Dear students across the world planning to spend time studying abroad in Japan,
Fukushima is a great place to experience authentic Japanese culture and learn about local development of a region taking on exceptional challenges.
When I was told, of all places across Japan, I would be sent to Fukushima, I was not sure what to expect besides uncertainty about the situation of Fukushima's legacy since the infamous March 11 disasters in 2011.
However, this city and the region around it proved to be one of the most welcoming and interesting ones that I had the pleasure of visiting so far.
Studying at Fukushima University means being approached by curious students on campus for a chat, having personally assigned buddy-students to make your social and daily here as smooth as possible, as well as unmatched care by university staff to provide you with guided tours, excursions and trips to festivals (overnight onsen-hotels included). This definitely proved to be a privilege after I talked to other students from my home country in other cities across Japan.
Be it a hiking tour to Mt. Ryozen, the Tokaichi-festival in Namie town, a trip to Nikko Toshogu Shrine or many other trips, I was never short of activities to sign up for and get around. Mostly free of charge, we are provider trips that help us dive deeper into local, regional communities.
This is paired with enticing projects which you can decide what to focus on: content creation such as interviews, educational videos or blogs for online channels of the City, Fukushima University will always find a way to help you channel your personal talents in a way that offers the City and region a great service and you an amazing chance to refine your skills in a totally new and fruitful environment.
During my time here so far, October until January, I did not only enjoy events such as these. Apart from university, the people of Fukushima (both city and prefecture) are always eager to help me and converse with me. Fellow students might be a bit shy sometimes, but they never cease to give me the feeling that this is a place where I am welcome to explore and bring things to explore for the many lovely people here.
As I mentioned before, students coming from other countries have their own respective Japanese students who will be there for any questions or help. Not sure how to pay your utility bills? Ask your buddy. You would like to enter a circle or bukatsu? Your body will consult with them. There's a restaurant, museum, sports place, a city or hiking path somewhere that you'd like to explore but can't bring yourself to go by yourself? Bring.Your.Buddy. This aspect of university life in Fukushima has honestly not just helped me but also opened so many doors for me. I can barely count the stories I already have to share because I would invite or be invited for something fun by my buddy.
Beyond that however, I made the experience that this is a great way to be introduced to local places, different social circles and experiences that would otherwise be hidden for a long time. For example, I would have never had the chance to experience a truly Japanese new year if it wasn't for my buddy's family inviting me to their village further up north of Honshu.
I enjoy the outgoing nature of the Japanese people, the kindness of everyone and the familiarity of people of this city, which is small compared to Tokyo, Osaka etc., but busy and lively compared to even bigger cities in Germany.
I would recommend a study experience at Fukushima University to anyone who appreciates being in the tranquil environment of a rural prefecture, while also being involved in a very active environment of curious people.
People who deserve to be seen for much more than whatever we and our close ones at home might have associated with the name of this part of Japan.