Registering at university

※ This article discusses the 3rd of October 2016.

On Monday, the first official day at university started. It was a day full of tasks to finish.

So far, we already know how to go from the Residence to Sannomiya, but now we need to go to the west. Rokko Station is extended by a bus line to Rokkoudai 2nd campus. At Rokkoudai 2nd campus "our" faculties are located. At Sannomiya we searched for a ticket machine and entered the Hankyu Line again. At Rokko station we left the train and already saw a few international students. We decided to follow them. "50m to the north, the bus stop can be found" was said on the Math department’s homepage. So we followed but at the next intersection we recognized they we going by foot, not by bus. So we continued to follow them until the top and now we understood why Taichi (a Kobe student, we came to know in Austria) says going up the hill is exhaustive. Indeed, the street’s incline is very recognizable and not sweating in the summer will be difficult. However, I considered as a nice fitness walk every morning.

After about 10 minutes we reached the 2nd campus of Rokkoudai. Martina planned to meet her tutor and her academic advisor Prof. Fukuyama at 10:00 which was when we arrived at the Faculty/Graduate School of Science. We were unsure about whether I was about to enroll as well, but followed her, because in the opposite case I will enroll at 14:00, when I will meet my tutor. Office ladies lead us to Prof. Fukuyama’s room, where we received a folder of documents to go through. It contained our student ID card, a paper to register for courses and a few forms to fill out. We were asked not to fill it out by now and told corresponding deadlines. Martina afterwards also told me she received a key to a room, she can use for academic work. In the following, also her tutor joined. Lukas was eager to answer as many questions as possible.

We were sent to the International Student Center, because we discussed issues related to scholarships. So we met Mrs. Narui, which we already shared many email conversations with when planning our trip to Japan. Somehow it was pointed out that "you are our first exchange students". First I thought about "the first one to register", but it was actually related to the Faculty somehow. So we don’t know whether this means "we are the first exchange students of the Math department of Faculty/Graduate School of Science" or just only this year, but I am sure that very few people register as exchange student at this department. At the residence we recognized that most exchange students study Law, Economics or Business Management. The amount of Japanese students is also recognizably small (I think they prefer other universities).

I need to point out explicitly, that in Japan we are not registered "at the university", but our designated Faculty (bachelor’s degree) or Graduate School (master’s degree).

With initial paper work done, we asked Martina’s tutor to take us to the municipal office. The municipal office will certify that we "moved in" and add the address to the residence card. Our tutor read through all the signs and eventually lead us to floor 7. Remember that floor 7 is the 6th floor in Europe. As in Austria, we take a ticket with a number and for your number to be called out. So we waited a few minutes to find out that we need to go to the 2nd floor. At the second floor, we filled out a form with our data and waited for confirmation. In the following, we were sent to the 7th floor and our data was checked again. Then it took some time, but eventually we got our residence card back together with the address printed on the back. Mine was printed with a machine whereas Martina’s residence card was extended with handwritten characters.

I scheduled to do this at a different day during the week, but getting rid of this was great. However, we are now late in a sense that it was 13:15 and I will meet my tutor at 14:00. I would have preferred some proper Japanese lunch, but we just went to LAWSON conbini (convenience store) to grab some snacks. But this ensured we were ready when my tutor arrived by train. Basically he joined to finish our next mission this day: Register for a bank account.

Very close to Rokko Station, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation is located with an office as part of their "Rokko branch". It is recommended by university, because other banks require further proofs of identity foreigners can often not provide. We went to the office and filled out paper work again. Our tutors worked as a translator, though I need to admit many questions were left unanswered after opening the account. However, we got an accounting book and a cash card. With the numbers incompatible to Europe’s IBAN system, I got curious whether money transfer will work out.

Together we got back to Rokkoudai, our university. This time we got a taxi, because sharing a taxi for 4 people makes 10 Yen less per person than going by train. At this point in time, it was raining heavily.

At university, our teams split up and my tutor showed me his working place. He has a place at the laboratory for his academic work. For the first time, I met my academic advisor I wrote emails with. In April 2016 I asked him whether I can do a bachelor thesis with him using a software project his department maintains. He gave me two topics to chose from (Machine Learning and algebraic properties of Ideals) where I chose the first one in May. In September we agreed, I will give a presentation tomorrow on the introductory chapter of Bishop’s book on Machine Learning (especially the Curve Fitting Problem). So at this point in time, he checked whether everything is fine for the presentation tomorrow and my tutor continued to show me around. He showed me the library, the department’s office and finally I asked for the cafeteria. I learned that unlike the US, people don’t study at the library, but get designated work places at the department. My tutor asked my advisor (he is also working with) where my place will be. I share my workplace with other bachelor-level students in a study room. In the meanwhile, Martina waited for her advisor, but was eventually introduced to her work colleagues.

Finally, we were done for now at Rokkoudai and went down the hill again to Rokko Station. We took the train back to our residence and grabbed some sweets at the conbini.

At night, I tried out an electric Japanese toilet for the first time. Granted, it is comfortable. Because of its many differences to European toilets, I will discuss them thoroughly in a separate weblog. I prepared for my presentation tomorrow and recognized that we forgot to look up the temporary WiFi password at university. Because there was much work left for the presentation and I was required to decide upon my courses for this semester, I did not sleep this night at all.