When I first came to Fukuoka, I studied Japanese for 18 month at Aso College Group, a famous school, known all around western Japan. here is my experience.
Please confirm everything with school.
CAMPUSThe campus is located at a 7 minutes walk from Hakata station. It consists of 10 buildings. Classes Japanese students are in the number one and five buildings. Classes are normal rooms with ... chalkboards! Students have lockers which is convenient to let his books and other business.Students must wear a badge whose color depends on the year. For me it was the red year. Teachers are recognizable by their black badge.Available to students: computer rooms, a small library, a job search center, an international support center, café, combini and canteen.
For lunch several choices: a canteen offering curry, ramen and other donburis for a low price (less than 400 yens). Otherwise, bentos sellers come daily and sell various kinds of bentos (from 200 to 350 yens) in front of the buildings. Note that there is no microwave to warm up what you bought which is not nice especially in winter. We asked for it many times but it has always been denied.
The school thus has a combini nd there is a Lawson, a Family Mart and Seven-Eleven nearby. A Hotto Motto (hot bento) shop is at a 5 minute walk.
Aso has a bunch of strict rules that must be strictly followed:
- Wear the badge ;
- No dyed hair and painted nails;
- Prohibition of wearing sandals or other shoes revealing toes;
- Prohibition of wearing cap and hats;
- Prohibition to chewing gum inside the campus even during breaks ;
- Prohibition of walking with laptop / iPod into the enclosure and the school area ;
- Greet each professor you meet ;
and so on.
Be careful to retain and apply this rules. There is a test to verify if you do remember them ( this does not prevent many foreign students to break the rules , especially for dyed hair) .
CLASSESThe courses are one of the great point of the school.
Students take different lessons: general Japanese, kanjis and vocabulary, grammar, writing, listening, conversation, information on Japan. It is varied and intense. As for me I wish I had more kanji lessons and less Information on Japan classes. This one is pretty boring if you don't apply to try the EJU (test you need to access to Japanese universities).
The Japanese culture classes can be counted on the fingers of the hand. I loved the grammar and general Japanese classes the most but had a little more trouble with writing whose teacher is pretty ... special. I do not like that already in French, she did not think convert me anyway :)
The school prepares us extremely well as JLPT exam. A lot of students arrived with the minimum bases (hiragana, katakana, basic sentences) and leaved with a JLPT N2. You can also easily target a N1 with a little more work. Optional extra classes are offered to students before exams.
One day in Aso :9:20 - 9:30am : morning home room
9:30 - 11am : first period
11 - 11:15am : break
11:15 - 12:45am : second period
12:45 - 1:30pm : lunch break
1:30 - 3pm : third period
3 - 3:10pm : afternoon home room
15h10 - soir : activities, extra classes and so on...
Every week two students are designated to clean the classroom : tables, tables and floor. A big cleaning is organized before each holiday where everyone have to participate.
TEACHERS AND STAFFThe teachers are all interesting, very good at teaching, nothing to say. My big favorites are Kawaharada, Kawasaki and Imanaga. They are the most experienced teachers and you can ask them a lot of things. For example, I got help for my resume and job interview. They also remain in the classroom after school and can help for university enrollment records, administrative formalities or any personal problem.
The staff, gathered in the International Department, speaks several languages: Japanese, Chinese, English, Spanish and French.They are there to regulate all the pre-registration procedures, registration and you case when you are in enrolled. They also help wuth small daily worries.When I was a student, there were only 2 people in this department who was not yet. It becames big !
ACTIVITIESLike in any language schools, Aso offers after-school activities throughout the year. In general, prospective students attach great importance to the activities before chosing a school. I myself have carefully looked at what the school offered. But in reality once caught in the whirlwind of studies it becomes very secondary . Frankly, it would not have bothered me not having activities at all . Here's what I got :
- bowling half-day;
- Kumamoto day trip;
- Mojiko day trip;
- Asahi Factory tour;
- Toto factory tour;
- a day in Fukuoka;
- Yamakasa matsuri;
- cooking day;
- Dazaifu daytrip;
Even if everything was not interesting it was well organized and quite nice. Small regret on meals that were included but not super tasty . The Chinese and Taiwanese worshiping the all you can eat buffets so the school strives to please them and chooses not too expensive institutions that offer these formulas. Fortunately the new head teacher has the will to change all that and we were able to, during the last tour, enjoy a delicious meal in a typical Japanese ryokan lost in the countryside. These are the same activities every year (or almost) so, future years, don't what I did and don't visit these places before going with school.
DORMThe school offers a dorm especially made for foreign students. I didn't stayed there but often went to visit my friends. More information about the dorm here.
FRIENDSAt first it's like everywhere: we all get along well, we will spend a great year and everyone tells you "don't forget each other !". But we must be honest and realistic: making real friends in is kind of program is nearly impossible. First because of the language barrier. In a promotion of 38 people made up 90% of Chinese and Taiwanese, the most spoken language was Chinese. Also a big half of the promotion didn't make any effort to learn Japanese. I wonder why they came as more than half of them still didn't speak a word of Japanese at the end of the course.
There are also cultural differences. I had great difficulty facing the Chinese people way of life : mastication noises, burping and other things considered impolite for us French. Some will no doubt tell me-it's quite normal in China, but I think when you go to another country, the rule is to adapt to the country in question isn't it ? Despite these small misunderstandings, many were quite nice and we still had a good time.
I was close to the Taiwanese and Vietnamese people. As for the Vietnamese girl, she married in with her Japanese boyfriend and then suddenly cut off from all non-Vietnamese person. As for the Taiwanese people, the atmosphere because bad towards the end when they suddenly formed a group and started to have inappropriate behavior: interrupt people, talk to teachers using colloquial language, putting their music out loud without earphones, control heating (prohibition others to touch it), denigrate anything that didn't come from Taiwan, insults of all kinds and so on. I discovered proud, selfish and hypocritical people. Many students (including me) have cut off all relations with them dice December. It disgusted me frankly of this country and its people. All this has helped to have a bad atmosphere and a difficult atmosphere for learning during the last month.
Out of the Japanese course students, I made a lot of Japanese friends by going to different clubs. It's really nice to study among Japanese and doing the same things as them. However, let's be honest, if you do not go to clubs (or at meetings organized by the school), it will be difficult or impossible to make friends.
Club and student life
At Aso, it is possible to apply for extra classes (called "plus α") at the end of the day, two times a year over a period of a month in a half. Patisserie, Korean, drawing and so on, there is something for everyone! I tested the webdesign course but everything was too easy for me (they began by learning the basics of Photoshop) so I gave up after three days.
The most successful classes are patisserie and Korean.You can also join the football clubs and other team sports if you are motivated enough to come to every practice seriously.
There is also the famous English Cafe. Twice a week, the English teachers of the school (two Canadian and one English) organize discussion sessions in English around cakes and drinks. It's very friendly, we have fun and can perfect our English. This is often crowded so you have to register early but it really worth it!
When it is the school festival period (december), there is the opportunity to join a lot of activities and clubs such as video games playgroups, fashion show and so on.
Despite all the love I have for this really fantastic school, it has some weak points : there are too many holidays ! In a year, I had three weeks in April, a month in summer, two weeks in Christmas (x2) and a half months before graduation. It was way too much ! As I said earlier, Aso offers classes from morning until the middle of the afternoon. unlike conventional language schools whichi end their classes at noon. What I naively took as an advantage (it is not explained in the booklet) was actually not. The number of studying hours is defined in advance and it is the same for all schools (800 hours for one year) so, longer days = time quota filled quickly = many holiday. It would have been good (and honest ) to specify that in booklet and on the website .
Second negative point : we are told to be treated in the same way as Japanese students, but this is not true for all. For example, as foreigners, we can only have access to the foreigners student residence. Aso offers many dorms but foreigners can't apply for them. We were also forbids to participate in the sports day because we had an exam the following week. We were told that we would catch up that day later but it was never done. There was no graduation album and we don't do the suits day .This remains minor drawbacks but still, if a thing is said it would nice to be 100% true.
About teachers and teaching, as I said earlier, I struggled with the writing teacher who is (too) strict and treated us like childs. Then the information on Japan classes is really useless . Finally, after December's JLPT we almost stopped studying and spend our time watching videos because half of the students no longer wanted to study. Thank you but I have not paid for that...
A LAST WORD
Finally, you will have guessed that I urge you to come and study in this school if you ever wanted to study in Fukuoka or Kyushu. I loved these 18 months and I can't help but want to relive those moments. It's really different from a classic language school and it's an even more unique experience. I was the first French ever in the school history and I opened the door since some French people are currently studying or are going to. It makes me happy !
|I graduated ! (march 2014)|