Everything is "Totes Daijoubs" Past Review

By (International/Global Studies., Indiana University - Bloomington) - abroad from 01/13/2014 to 04/25/2014 with

Columbia University: Kyoto - Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies / KCJS

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned to accept others as well as myself. I can't think of a better moment in my life in which I learned this much about myself. Opening yourself up to other cultures really does teach you something about your own.

Review Photos

Columbia University: Kyoto - Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Would have been 5 stars had it not been for the English-spoken elective classes that they offered during my stay.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The administration was excellent in dealing with student's problems and worries, particularly those dealing with host family issues, obtaining a "foreigners identification card," and extra-curricular inquiries. Personally I thought they could have been a little more organized in helping students obtain train passes. They left Doshisha University students to help us and take us to our designated train station, but due to a slight language barrier and manner differences, minor complications arose amongst a few students afterwards dealing with renewing a train pass, or knowing how to use it adequately. For the most part, however, they were well prepared to help a student with anything legal, scholastic, or medical.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I chose a homestay, which ended up becoming a key part to my abroad experience. I felt very fortunate, however, since my family was familiar with American culture as they have traveled to the U.S. multiple times. They had set up my room with an actual bed and air conditioning, along with a rack on which to hang my clothes with hangers, a desk, a chair, a small bookcase with drawers, a clothes basket, and plenty of blankets. Keep in mind it was still in a traditional Japanese house, so the door was a paper sliding door, and the walls were very thin; I felt like I could have easily punched through the wall. I was again fortunate to not have a curfew, but it was a common concept amongst other students, especially females. If not, then telling your host parents what time you were going to be home was a necessity. In other words, if you are a college student getting used to the freedom your own apartment or dorm provides you, get ready to fall back into a schedule for bed and dinner, since showing respect to your host family by being timely and prepared is vital. Always know that a host family requires work on both ends; you and your family need to meet halfway between the cultural divide and respect each other's needs and space. My family really wanted to get to know me, so I had to open up quite a bit to them. My host mother was adamant about me telling her what foods I really wanted, although I am not a picky eater. Sometimes a family might seem pushy, and sometimes they will just let you do your own thing. The key is to find a balance. That being said, I was invited to go skiing with my host dad and brother at a place three hours away driving. Then I was invited to a traditional Japanese hotel by my host mother where they served nothing but delicious crab. Although a host family WILL limit your freedom to some extent while you are abroad, there are also great benefits and amazing experiences you can have with a family if you just open yourself up to them.

* Food:

All of the food was amazing, though again, I am not a picky eater. From conveyor sushi to crab to the school's cafeteria food to raw horse meat, you can find a little bit of everything during your stay if you're interested enough. Naturally, everyone ate at Doshisha's cafeteria during the first few weeks, but as time progressed, everyone became a little more daring. A few of my friends found a "lunch passport" at a nearby bookstore that contained a huge variety of lunches offered at different restaurants and cafes each for only 500 yen ($5). This created the "passport group" which would go to a different place every day for lunch. I joined them every now and then, depending on where they were going. There were two cafeterias to choose from, although one of them closed during the Japanese spring holiday, which lasts around a month. Food offered throughout the semester at the cafeterias included ramen, udon, soba, omelette rice, taco rice, kimchi, and donburi. There's also a curry place, a thai place, a burger place (MOS burger), and many cafes around the immediate area of Doshisha. You just have to get out and try stuff! You might end up eating kangaroo like I did.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Integration requires a lot of hard work on your part. Sure, there's the Community Involvement Project (CIP) required by KCJS, which demands that each student find something to do at least once a week that either involves helping the community or learning a new skill, but how deep are you willing to go? I volunteered at a community center for my CIP in which I had to do office type work and map out seating arrangements. Although it may not sound TOO exciting, I did end up talking to my Japanese supervisors and even some guests they had whenever I had the chance. Not only did this give me more opportunities to practice my Japanese, my scope on Japanese society increased a little more with each new person met. There are also community events you can sign up for, one of which some of us got to dress up in kimonos for a day and make arts and crafts with other Japanese people. There is also the Japanese friend program.. thing. Where you can sign up to be paired with a Japanese student and then coordinate with them when you just want to... well, talk with them. It is not as blind as you think, however. We were given a list with no names, but with a description written by the students themselves explaining their interests, hobbies, majors, and other miscellaneous info. We all got to choose a person we wanted as our partner, but if two or more people chose the same person, it was first come first served. Personally, I was nervous when I first met my partner. I did not know whether to mostly use English or Japanese as he was learning English himself, but we settled on a nice mix of both to help each other. In the end, I applaud this part of the program, as my partner and I became extremely close, and I am still in contact with him in Facebook. I invited him to many weekend outings, including one school field trip. He taught me the true meaning of settling cultural differences. I do not know what my abroad experience would have been without him. Needless to say, this system is also hit and miss, as some students ended up seeing their partner only a few times, if at all. Just know that you need to put in some effort. Friends don't make themselves.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

My clumsy self somehow managed to trip on an up-moving escalator. Don't ask me how. Just know that this resulted in my knee being pierced by the metal "teeth" of the escalator step, and a bit of blood loss. Thankfully, the administration and my host mother helped me find a nearby clinic, in which they cleaned the wound, bandaged me up, took an X-ray, gave me a knee brace, and prescribed me pain medication all for the price of $25. That's right. It really is that cheap over there. The nurses and the doctor were all very nice too. Despite being a slightly small clinic, their English knowledge was not too bad and certainly helped when our Japanese conversation became full with medical jargon that was a bit difficult for me to understand. Relax. You are in good hands.

* Safety:

Japan certainly does earn the title of being a virtually crime-free country. I felt completely safe walking 10 minutes from the train station to my house alone at 12am. There weren't even very many main roads either. Now, there was a time our group of friends was being bothered by a seemingly drunk Japanese grown man. He turned out to be a bit bothersome for quite a while, and not many natives are willing to shake them off themselves, let alone you. It is a very safe country, but dangerous moments can happen, so be prepared. Remember that Japanese people are still not quite used to seeing foreigners around, so anything can still happen if you stick out physically. Women, this includes uncomfortable train groping. Yes, it does happen. Be prepared.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? Yes


* Money: How easily were you able to live on a student's budget?

(1 = not very easy/$200+ on food & personal expenses/week, 2.5 = $100/week, 5 = very easily/minimal cost)

Japan is a costly country. One train ride alone can end up costing you $2, and you will be using the train a lot during your stay. Food is all right, but like always there's cheap places to eat and there's nice places to eat. Overall though food was on the cheaper end. Clothes are very expensive, but Uniqlo had pretty good prices and sizes appropriate for foreigners. Remember that sizes over there are generally smaller. Try getting one size larger than you're used to first. Movies are around $15. Karaoke can be quite cheap if you're not getting in after 7pm, which actually happens most of the time....

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Probably around $30 tops on average.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Get a lunch passport or any other meal coupons you may find. Many places you can shop in also have point systems in place, so take advantage of that. If you're planning on taking a trip somewhere, check to see if there are special train passes available, or flight discounts on the airline called Peach. Peach is a very cheap flight service that flies to just about anywhere within Japan and even South Korea. Don't feel afraid to ask the administration people or even your host family. My host family helped me find amazing deals on hotels and flight tickets when I was planning for a spring break trip to Sapporo and Okinawa.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How much did the program encourage you to use the language?

0 = No encouragement, 5 = frequent encouragement to use the language

There is indeed a contract encouraging you to speak the language constantly, or at least inside the building that the program is situated in. Though we spoke Japanese inside the building and around teachers, we spoke English perhaps more than I care to admit. I did have my language partner, my CIP, and my homestay however, so my day was filled with a great amount of every-day Japanese.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Advanced
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? 200 level
How many hours per day did you use the language?
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? You get as much out of it as what you give in. As simple as that.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • The Japanese language classes. They are they best Japanese classes with the finest teachers. You WILL have fun.
  • FOOD
  • The friends I met along the way.
* What could be improved?
  • Electives classes
  • A few structural points during the orientation process
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had brought more souvenirs with me. I was so stingy on spending money that I did not bring back as much as I wanted to!

Reasons For Studying Abroad

To help future students find programs attended by like-minded individuals, please choose the profile that most closely represents you.
The Avid Adventurer
The wardrobe you packed was better suited for a semester of camping than club hopping. Outdoorsy, you might forgo a crazy night out for an early all-day adventure. You'd rather take in the rich culture of an old town than the metropolis of a modern city, but for you getting off the grid is ideal.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Japanese Corporations

Course Department:
Instructor: Mari Kondo
Instruction Language: English
Comments: The only challenging thing about this class was that we never knew what our grade was throughout the semester, what lecture material we were supposed to go over (assuming we had lecture that week since there were many weeks we did not), or what procedures to prepare for when class presentations and final projects were getting near. If anything, the professor's assisting student, whom which volunteered for the positioned herself, did most of the organizational work while the professor randomly decided whether she was attending a lecture or not. One example is that a week before final presentations, everybody was asking the professor's student assistant how the final paper that accompanies the presentation should be formatted, since the teacher mentioned it briefly a few weeks prior. When the assistant asked the professor herself, the professor had to be reminded that there even was a paper at all, and later questioned the assistant how she should go about doing it. It was as if the professor had no concept of what being a professor was all about. Granted, we took quite a few field trips to Japanese companies, including Toyota, Gekkeikan, Muji, and Panasonic, but some of these field trips were treated as stand alone class sessions with no texts or lectures to provide further reflection or context. Learning some of the history and policies about each company was educational to some extent, however. Beware of this class though. Should it be offered again by this professor, you will think everything is easy and simple at times, but then everything will quickly turn into a rush due to a lack of preparation on the professor's side, and a lack of a rubric or further instructions. On the flip side, classes were cancelled often, so take that as you will. There was a time when she cancelled that same day two hours prior her lecture, for which everyone had spent all night preparing a presentation for since she gave us little time to prepare.
Credit Transfer Issues: