Living as An International Student in Kyoto

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“The  world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page.”

 – Saint Augustine-

In my last article, I would like to begin this blissful year with my all time favorite quote from Saint Augustine about the essence of traveling, about how a world is being described as a book and how traveling is described as reading the book itself. Same as reading a book, traveling is a way for you to enrich your knowledge, not only by picturing the event in your head, but by experiencing it directly. As an exchange student, this is your chance to see what the other side of the world has to offer and experience it for yourself. Make the best out of your time abroad by grasping as much as possible from this book of world.

Living in a foreign country where I do not speak the language was a certain kind of challenge. Whether I like it or not, I would have to get myself out of my tiny dorm and socialize if I want to make this city my second home. The first week of my stay in Japan, I spent it going to several international students gatherings, forcing my shy introvert personality to hide for quite some time and trying to socialize as much as I possibly could. If we look at Kyoto, according to StudyKyoto.jp, one out of ten people in Kyoto city area is a university student which is the highest number in Japan when it comes to the proportion of students in its population. In Kyoto city alone, there are about nine thousand international students from across the globe. Knowing all those facts, I think it is nonsense for you to just stay in your dorm room and avoid any social interaction with other students from across the globe.

IMG_1163Once you arrive in Kyoto, the university usually assigns you someone who will guide you through your exchange period, or we usually refer them by buddy. Your buddy is a Japanese student from your university that will help you from choosing class to helping you filling the hospital form. Yes, that happens. In my second week of arriving in Kyoto, I had to deal with a severe allergic reaction that I have never experienced before.  With my lack of ability in speaking and reading Japanese, of course I would have to go through a lot when it comes to visiting a doctor and filling its form. My exchange buddy was really kind to accompany me to a clinic nearby and to fill the registration for me, as everything is in Japanese and I didn’t even know how and where to write my last name or my first name.

If this is your first time studying abroad in a country you are not familiar with, for your time being, however, you probably should not spend it only by studying, try exploring new places and meeting new people. But, for those of you who are not too good at adapting to new places, getting to know people might seem like a hard task, especially for an introverts like me. If you happen to study abroad in Kyoto, do not worry as there are a lot of platforms where you will get a chance to meet your fellow friends from your own country or even from the other sides of the world. Whether it is a student association or just a casual night gathering, you name it all. As one of the safest city in the world, I would say that Kyoto is the perfect place to live and to study for international students. Not only you will get a chance to experience studying in a city of zen, the entertainment life in the city is also something that cannot be missed.

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In Kyoto, there is an Indonesian student association called PPI Kyoto – Shiga (Persatuan Pelajar Indonesia Kyoto – Shiga). This student association is specially made for those of you who study in Kyoto and Shiga area. They usually invite new students to join their line group where you can get to know fellow Indonesian students who study around your area or even join a monthly gathering held in the park by the river. The gathering is not only a place for you to get to know each other, but also to play soccer or to have a potluck picnic by the river on a Sunday. Not only a social gathering or such, they will also kindly lend a hand if you need a help with your resident registration or national health insurance, especially for those of you who do not speak Japanese very well.

I also would like to suggest you to join your university’s social media page as there will be a lot of announcement on events from festival to international students night. You might prefer to look for your university’s Facebook page to keep you being notified about events you might like to attend. Take this chance to socialize and also to have fun as usually there will be a lof of fun and entertaining games in that kind of gathering events. There will also be some notification on some other events like local indie band gigs in a cafe nearby, an art exhibition, or even a movie screening event. This is a great chance for you to really explore the local youth culture and enjoy what Kyoto has to offer.

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In the end, I would like to share how studying abroad is really a chance for you, not only to enrich yourself as a person but also to explore your surroundings and take everything your surrounding has to offer as this is a great opportunity for you to seize every opportunity the universe has kindly given to you. Stop limiting yourself and try reaching every corner as much as possible to make the best out of your time being.

Photos provided by the editor