I’m currently a college student, and my college offers multiple locations throughout Japan. I’m at a loss because I’ve never visited there before, but I want to make sure that I make the most of my trip. My current options are Meikai University, Osaka, Iwate University, Nanzan University, Obirin University, Oita University, and Sophia University. There is also the question of whether I should attend in fall or spring.
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Then my original answer still stands, anytime, anywhere. Japan is an amazing place and you will love the uniqueness of any part of it, and wherever you are studying those things will enrich you as much as it would anywhere else in Japan. The fact that you are studying there is the main thing, it doesn’t matter when or in what uni.
I know you will be studying Japanese, but are you studying it already? If not, I’d get going on the basics straight away as this will make a huge difference to your trip. Even just being able to introduce yourself and read a bit of hiragana and katakana will help you to feel more settled when you first arrive. Actually you’ll just be completely overwhelmed whatever you do but in an exciting way!
I taught in a high school rather than studying so don’t know the universities you’ve mentioned but if you’re a fan of cities, Tokyo definitely wouldn’t disappoint, so I’d go for Meikai, Obirin or Sophia. Tokyo would also make a good base in terms of exploring other parts of the country and I’d recommend staying on a bit longer after your course has finished to take a trip further afield. If the idea of a massive metropolis doesn’t thrill you, how about Oita? Your profile says you like scuba diving so maybe Kyushu would be a better bet. Gambate!
I have a feeling this response may be too late, but anyway…
Osaka is easily the ‘best’ (i.e. highest ranked) of the universities listed, but if you’re only there short-term I doubt that’ll be a big factor. It’s also one of the 13 core universities in the Global 30 programme, which means it should have well-organised Japanese-as-a-foreign-language courses, and a lot of international students and events. Personally I love Kansai (lived in Kyoto for a year, studying at Doshisha, another Global 30 university – see http://info.japantimes.co.jp/ads/pdf/20130902_global_30_universities.pdf for more info), so that would be my recommendation, but there are pros and cons to each.
Iwate is another national university (as a rule, they tend to be better ranked than private universities) in North-east Japan. Personally I really like that area, and especially since the earthquake it’s been less overrun with tourists. Talking of, it’s a great area if you’d like to get involved in volunteer work – there’s a lot left to do. There’s a lot to see in the North of the country, and if you like winter sports you’ll be spoiled for choice.
Sophia is very well-located to see the sights of Tokyo, and in a nice area, but it’s central so very busy and full of tourists! It’s also pretty prestigious. But I doubt I need to tell you Tokyo’s plus points, they’re well-documented!
As mentioned above, if you’re more into water sports Oita (outdated but maybe useful – http://www.sfsu.edu/~studyabr/ExperienceReports/JAPAN%20-%20Oita%20University_2009-10.pdf ) is a good choice. Kyushu has a distinct culture, separated as it is from Honshu. And it’s a really fun, fascinating culture to be surrounded by! Plus, trips to Okinawa, Goto, Takachiho, Fukuoka and Nagasaki are not to be overlooked!
Basically, you’ll have an amazing time at any of them! As far as the autumn [fall] or spring choice goes, it depends on how long you’re going to be there. If it’s a year or more, then don’t worry and choose what best fits your schedule! If it’s only for one semester, then take into account the climate of your chosen area (it varies a lot – don’t pick Osaka or Oita if you hate humid summers, or Iwate if you can’t stand snow), whether there are any local annual events you can’t bear to miss, and whether you fancy any seasonal activities.
Good luck, and have an amazing time!