Country: Germany; University: The Ruhr-University Bochum
Period of Study: October 2018 to September 2019
It's been four months since I came to Japan. Actually, getting used to life in Japan was not difficult--within two weeks I felt at home here. Even so, the first month left a strong impression. The beginning of my life in Fukushima, my first encounters with Japanese people, meeting other international students and my buddy, my first mountain climbing, the start of university life and classes. Even though it was a busy time, I made many good memories.
Summer and autumn are festival seasons. Immediately after arriving in Fukushima, I was able to participate in the Iizaka Kenka Matsuri (Fighting Festival). We've been invited to various events organized by Fukushima University and Fukushima Prefecture organizations, such as festivals and tree plantings--almost always free-of-charge. I'm really grateful. These were not only fun experiences, they gave us the opportunity to learn about the characteristics of this region of Japan and the culture of Fukushima. In particular, several times I've been able to visit and see the reconstruction efforts after the Great East Japan Earthquake. At university, classes like "The Future of Fukushima" have raised my awareness of local issues. We also visited the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant and evacuation areas with our teacher. I was deeply moved to see the activities being carried out to restore the area.
I feel that daily life in Fukushima is not so different from life in a German city. It's a 20-minute walk from the residence where all the exchange students live to Fukushima Station, and a 10-minute walk from the station nearest the university to the university campus. It's seven minutes to the nearest convenience store, and 10 minutes to the supermarket. It's a little inconvenient that the train to the university runs only once or twice an hour, but I soon got used to that.
There are many delicious and cheap restaurants in Fukushima city. Ramen is especially popular. Two or three times a week we go to a place where you can order ramen and gyōza dumplings for 700 to 900 yen. The food in the university cafeteria is good, so that's where I usually eat on school days. At our residence, we international students and our Japanese friends sometimes cook hot pot, curry, takoyaki, or special dishes of our home countries. This is a lot of fun, so we've been doing it a lot lately.
I'm taking eight classes in total, including "Advanced Japanese," "The Future of Fukushima," "Japan Today," and "English Presentations." Only two of my classes are taught in English, so I think I've improved my Japanese listening comprehension a little. Classes taken with Japanese students are difficult, but I've gradually become able to understand them, which gives me a sense of accomplishment. Currently I only go to the university three times a week, so I'm not so busy with classes and homework. I hope to take on more challenges from next semester.
I've been able to travel a little. There are many good places to go near Fukushima City. Bochum, where I lived in Germany, doesn't have many mountains, so I'm really happy to be living in an area surrounded by mountains in Japan. In addition to Mount Shinobu, which is in the city, I climbed Mount Ryōzen, which is about 800 meters high, with my buddy and friends when the autumn leaves were turning. I've never seen such beautiful mountain scenery before, so I'm planning to climb various other mountains from next spring. My university seminar's study trip to Shikoku was also great. I love beautiful nature, so I really appreciate the chance to go to these wonderful places.
I've really enjoyed my life in Japan so far. Sometimes I find myself thinking "What's my purpose being here?" or "I need to work harder." But looking back over the past four months, I had so many wonderful experiences--It's really been a fruitful and enjoyable time. I'm really, really glad to be able to study abroad in Fukushima.