Finding My Passion for Japanese Past Review

By (Philosophy & Japanese Language, Wellesley College) - abroad from 09/03/2013 to 04/28/2014 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Personally, the most valuable thing I gained from this experience is a better knowledge of my relationship with the language and the culture. Before living in Japan, I only had a very vague notion of why I was interested in the language, but now I feel I have found what I can personally use it for and where my interest truly lies. Of course, my Japanese knowledge and ability also increased while there. It was definitely worthwhile.

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.

Language classes were of high quality, high intensity, and very well organized by the program. We moved through material quickly but effectively and the instructors were very helpful inside and outside of class. Academic or Culture courses varied depending on the instructor. Some instructors had very well organized classes and were able to handle the material effectively, while others were less organized and left students largely unsatisfied and confused. While I understand that finding instructors for those courses must be a difficult task, I hope that in the future the administration chooses instructors a bit more carefully.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The staff on-site were unbelievably helpful. Both teachers and program staff were always willing to aid us in whatever we needed, from information about travel, to after class help with grammar. I believe we all felt very well taken care of and therefore were able to focus more on our studies.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in a small apartment just south of Doshisha Campus, and was very comfortable there. The apartment was small but had everything I needed. The location was also great; only a 30 min walk, 10-15 min bike ride, or 5 min on the chikatetsu (underground rail).

* Food:

Food was most likely the most difficult for me. I am a strict vegetarian, meaning Japan is one of the least food-friendly places in the world for me. Nearly everything has some form of meat, fish, or egg in it, and finding something suitable was difficult. As I lived in an apartment however, I was able to cook at least two meals a day for myself and only really have to search for lunch.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Mostly due to the difference of school schedules between Doshisha and KCJS, it was not easy to connect with Japanese students through the school. While some found other ways to get involved an meet other people, partly due to the fact that I was not in a homestay, and also due to the extracurricular activity I decided to participate in, my exposure was not as high as it could have been. While part of the problem was definitely our disconnection from the rest of the school and lack of organized activities, personally I feel I did not take advantage of many opportunities which could have made me feel much more connected to the local culture.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I personally did not have any need for healthcare services while abroad but I knew that if I had some need it would be taken care of.

* Safety:

Kyoto is a beautiful and very safe city. I don't believe I have ever felt more safe in my life in any city, even despite being a foreigner.

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)

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $75-100 a week, not including money the program returned to us for meals.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Know what you want to spend your money on. Keep some kind of budget for necessary expenses and decide how much money outside of that you are willing to spend and what you're willing to spend it on.


* 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

We were encouraged to use Japanese as often as possible while in Japan, including when speaking to other study abroad students.

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? 2nd year "Intermediate" Japanese (JPN 202)
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? Speak it as often as possible. To your friends in the program, especially if they have a higher language ability than you, to those in your class. Make friends with Japanese students, particularly those who want to learn English or any other language you may know. Go to your teachers for help often and get involved with the community.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Other
  • N/A
* 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? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Language Classes
  • Trips
  • Helpful staff
* What could be improved?
  • Culture course instructors could be more carefully chosen
  • Integration with Japanese society/Japanese students through the program itself
  • Textbook policy (could not re-sell/refund books)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I should focus on studying Kanji and reading Japanese because that is the aspect I want to make stronger for myself.

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 Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!