My name is Jiaao, I was in YIJ program at Konan University, Kobe, for one semester started from fall 2018 to the beginning of 2019. I will put this word before I start to talk about my life there. I would rather be there for one more semester even if I cannot graduate on time.
Everything that you have here is more than what you could ever imagine. Academically, it is a happy experience, but never an easy one. You will be placed in one of the several levels after an exam. Do not worry about whether you did good or not because no matter what level you were put into, you will definitely learn a lot. I was put into the highest level and one day when I talk about some grammar with my classmate at another level, I realize some of the grammar they learned is unfamiliar to me. I then realize that even though I am at the highest level, there is always more to learn. The morning class is always going to be your language course. The instructors are the teacher of Konan University. I was worried a little bit at the beginning because local teachers may not know how to teach foreigners, but soon I found out they are professionals. It's never a boring class because you will have a chance to hear more about cultures, stories, watching videos that related to the materials, and some times even going out to talk to the locals. You will have your own research topics to eventually make a presentation and talk about it to your classmates. They give you a chance to local areas to talk and learn about your topic so learning about it is not like sitting in front of the desk and searching it online. By the end of the semester, you will have a chance to take an official Japanese test which if you learned carefully in your daily classes I think you will pass it. Afternoon classes are those cultural courses such as art or history. These courses are taught in English just like the classes you have been taking in your University. I do not know about the other classes but the two that I have done were the art and the history, which during the weekend the professor will take you out to actually go to those places to learn more about the subjects. For example, for the art of Kansai, we have been to temples, shrines and traditional Japanese castles to learn about architecture, religion, painting, and sculpture. For history, we went hiking one of the local mountains and also temples and shrines. All these field trips were paid by Konan University except for the meals, so you do not need to worry about the train tickets or the tickets to the temples, the school will pay you back to you pretty much once you come back from the trip.
There are a lot of things you can explore in the campus. Circles and clubs are open to foreign students. I participated in Wataiko, the traditional Japanese drum club, and was performing to the audience both in the school festival and public show. Rehearsals were going pretty late but it was exciting, just like those rehearsals you have seen in animes, which you feel the atmosphere and joyful sense of achieving something by doing things with your teammates. You can legally work as a tutor in the Global Zone to teach English. There are games in the room which you can use to have better communication with the students. Most of the students that I met were shy, but they are willing to try so you wouldn't feel you are wasting your time here. You will have the chance to do presentations for the Japanese students on the topic you like to introduce your culture. For me, this is not only about teaching, but more about sharing cultures, which is always intriguing. School festival is once in a lifetime thing. It is the real SCHOOL FESTIVAL you saw in the animes and mangas!
Other than the field trip that you had in with your professors, you will have an official trip held by the University. I only did fall semester and we went to Koyasan, which was built by monk Kukai. Again, it is paid by the school and you do not need to worry about your budget. Those who did one whole year were going to more places, as I heard, such as Hiroshima, and Tokyo.
Study aside, let's talk about something interesting. Kobe is perfect in its location, you get Sannomiya, which all the traditional bars, anime-related stores, video games shops, and Karaoke were located. Frankly, who does not like drink beer and parties and games? These places are perfect to hang out with your friends. A lot of restaurants here were also great where you can do all you can eat and drinks, or high-level wagyu beef cuisine if you saved a lot of money. It took about an hour or a little bit more but no more than two hours to go to Osaka and Kyoto, which you get more historical attractions and Izakayas(Japanese bar)! You have to try the Manga Kissa(Manga Caffe) which you can even stay for a night if you talk to your host and school, again, once in a lifetime.
You will do the homestay while you are here in Japan. It really depends where you will stay but they are all not too far from the school which takes no more than an hour to go to school. I lived with a generous granny and a dog and two cats. There were days that I simply do not go out but just stay at home with lovely friends. I assume the hosts are not speaking English just like mine, but communication is never the problem. On the contrary, you will get improved even if you do not study hard but to chat with the host daily.
I miss the days that I had here every single day. I miss the days when we all sat together at Global Zone talk about our cultures, learn about each other's languages; I miss the days we were at the Izakaya, drinking beer, laughing together; I miss the firework show and the Karaoke; I miss the trips that we help each other to climb up to the highest mountain. Those days that I spent were the happiest time in my life and I dreamed to go back.