international student counseling office

services for international students

3 Services for International Students

Counseling services, support groups, workshops and seminars are provided at the International Student Counseling Office. All students at Hokkaido University can use the services of this office.


International students may find many things stressful – studies and research, their future, their own personal development, personal relationships, daily life/student life in Japan, the language barrier, cultural differences, issues with family back home, other personal problems, low mood, anxiety, mental health issues and other issues. Even if you just want to talk, do not know whom to talk to or what to do, need advice, need help sorting out or solving an issue, or want to find out how to adapt to  circumstances, you may want to try counseling. International students who do not feel they have the above problems, but who wish to further their self-development, are also welcome. Our expert counselors in clinical psychology will listen to what you have to say and work together with you to find a solution.

The International Student Counseling Office offers individual counseling sessions as well as couple and family sessions.

Or, you may be worried about your friends or roommates behaving differently from usual, yet do not know what to do. We can offer advice on your concerns about other students as well, so feel free to contact us.

International students who have never been to counseling sessions may not be sure about what to expect. Here is the general flow and details for your reference.

At the first session, you will be asked to fill out a form and sign consent form before you meet with your assigned counselor. Important details including confidentiality are stated in the  consent form, so make sure to ask your counselor if you are not sure of anything.

Once the session starts, you should talk about whatever you want. However, if you are not comfortable talking about something, because, for example, you do not know how or in what order to talk about things, you do not have to talk. Just let the counselor know that you are not comfortable. You can take things at your own pace.

The counselor will listen to what you have to say, and may ask you questions, attempt to clarify your problems, provide information, share their thoughts or suggest the next steps. They can refer you to other institutions including clinics/hospitals or the Harassment Services Office if necessary. So, if you do not know whom to contact, come to the International Student Counseling Office as the start. Suppose you cannot work comfortably with your instructor but are not sure if you feel you are being harassed. You may find out through counseling that adapting your way of communication to take the differences of languages and culture into full consideration may help you to improve your working relationship. Alternatively, you may realize that you should indeed report the situation to the Harassment Services Office. Counselors will never force any solution upon you, so when you don’t agree, please feel free to tell them so.

There is no limit to the number of counseling sessions you can have. Some may find a single session is sufficient, while others repeat as the need arises, and some continue for several months or more. In all cases, one session is 45 minutes.

You can expect a wide range of outcomes from counseling sessions. You may be able to clear your mind just by talking about your general discomfort, find help to make a decision on important things like career options, learn skills you want to improve your communication skills and emotion management, re-evaluate your way of thinking, or get help to counter long-held pain or concerns.

In general, you will have a more satisfactory counseling experience when you have built a trusting relationship with your counselor. If you want to achieve a specific goal, it may be a good idea to discuss it with your counselor and set targets accordingly.

If you have other questions regarding counseling services, please ask your counselor.

Support Groups

The following support groups are provided at the International Student Counseling Office.

In each group, the counselor builds rapport at the beginning, so new faces can get to know each other and become familiar with each other. The biggest advantage of support groups is to give the opportunity for students to exchange opinions and support one another. Join the group, and you may meet friends with whom you have something in common.

Support Group for International Undergraduate Students

International undergraduate students may come across various difficulties – they have to keep up with classes in Japanese; they have a hard time making Japanese friends; they cannot readily find information on classes; or they may find it difficult to get used to student life in Japan. Join the support group to share your problems and discuss your difficulties with fellow international students. You will make friends and solve problems.

The clinical psychologists at the Student Advice and Counseling Center who have studied abroad will build rapport and facilitate the discussion during the group, so you can relax even if you are not usually comfortable in discussing difficulties with others. Take this opportunity to join the group!

Around five group sessions are organized per semester.
Language: Japanese.
We will inform you about when and how to sign up for the groups on our website and the campus bulletin board. Or, we will send you the details if you inquire by email.

Support Group for Graduate Students – “Bitch and Research”

This group provides you with opportunities to casually discuss things unique to graduate students – you feel stuck in your research; you want to discuss your research with others; you want to confide your dissatisfaction with your relationship of your research team and Japanese culture; or you want to find friends that you just click with. Not comfortable about talking openly with people but wish to make friends? Join us. Everyone is welcome!

Around five group sessions are organized per semester.
Language: English.
We will inform you about when and how to sign up for the groups on our website and the campus bulletin board. Or, we will send you the details if you inquire by email.

Workshops, Seminars, and Other Activities

The International Student Counseling Office provides hands-on workshops. We also organize seminars on useful topics relating to student life. Upcoming workshops and seminars will be announced on our website and the campus bulletin board.

Examples of Topics
  • Cross-cultural communication
  • Assertiveness
  • Mindfulness
  • Procrastination

International Student Counseling Office TOP

Become a peer supporter

Hokkaido University takes applications for peer supporters at designated times throughout the year. Peer supporters are paid part-time staff (administrative assistant) of the university. Check out the peer support unit web site or come to the Center for more information.

Thinking about visiting us?

If you would like to make a counseling appointment, please call us, email us, or even just drop by in person. Students with appointments are given priority, so we recommend making an appointment.