Living in Beppu: AP House vs. Downtown
When I first arrived in Japan, I spoke little to no Japanese and didn’t know anyone in this half of the hemisphere. Needless to say, I was very nervous about starting my new life here at APU. However, living in AP House for my first year while surrounded by fellow students going through more or less the same things as me is one of the main reasons I was able to adjust so quickly.
Now having lived on campus for one year and in downtown Beppu for a year and a half after that, I can confidently say that I have had ample time to experience the best of both worlds. And so, I thought it would be the perfect time to give a little insight into the benefits of living in AP House and downtown Beppu, as well as ways to make the most of your time here.
For me, the main benefit of living in AP House is that it provides a soft landing for new international students with support in both English and Japanese. I can’t imagine trying to apartment search by myself all before classes start, let alone in a foreign language. Then there is the additional work of buying furniture and phoning all the necessary companies to set-up the utilities. Luckily for incoming students, all the rooms in AP House are pre-furnished with the main necessities like a bed, refrigerator, and even Wi-Fi. There is also no need to pay for gas, water, or electricity as it is included with the monthly rent. Now that I live in an apartment in downtown Beppu, I can look back and know that I would have been completely overwhelmed trying to handle all the paperwork and other necessary things that come with living in and renting a place in Japan.
Another undeniable benefit of living in AP House is its on-campus location. When I first came to APU I was actually pleased with the “late” start time of 8:45 AM for first period, especially when I compared it to the 7:45 AM start time of my high school. But what I didn’t realize then was that once I moved downtown I would have to factor in the additional commute time it takes to get up to campus on the bus. I have definitely spent a few cold winter mornings waiting at the bus stop or late starts running for the bus wondering why I was ever jealous of the students already living downtown. My advice—treasure your time in AP House. Treasure all the days you get to walk past the long line of students waiting for the bus, while you instead walk right back to your room mere minutes away.
Finally, the thing I miss most about my time in AP House is having all of my friends living within a few seconds walking distance. When I first got to AP House, I was fortunate to find others just as eager as myself to meet new students and formed a solid friend group in no time. This group was my go-to when it came to sharing knowledge on everything from how to read the bus schedule to where to go when you just can’t go another second without a taste of your favorite home cooking. Now that I live in downtown Beppu, I can no longer just run down the hall and knock on a friend’s door to see if they are in. Making plans to meet up takes a lot more effort. Luckily, even though we all live in different parts of Beppu, my floormates from AP House and I all still regularly meet up to go out to dinner. And as time goes on, I know the relationships I made during my time in AP House will stay with me even after leaving APU.
When I reached the one-year mark in AP House, I was definitely ready to move downtown. By that time I had on more than one occasion experienced the woe of missing the last bus leaving from downtown to campus. In this situation there are two choices: take a taxi up to AP House (albeit a pricey option) or find somewhere to stay until the next morning. I like to think that it is almost a rite of passage to miss the last bus, decide that you can definitely pull an all-nighter until the first bus, and then seriously regret it while eating a burger at McDonald's at 4:30 in the morning. (Can you tell I speak from experience?) Moving into my own apartment meant that I got to make my own schedule, free from the limits of the bus system. Also, once I got a bicycle, I could basically go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted. Having such easy access to supermarkets and restaurants gave me much more freedom to experiment with local cuisine, raid the discount bin at the market, and go crazy trying new recipes at home.
Having your own space completely separate from the other AP House residents also has its own perks. Personally, I love having my own bath more than words can express. As far as I am concerned, there is nothing better than coming home on a cold day and sitting in the bath until I look like an umeboshi (dried Japanese plum that is very wrinkly!). AP House does have a public bath that is tons of fun to go to with friends, but sometimes it is nice to have some alone time. This also goes for the other shared spaces like the kitchen and dining area. While I loved cooking together with my floormates, it’s so much more convenient to use the kitchen whenever I want with all my ingredients, spices, and cooking utensils stored right where I need them. And if I ever feel like hanging out with friends as I did in AP House, I can always invite them over.
Lastly, it was only after moving downtown that I felt like I started to put all the Japanese I had learned to practical use. Being in AP House is a bit like having training wheels on your bike—you can always fall back on English when you don’t want to struggle in Japanese. Moving downtown puts you on the big kid bike, where suddenly using English is no longer an option. Whether it is talking to the owner of my building or trying to call to get my package redelivered again, I get to challenge myself pretty much on a daily basis. While this may seem daunting, APU’s Japanese classes help prepare students for these situations, and if you’re anything like me, you will feel so accomplished when you find yourself finally doing them with ease.
My time in AP House was unique and memorable, and even now some of my closest friends are those I met while living together in the on-campus housing. However moving downtown is a natural step that I feel pushes you one step closer to true Adult Life™, and I really believe that both places have been influential in preparing me for life after graduation whether it be in Japan or anywhere else. Whatever you do, be sure to take advantage of your time in both places. Your time at APU is limited, so be sure to live in the moment!
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