Two and a half months flew by. Before I came to Beppu, I wished time would go faster. Now we just have finished our first quarter, and I wish time would go slower. There is much to experience and much to see at APU. I will share some of my experiences here at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University with you.
Initially, I wanted to postpone sharing my experiences with you until I have finished my first semester. By then, I would have sufficient stories and experiences to share. But a classmate, who read my previous blog, told me that before he came to APU, he wanted to read more about life at APU and Beppu, but there was not much info to read about. I had the same problem before I came here. I also wanted to know more about life at APU. So this post is for those who are coming to APU or thinking about coming to APU. It is also for those who want an insight into how Japanese graduate student life looks like.
Arrival at Beppu/AP House
Asia Pacific University (APU) is a fascinating place to study. You will experience the APU magic from the moment you land at Oita airport (or Fukuoka airport). There will be people of the University waiting for you either at Oita Airport or Fukuoka Airport. They will assist you in getting on the right bus towards Beppu. Never heard about a university that would await its students at the airport and assist them.
The people who joined APU in the spring semester 2017 were allocated to AP House 4: The location of AP House 4. AP House 4 has nine floors in total and is filled with mostly exchange students. The graduate students were allocated to floor eight and nine. In your room, you will have a refrigerator, a desk with a chair, a balcony with a beautiful view either to the seaside or the city side, bed, bathtub, toilet, and the room has an air conditioner. To give you a better idea of how AP House 4 room looks, please look at the video I made.
Before you start your classes, APU will invite you a couple of times to the campus to help you with open a bank account, set up your health and house insurance, the create a ”My Number” (social security number), and your student card. The process is handled smoothly. You will know in advance which classroom you need to be and what you will need to bring. Many students that have been hired by the university to assist you through the process. They can help you translate Japanese if necessary.
The university has its opening ceremony on the 1st of April each year. If you have the chance to go there, please do. It is quite a spectacular show. You will feel the Japanese culture all around you. All the students from all over the globe come in their traditional clothes from their respective cultures. The Japanese ladies come in their kimonos (the men are in uniform), the Indonesians come in their Kebaya, the Indians come in their Salwar Kameez, and much more. It is a beautiful sight.
At the opening ceremony, there will be many performances being held by many international students. They have been practising for weeks. My personal favourite was the performance done by Indonesians. Their dance was amazing to watch.
Studying at APU
I can only speak for myself regarding studying at APU. I am doing a master’s course at APU. But hopefully, this will give you an idea.
The university is located on top of a mountain in Beppu. You will need to take the bus to get there. It takes approximately 30 minutes from AP House 4 to the campus. Oita Kotsu bus is, unfortunately, very expensive. A triple ticket (3-way ticket; away, back, and away) costs ¥1000. When you arrive at the university, you will notice how big this place is. Do not worry, you will get lost a couple times. It happened to us too. At the university, you will notice the iconic ”twin towers” and the fountain. The fountain is a good place to rendezvous with your friends. The mountains around the school are beautiful, and the view of Beppu’s entire city is magnificent.
Before you actually start your courses, you are required to register for your classes. Make sure you read about all your classes in advance in order to make the right decision about what you want to study at APU. You will have your major courses and electives. A piece of advice from my side, take all your majors first so you can take those of your back. Make sure you select your courses fast during the course registration. Some courses have limited seats. Especially Japanese course is very popular among international students.
After surviving ”click wars,” you will finally take your courses. The professors who teach graduates are kind, and their English skill is excellent. No worries at all in understanding them. However, I heard many undergraduates complain about some of their professors being (very) bad in the English language. The graduate professors are quite strict in their teachings. Do not dare to miss your deadlines and make sure you fulfil all the minimal requirements to finish the course. The courses I have taken so far require presentations, a final report, in-class participation, attendance, and a midterm exam. In contrary to Holland, they love presentations in Japan. Give me as many individual reports as you’d like, but do not make me do any presentations. I hate presentations! The vast majority of the courses at APU have a presentation as a requirement. I guess I just have to bite the bullet in this regard.
In my opinion, the courses are doable. However, lots of reading is involved. Many professors will give you readings for the next class. You are required to read all of them. These readings will be used for class discussions. If you have not read them, you have nothing to discuss, and the professor will know. And make sure you do your homework. Some professors will check it, especially the Japanese language teacher.
And make sure you take the Japanese language course! The reason I am saying this is because you really need to speak the language. In Beppu, or anywhere in Japan, for that matter, the local people tend to lack a sufficiency in the English language, unfortunately. I highly recommend you to learn Hiragana and Katakana before you come to Japan. This will give you a head start in surviving in Japan.
Life at APU
At APU, you will not get bored. There is plenty to do and to experience. The university counts many of something that is called circles and clubs. You can join a club/circle that fits your interest, such as, soccer, aikido, volleyball, dance groups, and a lot more. You can read all about them here: APU Clubs & Circles
At the university, you have a large cafeteria. The cafeteria provides enough variations of food for an affordable price. However, they do not change the dishes in the long term, and it might become boring after a while. Nonetheless, the food is delicious, and the price they are offering is worth it. And if you are a Muslim, like me, they provide Halal food for you.
The school has a large library where you can borrow books or perhaps study. Personally, I avoid this place, because it is too crowded and you are not allowed to drink and eat there. As a graduate student, there are rooms just for us. A place for master students and Ph.D. students. Undergraduates are not allowed to enter these rooms.
The university has a great Student Office. I respect the people who work there. They have to deal with students every day. Whatever your concerns are, whether finance, housing, life in Beppu, or anything, in general, the Student Office is there to support you. The academic office will also help you with your classes, grades, or other concerns.
Overall you are in good hands at APU. You will have a great time being a student at APU. Of course, there are negative things at APU, like any other university around the world. It is never perfect. But the positives outweigh the negatives. At APU, you will shape your world.
If you have any questions regarding life at APU, please feel free to contact me :).
My next blog post will be all about life in Beppu!