Student Voice: An Unexpected Experience – Stephanie Cornelis, Ghent University, Belgium

Stephanie, on the left, dining in Izakaya (Japanese Bar) in Sendai.


When asked to choose one of my experiences here, I’ve picked the one I had never expected to experience: a typhoon during my stay here, while I was away on a city trip to Sendai.

Having been on an exchange to Japan once before, I mostly knew what to expect from life in Japan. But one of the things I hadn’t experienced yet was typhoon season. I had heard about it but wasn’t too worried as Akita seemed like a relatively safe place. I had expected some heavy rain and wind, but nothing like typhoon number 19, also knows as typhoon Hagibis. I had expected typhoons of such caliber in central Japan, not in a remote place such as Akita. So imagine my surprise when we received typhoon warnings at our university. Best of all, I had planned a trip to Sendai with some friends during the weekend. The typhoon was supposed to reach Japan. We decided not to cancel our plans as long as we were able to catch a bus to Sendai and hope for the best. I can tell you; it was something I had never experienced before.

On Saturday, we made it to Sendai without any trouble and went out to eat some cow tongue. It is a local specialty and very tasty. After that, many of the stores had already closed, and most of the trains had stopped working. We had a hotel booked outside the center, and we weren’t able to reach it, but luckily, due to the typhoon, many people had canceled their bookings in Sendai, and we could score a cheap hotel room. It was bizarre to see such a large city with closed stores and few people outside. Everyone had taken precautions. We went to a cat cafe because that was the only establishments that were open and afterward we went to the hotel to warm up (it had already started raining pretty badly at that point). We went out to eat, got to the izakaya soaking wet, and then ran back to the karaoke bar next to our hotel, where we spent some time before returning to our room.

At Typhoon night in Sendai

By the time we were in or room, we’d gotten to stage 5, and we had already received at least six messages telling us to go to higher ground. Luckily we were on the 8th floor of our hotel, so we didn’t have to worry. All channels showed information about the typhoon and had regular updates on the situation. It was fascinating to see how Japan handled the case, and I can say I was impressed. It was the first typhoon I’ve ever experienced, and it is certainly something I will never forget.


Studied at AIU in Fall Semester in 2019 and currently studying Spring Semester 2020 online course.