Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University


International Programs

FIRST (Freshman Intercultural Relations Study Trip) for Domestic Students

Freshman Intercultural Relations Study Trip
  • Teamwork
  • Challenge Spirits
  • Communication
  • Use of Foreigen Language

→University support for APU students interested in student Exchange

  • What is the FIRST Program?

    FIRST is a short-term, intensive program that offers first-year students the opportunity to spend the break between quarters*1 to travel to other parts of Japan or overseas and directly experience Asian culture and society by interacting with local people and conducting field research. The FIRST Program is held twice a year: once in another country for domestic students in the spring and once in another part of Japan for international students in the fall.

    After you enter APU, the FIRST Program will offer you an opportunity to step outside of the multicultural campus, and this will enhance your understanding of what it means to learn at APU while giving you a global perspective. To date, a large number of students have gotten a taste of the outside world by joining this program.
    The biggest feature of the FIRST Program is intercultural orienteering. For this activity, students divided into small groups and equipped with only the bare minimum of language training must make their own way to a designated destination in a foreign country. There, they must use teamwork and take initiative to conduct surveys while seeking help from local people. By doing this, students can meet over 300 people, which helps them develop confidence and a proactive attitude. Although senior students from the destination country accompany the program students, it is the students who take center stage.
    Thanks to the FIRST Program, many students develop an interest in studying overseas and go on to join a number of overseas programs, including language training programs, faculty-led field trips, and student exchange programs. At APU, the FIRST Program is your first chance to discover your door to the outside world.

    Professor KONDO Yuichi
    College of Asia Pacific Studies
    Director, FIRST Program

  • Deciding destinations by drawing straws!

    The biggest feature of the FIRST Program is the hands-on approach to conducting research in an unfamiliar land, culture and language. Divided into small groups, students have to use the language skills they acquire before departing Japan and make their way to a destination decided by drawing straws. Upon arrival they begin their research and carry out surveys based on a theme decided prior to arrival in the country.

  • One in two students has experienced FIRST!

    As students can enter APU in either spring or autumn, the FIRST Program is offered twice a year. The Spring FIRST Program is held overseas for domestic students*2 whereas the fall program is held in Japan for international students*2. Since it began in AY2007, the popular FIRST Program has attracted a large number of participants, and in AY2019, nearly one in every two Japanese students joined the program. Students who join the program can enhance the skills they need to succeed at APU, including communication skills, teamwork, intercultural understanding skills, enterprising spirit, and presentation skills.

    Applications for the AY2021 spring semester program are currently being prepared as the one without overseas travel. Information will be on the website in mid-March or late March.(The following information is for the AY2020 program. Please refer to the application period, etc.)

    Seeking applicants for FIRST AY2020 Spring Semester!!
    The recruitment has been cancelled due to the change of academic calendar. Future changes in the COVID-19 situation may allow for the resumption of FIRST program in another schedule.
    Application Period: Wed. April 1 - Wed. April 15, 2020 (16:30)
    *Application information for AY2020 spring FIRST program will be released on Fri. January 31, 2020

    <Guidance Session Schedule> The guidance session has been cancelled
    1st Guidance Session: 14:15-15:00 (Period 4), Wed. April 8, 2020
    Location: TBA
    2nd Guidance Session: 16:05-16:50 (Period 5), Wed. April 8, 2020
    Location: TBA

    Application information is available on Academic Office website.

    FIRST for Domestic Students

    ・Intercultual experience/understanding
    ・Exchange with people from a different country
    Location Overseas (Past example: Korea, Taiwan)
    Timing and length Spring semester (5 days)
    During quarter break (late May – early June)
    Credits 2credits
    Program Eligibility 1st year Domestic students*2
    Program Fee: Approx. 70,000 JPY

    *valid up to AY2019

  • The FIRST Journey

    The program is composed of on-site field research sandwiched between on-campus pre- and post-program lectures and features students working in small groups.

    1. Pre-program sessions (one month prior to departure)

    Under the guidance of faculty members, students decide their research topics, receive crisis management guidance, and prepare themselves for departure. They also learn the language and culture of the host country while receiving support from upperclassmen including students from the host country.


    2.Field research (4-5 days)

    As soon as students arrive in the country, their destinations are decided by drawing straws. Armed with a map, a few words of local language, and teamwork, the groups set off for their respective destinations. During the program, students cannot use their mobile phones, and some of the destinations are small towns that do not normally attract tourists. By overcoming situations in which they cannot rely on what is considered common sense in Japan, the students learn to be resourceful without fearing failure.


    3.Arriving at the target destination!

    Upon arrival, students begin their research based on the topics decided prior to departure. They will need to approach approximately 600 people to complete their 300-page-plus questionnaires. Often, the students are treated kindly by the locals, but they also experience some tough situations. The people they approach may not be able to speak English, or they may face repeated refusals for assistance. The objective of putting students in these situations is to provide them with non-linguistic communication skills—that is, the ability to make themselves understood without relying on language.


    4.At the end of the day

    At the end of each day, students hold reflection sessions. They discuss the results they have collected and methods for conducting surveys, share the insights they have gained by undertaking activities in a foreign culture, and consider ways to improve group work. They may not always see eye to eye with each other, but this is also an important learning opportunity.


    5.Post-program session

    After they return to Japan, the students give presentations on the results of their surveys. Seeing and hearing about what the other groups have discovered helps the students reflect on their own experiences. They provide each other with feedback, and the entire process which serves to bolster a range of skills they can put to use in their future studies at APU.


FIRST Program Student Testimonial
AY2019 FIRST Program Participant
HOSOKAWA Kotomi (College of Asia Pacific Studies (APS))

By participating in FIRST, I was able to learn communication skills, proactivity, and cross-cultural understanding. Communicating with local people who speak a different language was not easy. However, by eating local food and reaching out to the people ourselves, they would talk to us freely and I felt our feelings connect. I was simultaneously also able to feel a different culture. This was my first step in my university life and it has increased my confidence.


FIRST Program Student Testimonial
AY2019 FIRST Program Participant
NOSAKA Sota (College of International Management (APM))

What is important is “heart” and “passion”. Even in an environment where communication is not possible through words, make use of gestures and through trial and error and the ability to act, communicate with the people on-site to conduct over 300 surveys and accomplish the mission. Through FIRST, I learnt not to fear failure and the importance of conveying your feeling to another person. I improved my English and I wish to continue speaking to others without hesitation in cross-cultural environments, whether it be in APU or the wider world.

→List of Off-campus Study Programs

→University support for APU students interested in student Exchange

*1 The quarter system

The APU academic calendar is divided into two semesters, and each semester consists of two quarters (each lasting approximately eight weeks) and an intensive two-month session. Classes held during the quarters are offered twice a week and are completed in two months. This intensive calendar structure ensures positive learning outcomes and encourages students to apply themselves to their studies. Breaks are held between quarters during which time classes are not held. APU offers several intensive study abroad opportunities that students can take advantage of during these quarter breaks.

【 The APU Academic Calendar 】

Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Jan Feb Mar
Spring Semester Fall Semester
1st Quarter 2nd Quarter Summer Session 1st Quarter 2nd Quarter Winter Session

*2 International & Domestic students

The term international student denotes those students who possess a College Student visa, while the term domestic student refers to Japanese students and also includes non-Japanese students who reside in Japan with a residency status other than College Student.