I’ve been receiving a lot of emails lately regarding course schedules and handling personal finances at Kansai Gaidai, so I’ve devoted this post to help answer some of the questions you may have regarding these topics. Of Course, if you have something more specific in mind, feel free to personal message me or comment on this post and I’ll try my best to answer your questions.
As most of you may already know, taking Japanese is mandatory while attending Kansai Gaidai. However, it is broken in to two separate classes, your spoken Japanese class and your reading/writing Japanese class. All students MUST register for spoken Japanese, whether or not it’s required for your home institution, there is no exception to this.* Although, the reading and writing section is not mandatory, though I highly recommend you enroll in it.
Your spoken Japanese courses take place every morning and are 50 minutes long, while the reading and writing portion is only 3 times a week, also 50 minutes in length. The 3 credit R+W course runs the full semester length, while there is a 1 credit “Intro to the Japanese Writing System” class that only runs for five weeks.
*While it is mandatory for all students to register in spoken Japanese, I knew some students who were only staying for one semester and the pass or fail grade would not affect their GPA at their home institution. As a result, they chose not to go to class. I recommend against this, for starters, you’re in Japan, the least you can do is make an effort to learn the basics of the language, you are going to be living there for 4+ months. Secondly, if you are planning on staying for a second semester, you need to maintain at a minimum a 2.0 GPA and receive no failing grades. Trust me when I say you will not be granted extension for the second term. Even receiving a D is borderline for acceptance.
Your lecture courses take place in the afternoons and are typically twice a week and are an hour and a half long. Some have greater time commitments than others, so some others may run longer.
You should know that there is a credit minimum you must maintain per semester. Between your Japanese courses and your lecture courses, you have to maintain at least 14 credits. They are strict about this, I was forced to take an extra class my second semester that I didn’t need for my home university.
In regards to handling your personal finances while studying at Kansai Gaidai, there are obviously many different options available to you. I personally chose to open a Japanese bank account as I was staying for two semesters. Some of you will be required to open one if your receiving the JASSO scholarship. Either way, opening the bank account is free. However, deciding how you actually get your funds to Japan is what matters. For some of you, you may wish to simply buy Yen in your home country and physically bring it with you. This is fine, just remember to look up your countries specific laws regarding travelling with currency.
Secondly, you can do a wire transfer, as I chose. This option requires you to have a Japanese bank account obviously.This is usually only worth while if you’re transferring larger amount of funds. There’s no transaction fees on the receiving end (unless things have changed since 2014), so you will need to look into what your own personal bank will charge you.
Lastly, I knew some students who chose to take out monthly withdrawals from either their debit or credit cards at the ATM’s on campus. This option is okay too, however, remember to find out what your bank will charge you per transaction as it could be costly if you’re making multiple smaller transactions; remember too that you may have weekly or monthly withdrawal limits.
In regards to daily budgeting, I would personally recommend budgeting yourself spending around ¥1000 – ¥1500 / day. This amount will fluctuate for some of you, up or down, (especially if you are doing a homestay); I think you’ll find yourself eating on campus quite often, it’s relatively cheap and very convenient. Most full meals will cost you less than ¥500 ($5). Something else to keep in mind, if you choose to ride the bus, it costs ¥320 (2014) one way. This daily average of course does not include your spending on weekend outings, so save accordingly. Don’t starve yourself, but never turn down an invitation to go on an excursion with your new friends, trust me when I say you’re on a once in a lifetime trip, you need to make the most of it.