Hi, I’m a third year at Kyoto University and I have been asked to introduce my beloved school. Let’s start with rankings! We do love rankings, don’t we? According to the 2012 QS World University Rankings, we’re in 35th place and in the 2013 QS University Rankings: Asia, we’re number 10. NUS is 25th in the first and ties with us in the latter. So if rankings mean everything, you might be better off staying right where you are.
Moving on, Kyoto University is a place I would describe as “free”. It’s even in our school motto, 自由の学風, which I think means a free study culture. It is often interpreted as being able to study whatever you like which is true to a certain extent because in most faculties, there are close to zero compulsory course modules and no limit to the number of classes you can take (although 25 a week is the maximum because there are only 5 blocks a day, each block being 90 mins). During your first 2 years in KU, you will have to take general academic subjects, something like the liberal arts education in the States. You will have hundreds, if not thousands of courses which you can happily choose from the 3 cm thick course description book you will be given. For people who don’t know Japanese, we have some bachelor courses that are offered completely in English.
Moreover, there is a stereotype among the Japanese that KU is for students who are smart but lazy. This smart and hardworking ones go to the University of Tokyo. I don’t know how true this is but I can tell you our students are forever in the chillax mode (well most but only until 2 weeks before exams).
However, teaching styles in KU, and I believe for most Japanese universities, are still rather traditional as compared to JCs. Very few professors use slides and the blackboard is still the main form of teaching medium so be prepared to take notes, lots of notes. Also lessons tend to be unidirectional so if you prefer a more interactive style of education, KU (if not Japan) might not be the place for you.
We also have a myriad of clubs and circles to choose from. From our notorious tennis circles (you will understand when you get here) to Pokemon Battle Club to strange clubs whose names I don’t know, there will be something that will interest you, if not you can set up your own. We also have marching band that refuses to play anything other than the popeye song.
Rent around the campus usually costs around something from 40k to 70k yen. You can easily bike to school as our roads here are generally flat, unlike Kobe.
Generally speaking Kyoto is a great place to live and study. You can cycle to the shopping street in 20 mins and save a lot on transport but if you want to go the the city (Osaka), it’s just an hour’s ride away. If you like to jog, you can plan an awesome jogging route along our famous Kamogawa River and watch it change with the seasons. You can chill along the riverbanks (which is usually very crowded during sakura viewing seasons) and look at the ducks but watch out for the hawks that attack people with food. One of the few complaints I have with Kyoto is the weather, summer temperatures can get really hot since we’re surrounded by hills. However, for those who hike, you can climb Daimonjiyama right next to school.
I hope this helps you and we welcome you with open arms if you decide to join our KU family.
(I’m writing this based on my experience an engineering student, so believe at your own risk.)
Jayden, August 2013