Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University Student Life

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.

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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.

IMG_20170505_135953.jpgOverall 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!

Masha’Allah

A Japan lover was born…

I dedicate this blog to my grandfather Ahmed El Kahlaoui. I only knew you for 16 years, but those 16 years were enough to inspire me for the rest of my life.

March 17, 2017, is the big day. That is the day when I take the plane from Amsterdam to Tokyo. Something that has been only a dream is now becoming a reality: Studying in Japan! But before we jump into life in Japan (which this blog will focus on), who am I, and why the heck do I want to go to the other side of the planet and spend 2 years of my life studying in Beppu, Japan? 

On October 26th, 1989, a boy named Zakaria Ennahachi was born. This boy had no clue where life would take him and what he would be doing……

When I was a youngster, I remember watching Dragon Ball Z on Cartoon Network at 10 or so. I enjoyed watching this cartoon a lot. Trunks is my favourite character in this show. Cartoon Network was broadcasting a lot of anime shows back then. Dragon Ball Z, Digimon, Pokémon, MedaBots, Shaman King, Shinzo, Yu-Gi-Oh, Beyblade, Gundam Wing, and probably a lot more. Little did I know this was all God’s plan to lead me on a specific road where I am headed now. I was not aware of the existence of the word ‘anime’ back then. I would watch every single one of those cartoons and would re-watch them again.

At the age of 13, my pal Wesley introduced me to Naruto. This is where things really took off. The anime that were mentioned above were not spoken in Japanese on Dutch television. They were all voiced in either Dutch or English. Japanese was a strange language to me, and I never came in contact with this peculiar language. Naruto was a new anime that came out on the Japanese national television in 2002. It is about a kid who is a ninja with all kinds of special powers. The anime only became dubbed in 2005. When it finally became dubbed, the Japanese version was far ahead in the storyline. This part became critical in my life. I was exposed to the contagious Japanese language, and there was certainly no cure.

I grew up in a Moroccan family where three languages were spoken: Moroccan-Arabic (it is a dialect to Arabic, a.k.a Al-Darija), Berber (Al-Riffia), and Dutch. When my mother moved to the Netherlands, she spoke Moroccan-Arabic, Arabic, French, and English. She did not speak a word Dutch, and her way of communicating with the Dutch locals was English and French. A friend of hers came to our place a lot, and my mother always conversed in English with her. And as you know, when you are a child at a young age, your mind works like a sponge. You will learn a language quickly. So I grew up speaking Dutch, English, and Moroccan-Arabic. My mother did not want the Berber language to be spoken in the house, so we never learned to speak it, though I can understand the language a bit.

This pool of languages always has been of great value to me. I have always been a firm believer that language brings people together. There is something magical in a language. Besides understanding each other through different words and pronunciations, it is through the language you understand each other on a higher level. Language creates friendship, mutual understanding, and respect. I always had an affinity for languages, besides the ones I already spoke.

When I got exposed to the Japanese language by watching Naruto, I started to enjoy the language. After Naruto, I hooked up with Bleach, and this was also in Japanese. The language sounded enjoyable and beautiful to me. After a year of watching Naruto and Bleach, I was able to distinguish the Japanese language from Chinese or, for example, Korean. Within the Japanese language, there is a clear hierarchical structure. For instance, when you talk to an older person, you would use different and longer words to show your respect to this person of age. The more important the person is, the longer the words become and more difficult. As a language lover, this appealed to me, because one would implicitly show his/her respect and gratitude to the listener. The appeal I had for the Japanese language brought me eventually to their culture, the history, the landscape, the food, and the people.

There I went down the rabbit hole that was Japan. My gateway drug was the language, and I never thought I would be such a Japan lover or felt that I would actually go to Japan.

At the age of 19, I reached a crossroad, and I took a turn which, made me who I am today. I could have gone into a path and followed my childhood dream and become an anchorman(!) or go onto a road that may or may not lead me to the international world and eventually Japan. When I was 8 years old, there was a television show in the Netherlands called ‘Geef Nooit Op!’ (Never Give Up!), and there was this kid who wanted to be an anchorman. This inspired me to become an anchorman one day myself. When I was 19, I did a journalism selection test for the study course. I failed the test. So, I had to re-evaluate what I really wanted.

I asked myself the question: ”Where do I want to be in the future?”. The answer was Japan. However, I could not just reach Japan just like that. I had to do a 4-year study course because I had to get a bachelor’s degree that allowed me to enter the international world. I started International Communication & Media in Utrecht. The study course was in English, and this diploma would open the world for me. I graduated in January 2014. But I was still not there. I could not finance anything as multiple scholarship institutions denied me a scholarship. My family could not afford my study. So I had to be patient again and take a long detour.

I started to work at a company as customer support for Electrical Vehicle (EV) charging stations in September 2014. My goal was to save money as much as possible. I grew to become a Software Quality Assurance Analyst within the company. Also known as Software Tester. In August 2016, I finally managed to save up a large sum of money, and it was time to apply for a study in Japan. Before that, I already applied for a study course in Duisburg, Germany, but they did not accept me. I thought heck with it; I will just apply for a master’s degree in Japan. I applied for a study course at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific Studies University in Beppu. And in November, they returned to me stating they accepted me to their university!

Now imagine yourself as a 19-year-old who had to take his/her biggest decision in his/her life. I am glad I chose this path because now I am finally going to fulfil my dream. There is a Japanese saying 七転び八起き (fall seven times, stand up 8). I keep this proverb close to me as this really applies to me. Be patient and never give up on your dreams. Persistence will pay off. Never Give Up! It took me 8 years, but I am finally going to the land of the rising sun.

A 27 old guy from Berber descent but speaks Moroccan-Arabic, born in the Netherlands, studies and prefers to write in English, goes to Japan…

On October 26th, 1989, a boy named Zakaria Ennahachi was born. This boy had no clue where life would take him and what he would be doing……

Masha’Allah