I absolutely love Kobe. Maybe it is because Kobe was my first introduction to life in Japan, maybe it is because of my spectacular study abroad program, or maybe it’s because most of my Japanese friends live there.
Kobe is known more for being a business city, since it is home to a fairly major port and was one of the first cities to start trading with Western countries after the reopening of Japan’s borders. It offers tourist attractions without being overcrowded by tourists like Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka.
I lived briefly in Kobe for 3 weeks, in an international students dorm. It was summer so there weren’t a lot of people living in the dorm. I think I met 3 other people there and one was our Dorm Resident Assistant. I wasn’t a fan of our dorms, but it worked for the 3 weeks we were there. My biggest issue was the lack of internet. If you wanted internet, you had to sign a 3 month contract and it was insanely expensive. At the time, portable wifi boxes weren’t very popular so I couldn’t even rent one for my trip. Although to be fair, I probably didn’t even know they were a thing at that point.
My school, Kobe City University of Foreign Studies, was a public school lacking extra funds, and so they also lacked wifi (Update, they have wifi now). Our teacher, Shibata-sensei, was so friendly and the school did what they could to make us feel comfortable. I had to write an exam for a class back in Canada and they provided someone to sit with me while I wrote it. The school was clean and way nicer than my university in Canada. Buying lunch at school was actually affordable (120 yen ($1.20) curry rice!) compared to the $7 dollar bare bone salad my university offers. There was an outdoor pool, tennis courts, archery field, and so much more and we had access to it all. We were also partnered with Japanese student mentors, who would take us shopping and just hang out with us in our free time. There were only 2 other study abroad students — another girl from the same university as me and a 30+ year old guy from Switzerland. All of our mentors were female, and showed more interest in the other girl and I (the Switzerland guy made them a little uncomfortable). My mentor was super sweet, but was also in the middle of her finals so she was quite busy. It was okay though, as everyone just hung out together and she joined in when she could. Her English was pretty good, and she really forced me to speak in Japanese and helped bring my confidence in speaking Japanese up.
The school set up a lot of interesting cultural things to do, such as kendo lessons from the schools club, a cruise on a boat around Kobe’s harbor, and a trip to Kyoto for some more temple and shrine hopping. We also were able to participate in a weekend homestay, which I will save for another blog.
The classes were really nice, and focused on our abilities (considering there were only 3 students, it wasn’t hard to do). I got really good at conjugating verbs that summer (bring it te form).
Unfortunately the summer program did not award any credits at my home university, but for those who cannot afford a full semester abroad, I’d still recommend even going for a summer program. I learned a lot, did a lot, and met some incredible people who, 4 years later, I’m still in contact with.