan.
4. How much are you paying a month for rent, food, transport and other necessities?
Hard to say, maybe 100.000-120.000 yen, but you can get away with a lot less.
5. Did you get into student dorms? If no, where are you staying and how has it worked for you?
Yes, I did, everyone in my program got in.
6. Did you apply for any scholarships? If yes, which ones did you receive?
I applied for the Watanabe scholarship at the University of Iceland and received it. At the JTW program in Kyushu University we were informed that we were all going to receive the JASSO scholarship but I had to decline because I was not allowed to have both scholarships.
7. Did you create a bank account or do you withdraw from ATMs? If you withdraw from ATMs, what would be your recommendation in terms of timing and amount? If you created a bank account, which bank did you go to?
I did create a bank account with Fukuoka Bank. Everyone was required to do so in order to receive their JASSO scholarship payments, but as I am not receiving JASSO then I have not used my bank account much. I only use it to pay my rent bills, but besides that I just withdraw 50.000 yen from the ATMs whenever I need money (it is from my debit card). I think it would probably be better if I was just wiring money from Iceland in to my Japanese bank account because the ATMs have some fees, I am not sure though.
8. Does your phone work in Japan or did you have to get a new one?
I personally did not get a Japanese phone number so I do not know if it would work or not. I know many people had to get a new one because theirs was not compatible with Japanese SIM cards. I currently just use the Wi-Fi on my phone and use Skype if I need to make a phone call. This can be slightly problematic though if you are trying to navigate around the city without Internet to help you find your way, so I do recommend getting Internet service but I have been doing fine without it.
9. Have you had any funny/embarrassing language miscommunication?
Probably lots but I don’t remember any right now 🙂
10. Did you apply for LÍN and advance payment from your bank? If yes, did you encounter any problems/do you have any tips?
I did apply for LÍN, but not advance payment. My first semester did not end until February so LÍN could not see my grades to send me the payment. I had to contact my University to get them to send some type of exemption to LÍN so that I could receive the payment. I had to send them proof of enrollment in Kyushu University to get them to complete the exemption.
11. Do you miss anything about Iceland?
Oh, so many things. Food-wise the big thing was that I find the Japanese milk completely undrinkable. You also can not find many food brands that you know in Japan, except for like Snickers, Kit Kat, Pepsi and Coca Cola. So I missed a lot of Icelandic/Western food but there are also lots of Japanese food that I will miss when I go back home (Ramen). Culture wise I just miss how laid back everyone is in Iceland with the “Þetta reddast” attitude. Everything feels very strict and tense here sometimes but you do get used to it, and it can be a good thing as well.
“Þetta reddast”: [translation: It’ll sort itself out]
12. What’s your most interesting/funny experience in Japan?
There are so many but I had lots of fun on Halloween. The Japanese people take it very seriously and it was so much fun walking around downtown and seeing all the costumes. There were so many. My favorite moment was when my tall German friend was attacked by a horde of Japanese girls dressed as bloody zombie nurses. They started making weird noises and then ran after him and caught him so they could take a bunch of pictures with him.
13. Did you buy a travel insurance before you left for Japan? If yes, where from?
I did not buy travel insurance no.
14. Did you bring medicine with you to Japan?
15. Is there anything you regret bringing with you?
Nothing I can think of.
16. Is there anything you wish you would have brought with you?
I think deodorant is the big one. Even though they have some available here they’ve all been really bad so far. And I haven’t been able to find any Antiperspirant (spray).
17. What’s the weather like? Do you have any tips for keeping cool/warm?
The Weather in Fukuoka has been quite cold recently. It was warm in my first few weeks but then Winter hit. It is not as cold as Iceland but the problem is that my room does not have heating like in Iceland. My only option for heating is the Air Conditioning which makes the air very dry and also raises my electric bill. Therefore I’ve been rather cold, choosing to stay warm with blankets and clothing rather than the Air conditioning. I know some people who just run their AC all the time though, some think it is worth the money. I also know people in other schools that do not need to pay for their electricity separately so I guess it would be less of a problem for those people.
18. How are classes compared to those you took in Iceland, and is it heavier/easier?
Currently I have half my classes as Japanese language classes, taught by Japanese people and then the other half is JTW courses, aimed at exchange students. The language courses are intensive, with a lot of homework, and are definitely more demanding than our courses back home. They are also way more strict, a small amount of absences will result in you failing the class. Being sick is not an excuse unless it’s the Flu, and then you will need a note from the doctor to prove it is the Flu.
The JTW courses that I have taken so far have not been all that challenging in comparison and I would probably say they are similar to our culture classes back home, perhaps slightly easier.
19. What’s your favourite Japanese food so far?
Ramen is my all time favourite. Tonkotsu Ramen to be exact, it is one of the specialties of the Kyushu region.
20. What’s your most disliked Japanese food so far?
I am not very fond of the squid 😛
21. Are there any specific shops that you recommend?
I recommend going to a Book-Off. They are shops that sell secondhand items. You can find anything from books, Manga, toys, computer games, clothes, wallets, etc. pretty much anything you can think of. I bought myself a cheap secondhand guitar there and it’s great. I’ve also bough lots of computer games for the common room in there, it is my favorite shop to look around in. They can be found pretty much anywhere in Japan I believe.
22. Do you have any tattoos? If yes, did you encounter any problems?
I don’t have tattoos.
23. Is there anything one must see or do in your location?
In the Kyushu region I recommend going to the Dazaifu shrine, going to the Onsen and Nagasaki was also very fun. I just recommend you take any chance you get to look around, there will be plenty of opportunities to go on trips and such.
24. Did you travel within Japan? Where did you go and how was your experience?Unfortunately I still have not traveled outside of the Kyushu region. There is plenty of things to see within the Kyushu region though, but I really want to go to Kansai / Tokyo / Hokkaido. I have been to places like Nagasaki, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, the Aso volcano and many others. Had lots of fun and great experiences. I definitely recommend trying to go to festivals when you have the opportunity, they are lots of fun.
25. Do you have anything to add? なんでもいいです。
Coming to Japan can be very scary at first but you will probably be surrounded by people in similar circumstances so I just recommend making friends and not being afraid to go outside your comfort zone and trying new things. Navigating Japan can be very difficult if you do not speak very good Japanese as it is very hard to communicate with them in English most of the time. All I can say is work hard at learning Japanese and don’t be afraid to speak it even if you’re still not very good or are making mistakes, the only way to improve is to try. And for those times when you can’t do it on your own, don’t be afraid to seek help from your friends, they are your greatest resource.