I received an email asking about classes, study hours and other general questions regarding the exchange program from a prospective exchange student. I’m not an exchange student but I’ve had many friends who are/were, and have seen batch after batch enter and leave the school. Plus, the experience is generally similar except we stay 4 years while exchange students only maximum 1 year.
I’ve reproduced the entire email response, but edited for better clarity and format as well as to expand on certain points.
The biggest choice is your Japanese language course track – regular or intensive. One is 4 times a week while intensive is 6 times a week. I suggest you take the regular if you are a beginner in Japanese OR if you want to not stress yourself out. Most feedback is that the intensive course has too much homework, the teachers are a bit strict with attendance etc as well.
There will be a placement test to determine which level classes they’ll place you. Most students who want to make the most of learning Japanese while in Japan tend to want to be bumped up into a higher level so they can learn more. If your main objective for exchange is to have fun and enjoy Japan and you aren’t too concerned with chalking up X number of credits, it is best to join the regular track so you won’t stress out with trying to learn too much or being too bogged down with homework.
On top of Japanese language, usually people take like 12-14 credits or so (I’m not too sure), of which 4 -6 credits is from Japanese language so essentially you only take 4-5 courses (which is about half the work load of a regular student). The courses offered to exchange students differ slightly from what full time students get (basically you can only apply to say, 30% of the number of courses actually offered, check Official Website for more details) but are the same in content. Regular students can apply to most/all courses offered to exchange students but not vice versa.
I took like an average of 10 courses a semester and managed pretty well. I sometimes had 7 essays for finals but that’s waaaaay more than exchange students have. Some courses have no papers etc so you can choose how much or how little of a workload you want.
Typically my day started at 9am and ended ~5pm (4th period) or earlier (usually 3pm, 5th period ends 6:30pm). The day is split into 5 different periods each 1h 30min long (called gen 限, so first period would be ichi gen, second is ni gen and so on).
My timetables for Fall 2012 (1st year) and Fall 2014 (3rd year):
If you’re on intensive track most likely you will have 5 day school week, if regular it maaaay be possible to get a 4-day school week but it’s all up to how you schedule classes. Lunch is 12:40PM to 1:30PM, and from 10:30 to 11:00AM is ‘Chapel Hour’ where you have a break or are very welcome to attend a short church service in school.
You will have mainly other exchange students, some international students and Japanese students also join classes. I’ve had 1:1 ratios, 2:1 and 3:1 with the minority being Japanese students. But some classes see many Japanese students enrolling. Class sizes generally average about 20 or so, depending on the course. Some can drop to as low as 8-10 (or very few like 5 or less) or as many as 35. I’ve been in a class with full capacity approx 50+ students with 70% Japanese students but they were ANNOYING AF because they joined for “free credits” (not) and mainly did nothing but make noise and do their own stuff, lol.
Usually exchange students only need to pass a course to get the credits (most of their home universities only count pass/fail for exchange courses but this also varies) and if you decide to take easy courses then you have a smooth sailing 6 months/1 year.
You will get a nihongo partner or 2, in some cases, assigned to you. Basically that is just a Japanese student who is assigned to bring you around, help you get used to life in Japan/university. So that will usually be your first Japanese friend. Hanging out at the Fujita Global Lounge will get you more friends as they usually come over to say hi. So will Coffee Hour attendance where the main feature is talking to foreign students.
There will be events organized by students/circles/clubs as well as the school and external organizations. Information for these events are usually pasted on the notice board outside the CIEC office.
Hope this helps!
P.S do join the KGU Ryuugakusei Facebook group! Past and present Ryuugakusei, as well as Japanese students are inside so you can ask questions and meet up for events etc