Since the day I have been writing this blog about life in Beppu/APU/Japan, I have received a lot of questions from eager prospective students who would like to know more. I thought it would be a great thing to turn this blog post into a one-time-FAQ, and I might add more Q&A in this post. This post is not to fend eager people off, but rather to help more students read about the questions from others. If a question is not in here feel free to ask me. You can contact me through this blog, and I might add your question here too :).
Q: What major or courses did you take in APU?
A: I am in GSA, and my major is Society & Culture. In my major, we have at least five courses that are compulsory. There are electives which you can choose from.
Q: Why did you choose Ritsumeikan APU?
A: I chose APU from an economic perspective. Beppu is a small town and life in Beppu is quite cheap compared to Tokyo and Osaka. I chose APU because I cannot afford Tokyo. Beppu is very calm, and it is not as crazy as Tokyo. It has its upsides and downsides. Sometimes Beppu is boring, but the air is clean, nature is beautiful, and again life is very cheap.
Q: How do you judge the competency of Asia Pacific Studies?
A: First and foremost, APU was built (as of writing) for only 19 years. It is a very young university. From my experience, it is not a top-notch university as it is still learning and growing. However, all Japanese universities are not top-notch in my opinion. It is difficult to get accepted by a Japanese university, but when you get in, things are quite simple. I read many comments from other people from other universities that complained about this too.
Q: What are the areas the faculty Society & Culture focuses on?
A: It really depends on the study courses you are interested in. However, you have to take a minimum of five out of seven majors in order to graduate. The majors in S&C are Cultural Change, Sociology of Everyday Life, Media & Communication, Institutions and Organisations, Society & Culture, Changing social landscape, and Migration and Trans-nationalism.
Q: What are the strengths and weaknesses of their Society and Culture program?
A: Strengths are the professors. The professors know their stuff. The weakness is the Japanese way of teaching. Lots of unnecessary presentations. I do not enjoy this part as I want to learn more from the professors and not watch presentations of my fellow students all the time. You will be in a class with people from all around the globe. The presentations skills of many fellow students are below average. Most of the time you will be listening to people who read an entire paragraph from their PowerPoint. Watching more than 60 presentations in one quarter is very exhausting.
Q: What is the balance of gaijin (foreigners)-local students in your class?
A: Well, what you need to know is that the Admission Office is the best performing office of APU. It is simultaneously the marketing office (IMHO). The balance statistically is correct. There is a 50/50 ratio at APU. But in your actual classroom, the balance is very much incorrect. In the undergrad’s classes, the international courses would be around 80/20 (foreign/Japanese), because the vast majority of Japanese students do not speak English. Yes, they come to an international school and quite some of them, even after 4 years still no Habla Inglés. They take the courses in Japanese which the balance would be 2/98 (foreign/Japanese). Some international courses are mandatory for the Japanese, but they postpone it as much as possible. For international students, the courses in Japanese are not mandatory.
For the master’s course…, well about that… Out of 100 master’s students, maybe, just MAYBE there is 1 Japanese student. I would say the ratio is basically 100/0, or if you are fortunate 99/1. Japanese students mostly go to work after obtaining their Bachelor degree. So, in class, it is primarily International students, which is still fun, though :), but it is a pity.
Q: How frequent are the Master’s classes held in a week?
A: This is really all up to you. You choose your courses and thus its schedule. You could spread out the courses over 2 years or finish them all in 1 year. This is the link where you can find the courses. Depending on your Major and your electives you can select your courses.
FYI: I finished all my courses in one year. I wanted to finish in one year so I could focus on my thesis in my last year.
Q: When will students know who their thesis supervisor is?
A: In the first quarter you will need to decide on a professor. You will need to consult all the relevant profs ASAP and decide. In some divisions, the professors will pick you (e.g., International Relations). But don’t feel intimidated, you can still choose a professor. It sometimes happens that the professor doesn’t want you because he/she thinks your topic is not in their field. Don’t worry, keep consulting others.
Q: What’s the level of English used by fellow students?
A: For the students from Europe and the U.S. their English proficiency are quite high. They have no difficulties in communicating in English. No one is perfect, but there are no frustrations. Students from other regions, from my experience their level is either average or below average. The standard would be the Asian region. Verbal communication is sometimes okay. Except for some thick accents, you will be able to communicate with each other without many issues. Texting, however, is very horrible at times. A lot of miscommunications and it can cause some frustrations.
Q: Are there courses where graduate students and undergraduate students are mixed?
A: No, there are no courses where they are mixed.
Q: Are Master’s students allowed to take undergraduate courses?
A: Yes, and no. Yes, you could attend the course only with the permission of the professor. However, you will not get any credits.
Q: Are undergraduates allowed to take graduate courses?
A: No. There are some exceptions, but these are only for outstanding students.
Q: The Japanese Language Course for undergraduates are much more intensive and effective. Are graduate students allowed to take these courses?
A: No, graduates cannot take any undergraduate JLC. In all fairness, these JLC for undergrads is very intensive and time-consuming. Sometimes from early morning to evening. You will not have the time as you will have a high workload as a graduate already.
Q: Is there a dress code at APU?
Q: How did you manage to pray and in particular, go to the mosque for Friday prayer during classes? I mean will they understand?
A: You cannot skip class to go prayer. At APU there is a prayer room where most students go to pray. I believe they go to the prayer room and pray Duhr at 2 PM, even though Duhr starts at 11:59, because they have class. But this is not an Islamic country so do not expect the sensei to allow you to go all the way down town to the mosque for the Friday prayer. You could, but it is too far away from school. Takes more than 30 minutes to get the the mosque from school. When I am at APU I never go to the mosque downtown. I either go to the prayer room, but there are prayer mats in the Graduate room and I pray by myself. There are prayer mats in all of the graduate rooms provided by students for students.
Q: Do students get help with employment?
A: If your Japanese level is not at least N2 level forget about finding a job in Japan. I had high hopes before I came here, but I have given up. The vast majority of Japanese do not speak English and finding a job in English is basically impossible. There are some jobs in English, which are teaching English (only native speakers, and with native, I mean looking like someone from Europe/USA. I know, it is racist, but it is, unfortunately, the truth), software engineer, technical engineering. None of these jobs are of interest to me. But at APU we have something that is called the Career Office. The office can help you find a job in Japan. Do note that finding a job in Japan is a living hell. See my previous blog.
Q: How many hours (in a week) is perfect for grad students to handle a part-time job during school days?
A: No clue. This depends from person to person. Some will take 20 credits in a semester, and some would just take 8. It all depends on your planning and time management. You can finish all your courses in one year or in two years. Doing all the courses in one year, you will not be able to work on weekends, in my opinion. There are many assignments given by the professors you will be working on them almost every day. Spreading the courses over 2 years will provide you with more time to do part-time jobs, however, do note that you still need to write a thesis. I have seen people fail on their thesis because they kept focusing on arubaito (part-time job, sometimes referred to as baito). As a consequence, they will need to stay and pay for another semester. If you had received 60%, 85%, or 100% tuition reduction, you will lose it, and it will become 50% instead. Don’t risk it…
Q: Would it be possible to finish in 1 yr?
A: Finishing in one year is possible, but that means zero hours of social life. Zero hours of part-time job. Your tuition will be unchanged. Whether you stay one year, year and a half, or two years, the tuition remains the same. Either stretch it out in two years or go psycho mode in one year. But I do not think one year is that feasible. Not impossible, but you will burden yourself. But you know best.
Q: I want to know more about the JASSO Scholarship.
A: When Master students enrol to APU, APU will enrol admitted students automatically for JASSO. When you enter in April, you will receive JASSO for 1 year. JASSO is ¥48000 per month. If you come to APU at Fall, you will receive JASSO only for 6 months.
Q: I have been told by a Reddit user that everyone gets JASSO, is this true?
A: I have to say that there is a 99% chance you will get it. The 1% reason has to do with if you have been staying in Japan before for work or study. I had a fellow batch mate who worked a bit in Japan (or internship) and then started to study. She did not receive it. If you never worked in Japan, I could say almost sure you will get the scholarship.
Q: Do you apply for another scholarship while already enrolled at APU?
A: Scholarships at APU are a joke. Yes, there are many scholarships available, but 99% of them you will need to apply in Japanese. I am annoyed by it. Therefore, I never applied for any, because the 1% that is available in English, your chance of getting it is super low.
Q: In summary, would you say that it’s possible to cover the living cost as well as the rest of the tuition fee from JASSO and part-time jobs?
A: JASSO only covers a year if you enter in April. Furthermore, you can do part-time jobs, but you are only allowed to work 28 hours a week. Please read my other blog regarding work in Beppu! Do note that you will live in AP4 which costs ¥49000 a month and JASSO is ¥48000. I recommend leaving AP4 ASAP because you will not really enjoy your JASSO. And you have to sign for JASSO every month on campus at the Student Office. Missing a month of signing will mean losing your JASSO entirely.
Q: When do the students usually start their part-time job? Let say for spring intake.
A: They start their part-time job mainly after two months in Japan. You cannot begin your arubaito until you have your insurances, bank account, ‘My Number’ (social security number), and a permit to work in Japan (which APU’s Student Office will help you with).
Q: How much do you spend in a month (in total, on average) for living in Beppu?
A: Good question. Well, it depends if you stay at AP4 or not. AP4 costs ¥49000 p/m including all utilities. Where I live I pay around ¥23000 for rent and utilities. But I share an apartment with a friend, and our rent is ¥36000 (excl. g/w/e). So the costs are quite low as you can see. Plus food etc… I would say ¥30000 for food and what not. But I love Japanese food so I would say around ¥50000 and ¥70000 a month.
Q: I read somewhere that the busses in Beppu are very expensive. Could you tell me more about it?
A: Yes, they are bloody expensive. There are two bus companies in Beppu namely Oita Kotsu and Kamenoi. Oita Kotsu drives on roads that are more downhill and Kamenoi bus drives on roads that are more uphill. For APU students there is a red/pink triple ticket which costs ¥1000. Each ticket is one-way, so regardless of where you hop-in or out, the price will be ¥333. If you do not have this ticket you will be paying the amount from the location you hopped-in until your destination. This price can go up to ¥550 (one-way). Kamenoi bus has a double ticket which costs ¥600. Each ticket is ¥300 one-way. Kamenoi bus sounds cheaper, and therefore you would like to take this bus, but it all depends on the location where you will be living. Kamenoi bus routes do not cover everything in Beppu.
The tickets can be bought at APU Co-Op (on campus) and Kitahama station. There are probably more locations, but these are the main ones.
There is a year pass, however. But, if I am allowed to be blunt here, it is total BS. This pass can only be used at one bus company, and only in Beppu. That in itself is not the problem per se, but what is problematic is the price: ¥99999. Yes, that is almost an equivalent of $1000 for one year, one bus company, only in Beppu. The joke is that it is promoted on campus as “75% discount only for APU students.” This means that the price at 100% is ¥399996? Bollocks. I would not recommend anyone buying it. It is a lot of money, and you might buy it for Oita Kotsu bus, and if you move out to an area where Kamenoi busses drive, your one-year pass becomes useless. Yes, this happened to some people, and no, no refund.
[5 March, 2019 EDIT] I just recently discovered that you could use the Blue ticket (Kamenoi bus) to go from Beppu to Yufuin. Yes, that means, as a student, your trip will only cost ¥300!!!!
Q: I wonder if you have any idea on where to find a room (other than APU house)?
A: My biggest advice is to come to APU, start the first two months in AP4, make friends, and talk to all your senpais. All the senpais are willing to help you and will help you find a place to live. Creotech (a company which aids you in finding an apartment/room, which is owned by APU) has high fees just like ‘Betsu Dai Kosa’ (another company, not from APU). They will ask for two months of rent in advance and a Japanese thing that is called “key money” which means you will have to give money to the landlord which will not be returned. Just free money for the landlord as in “thank you, landlord, for renting me this room.” And lastly, of course, the deposit.
The best way to find a place is to talk to people. We have something that is called AP-Share and Minishare Facebook groups. These groups will only allow APU students. But when you are an APU student, the members will add you, and in these groups, you can look for rooms. Below this post, you will find all the FB groups.
Q: Can we live off campus?
A: If you are a Master’s student you will not be living on campus, but you will start downtown in AP House 4 (simply AP4). If you are an undergraduate, you will have to start on Campus in AP1 and AP2. It all depends on the scholarship you have. Some scholarships allow you to live downtown, some scholarships force you to live on campus for 1 year. But eventually, most students just go downtown.
For the master’s student, they pay two months in advance for AP4. After that, they are free to go. Curious about AP4? Watch this video which I have made for you!
Q: Is it difficult to find a new place within two months?
A: No, it is quite easy to find a new apartment within 2 months. APU has a big community; many people who can help you. However, I highly recommend you to stay at AP4 for the first 2 months. The reason for this is to get accustomed to the new life in Beppu, Japan. Furthermore, it is also an excellent opportunity to get to learn your batch mates and make new friends.
All the FB pages below will only allow APU students. But non-APU students will not be allowed access. So, if you are not in Beppu yet, and not an APU student yet, just remain patient.
Furthermore, just a piece of advice from my side; when you have access to all the FB pages, make sure you adjust the notifications. Some FB pages have a lot of activity, and you will drive you nuts (I am looking at you Minishare).
APU Life Advice
APU Give Away
APU Apartments & Rooms
APU Lost and Found