A bit closer to Heaven
I spent 1 year in Akita International University (2014-2015). This university is located in a small rural town of Akita, northern part of Japan.
The first fact that I would like to highlight is that it is a perfect place to study: a small town surrounded by thick forests and massive mountains, sometimes covered in a small layer of mist, something you would find in Stephen King`s novels. The campus itself is located not far from the town itself, serving as a kind of border between Akita and the wilderness, thus creating a calm feeling of isolation from the frantic rush of a life in a city. Of course, not everybody would appreciate this kind of isolation, but it does come in handy if the thoughts in your head are in complete disarray, and you need to organize your mind. But don`t think that you will be living God knows where. Just take a bus from the campus, and after about 10 minutes you will arrive in town itself. Not the center of it, but you will come across a landmark spot – a large shopping mall, where you can buy anything – from food to a huge plasma TV. You can also visit few cafes and restaurants to enjoy Japanese cuisine, among others. So, you can find anything you need not too far from the campus.
But let`s get back to study. After all, this is a student exchange program we are talking about. The amount of classes is much less than in Russia, especially for exchange students: basically, you will be free around 3 p.m. But as I said before, the atmosphere on campus just invokes an irresistible desire to study. Especially the gorgeous library right there at your feet. I`ve spent a lot of time there reading and doing some assignments, and I can safely say that you will not find a better place to do it. The classes are fewer than you are used to, but their program is narrow-focused, so in the end you will gain extensive knowledge of the subject you have chosen. Besides studying, the university provides a variety of different activities, such as sports, dancing, singing, martial arts a no forth. If you wish to relax, there is a bar nearby, but be sure you are at least 20 years old, or you might have some problems. One of the dormitory’s hall serves as a relaxing zones, where you can sit down with your friends, play videogames, watch TV, and so on. For «iron addicts» there is a free gym on campus.
But I cannot overlook some negative moments. There are few of them. The first one is coldness. As you may know, the central heating system is not spread in Japan, therefore winter is very cold in dormitories. There are air conditioners, but the electricity is pretty expensive, and this machine chews through it like a hungry elephant. You may end up with a 300 dollar bill if you overuse the conditioner, especially in the most expensive dormitory, where there are three personal rooms and three freezing students. The second issue is the size of the rooms. While the Sakura dormitory is very close to our standards, others are very narrow, especially for people who are twice the size of an average Japanese.
Oh yeah, almost forgot: the are bears who like to wander around from time to time. There was even an educated one who was walking towards library one night. But no worries, they are harmless and will not attack you if you follow some safety tips.
Of course, you cannot come to japan and sit through a whole year in the middle of nowhere. You will have a month of holidays, either during spring or summer, depending on when your semester had started. Using that time to visit different cities of Japan is practically your obligation. Personally, I have been to Tokyo and Kyoto, and it was one of the best experiences of my life.
I am truly grateful to the Higher School of Economics for giving me a chance to meet Japan in person. The relationship may have gotten of the wrong foot due to cultural shock, but in the end we became good friends. So if you have an opportunity to go there – take it! You will enjoy your timeJ
Fedor Kisliakov, 4-year student, Higher School of Economics