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camille Expat à Beppu
Mon expat' in Beppu

Camille, Master in Management student on expatriation in Beppu

In the previous episode of "My Expat' to...", Gabin talked about his expatriation to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

This month, Camille shares with us her expat experience in Japan. She is currently in her 3rd year (U3) of the Master in Management on the Caen campus. She did her expat year at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu on the island of Kyuchu at the end of the country.

Was Japan your first choice?

Camille: Absolutely. I had a good ranking, so that helped me to be accepted to go to Japan.

What courses did you have there?

Camille: Management courses mainly. And it was very free, I chose media, event management, and economics. So it's really "tailor-made", you arrange the classes in your timetable as you like. You could also take classes on Japanese culture that didn't count towards your grades but were very interesting from a cultural point of view. For example, I took a course on the tea ceremony.

The choice of classes is very free: management, events, economics... and even unusual subjects!

What did you do outside of class?

Camille : I went around a lot, visiting temples or doing local activities such as going to see the very famous hot and coloured springs. With the other foreign students, we spent a lot of time together walking around, going to restaurants and visiting new places.

I did a lot of walking with other international students.

You went with a group of students from the School?

Camille: No, there were students from all over the world. We were all part of the same exchange programme. We all lived in the same place and spent a lot of time together. I was the only student from EM Normandie.

Is it an advantage to be the only one from EM Normandie?

Camille: At the beginning, I was a little bit afraid because I was the only one from the School to ask for this destination on the other side of the world. But when you get there, you find yourself with lots of other foreign students in the same situation as you, and it's very nice.

Did you leave during the Covid period?

Camille: No, I went just before. I came back to France just before the pandemic started and I was able to take full advantage of the experience.

What is the biggest challenge of living in Japan?

Camille: The culture is very different from ours, whether in terms of respect for others or in the way of addressing other people, which is completely different. You have to adapt and put aside all your French habits. This is easily done if you really want to.

Japanese culture is very different from ours but it is easy to adapt to.

Is the integration going well?

Camille: The Japanese have a fascination for the French, which makes things easier. The university is an important part of the city, almost everything revolves around the university, which is a big attraction for the city. There are people from all countries, as the university is half in English and half in Japanese. The inhabitants of the city are used to receiving foreigners.

The people of Beppu welcome international students!

What language were your classes taught in?

Camille: They were 100% in English. Japanese classes were also offered, but I couldn't take them because they were 4 hours a week and I had to make choices. I preferred the management courses.

Do Japanese people speak English and French easily?

Camille: French, not at all. As for English, it depends on where you are. Most Japanese people don't want to or don't know how to speak English and keep talking to us in Japanese even if we don't understand. But most of the time, it goes well if you share the efforts on both sides.

How do expatriation choices relate to rankings?

Camille: During the year, we receive a list of all the universities with the number of places and the requirements. You can start to sort out the list and see what interests you. Then you make about ten wishes on a platform where you fill in the universities you like. It seems to me that this system has changed since then. Obviously, you have to meet the criteria, such as the TOEIC level required. Then, it is the ranking within the class that determines the priority in the choice. First come, first served!

Are there any bars in Japan?

Camille: Yes, there are bars but you have to be careful because the age of the majority is 20 in Japan. You can't go to bars before that age, especially in the big cities.

Are there any karaoke bars?

Camille: There are a lot of karaoke bars, which confirms the reality. It's a great idea to go out. You can go with twenty or so friends and spend 6 hours there if you feel like it singing songs.

What are the best places to visit in Japan?

Camille: I would say Tokyo because there is a lot to see and you can find everything you imagine about Japan before going there. There are also a lot of temples to see in the country.

I really liked the city of Tokyo because it has all the Japanese culture that we know.

Is it difficult to make real Japanese friends there?

Camille: At the university, there is an exchange programme with buddies, which allows you to meet Japanese people. I became friends with mine and we are still in touch. The university helps us to meet people. In everyday life, it's complicated to make Japanese friends because they are a bit closed at first, especially when you don't know each other. As a foreign student, you are not in the same classes as the Japanese. Thanks to the programme, I was put in touch with a Japanese woman with whom I travelled all over Japan, which was great. This programme is open to all exchange students.

The exchange programme allows us to make a Japanese buddy who accompanies us during our expatriation.

Do you have a better memory?

Camille: I went on a week-long trip through Japan with my buddy. She took me to see her family for the New Year. We went to the temple at midnight to ring the bells. It's a very different atmosphere from what we have in France, it was very interesting.

Was there foie gras and turkey?

Camille: No, not at all. There were noodles.

Is the gastronomy very different from France?

Camille: It's very different from here. We have typical dishes based on rice, noodles and meat. You end up getting used to it. It's very good even if it's different.

I hear that sushi is different too?

Camille: It's true, sushi in Japan has nothing to do with sushi in France. They contain much less rice and more fish. There is also much more diversity in the fish, such as eels and scallops. It is also much cheaper than in France.

Do you have a less good memory to share with us?

Camille: I don't have anything that comes to me like that.

Have you travelled to the surrounding countries?

Camille: No, I chose to focus on Japan because that's what I was really interested in and I wanted to see as much as possible. Other students I know have been to Korea and South Asia and it's quite easy to do.

How do you travel to these countries?

Camille: By air is the easiest way to travel outside Japan.

Trains are never late in Japan, is that true?

Camille: Yes, of the ones I've used, that's pretty true.

Is it possible to get by without speaking Japanese?

Camille: For tourism, they are used to receiving foreigners. For the rest, it's better to have someone with you who speaks the language. But overall, you can always get by without speaking Japanese.

Do you have any advice for future students?

Camille: Be prepared to change your habits and be open to everything because that's how you get the most out of it. Being open to a new culture, another way of doing things makes things easier. I didn't have any particular problem being French, I was welcomed.

I was very well received as a French person.

Is it expensive to live there?

Camille: It all depends. Transport is rather expensive, like bus or train. As far as food is concerned, if it is imported products, they are relatively expensive. But if it is local products, they are not particularly expensive and restaurants are affordable too.

Do we feel safe in Japan?

Camille: I walked around the city in the evening and felt safe.

Did you improve your English?

Camille: Yes, especially on spontaneity and speaking. I was with foreign students all the time and we only spoke English so I improved.

I improved my English because I was with foreign students all the time.

Have you ever tried bentos?

Camille: Yes, you can find them ready-made in the supermarket. You might think that these are dishes prepared by mothers, but you can buy them. There are lots of different tastes, it's very good and it allows you to eat well when you don't feel like cooking.

Is the life of Japanese students really different from that of the French?

Camille: I have only seen at university level and not at high school. There is important work rigour among Japanese students. I didn't get to know many of them in the school context because they were in separate classes.

Would you recommend this expatriation to other students?

Camille: Yes, it was a great experience. Japan is a great country, if you have the opportunity to go there, do not hesitate. The university is really great, they help us from A to Z. The courses are good and there are many activities available at the university. I went for 6 months in total.

The host university will accompany you from A to Z during your expat experience.

How is the climate?

Camille: It's pretty much the same as in France, hot in summer and cold in winter. The summer lasted until the beginning of November, we were wearing shorts and t-shirts. On the other hand, from January onwards it was cold, especially as the university is situated on a mountain. So it was windy.

What was your TOEIC score?

Camille: I got the maximum score of 990.

Did you have extra tuition fees?

Camille: No, there are no extra tuition fees. The fee charged by the university was for accommodation which is located in the city centre, off-campus but is attached to the university. The accommodation fee was not excessive, similar to a standard accommodation in France.

The cost of local accommodation is not excessive and there are no additional tuition fees.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to do this expat thing?

Camille: What can be confusing at first is that you don't necessarily have internet on your phone when you arrive. We had to go through an online operator to receive a SIM card by post. This is something I didn't know before I left.

What do you think was the biggest cultural clash?

Camille: Everything that concerns behaviour, respect for others, kindness and respect for the rules. I'm not saying that we're not nice in France, but for example, the Japanese will get up to give up their seat on the bus to an elderly person. They queue up to get on the bus. There are marks on the floor in front of the car and they line up in front of the door.

Do you have to be well ranked in the class? Is Japan a desirable country for other students?

Camille: I was 39th in the ranking. When I went, it was the first time that this destination was offered. There were 2 places available and I was the only one to apply. I think I had to take another English test.

Was it very difficult to follow the classes in English?

Camille: I was already used to taking classes in English on campus but I think it is feasible for someone with a decent level.

Do you have an advantage in the ranking if you have taken courses in Japanese?

Camille: It seems not. The level of Japanese is not a criterion even if it can help on the spot. It is the level of English that is assessed in order to be able to follow all the courses in English.

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