Beautiful city, lots of studying October 01, 2019

By (Wellesley College) - abroad from 05/23/2019 to 07/20/2019 with

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

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a lot about Japanese culture and how different it is to interact with people in daily life there.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The course was quite rigorous, covering more than a year's worth of Japanese at Wellesley. I loved our head teacher, but found the secondary teacher to be un-engaging and unhelpful.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The KCJS office was great with organizing everything, and quick to respond to requests for help.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Homestay students are guaranteed a private room and two meals a day, which I got. I wish I'd had a closer relationship with my host family but that's partially on me since I was hesitant to reach out to them at first.

* Food:

My host family's food was pretty good, but I ended up eating the same things a lot. For lunch you can get a filling meal from Doshisha's cafeteria (300-500yen), or something lighter like sushi/onigiri/salad from conbini (100-300yen)

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

My host family was quite busy, so I didn't see them much. KCJS also didn't really do much to integrate us with local students; other than my conversation partner, all my friends were other KCJS students, and I barely met any Japanese students.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Didn't have any health issues so I don't really know.

* Safety:

Kyoto is super safe, the one thing that's a little weird is that outside of the central areas, everything shuts down at 8:30pm so I felt uncomfortable walking through empty streets after dark.

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

I love Kyoto! Although it's touristy and expensive, you can find quiet spots to enjoy the city's natural beauty. The city is also full of nice cafes and plenty of places to work. The river is also super nice.

Finances

* 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? $70-100
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Budget carefully from the beginning. KCJS doesn't fund transportation to Doshisha for summer students, and those fees can add up especially if you live far from the campus, getting a monthly prepaid IC card can help offset that. Food is pretty cheap if you stick to conbini/supermarkets, but restaurants can get expensive. Lunch/dinner set meals are very common, where you get a lot of food for a set price, so if you eat a lot those are a good price but if you don't then it's kind of a waste of money. Cafes/coffee is also super expensive, drinks regularly cost upwards of 600yen/$6. Shopping is also pretty expensive. For both food and other things the cheapest places will be tucked into alleyways with unobtrusive signs; avoid touristy areas like Gion and Kawaramachi. Traveling during weekends is also expensive, since temples and other sites all have fees and rarely have student discounts, plus inter-city trains to anywhere other than Osaka are quite pricey.

Language

* 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

I spoke entirely in Japanese to my host family and conversation partner. There was a Japanese-only rule in the class building, but it wasn't really enforced and most people spoke English during class breaks/group activities.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? jpn 102
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? Talk a lot to your host family and conversation partner. My host mom would often talk to me about events in the news like the G20 conference/Japanese politics, which helped me learn a lot of new vocab

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

  • International Students
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?
  • Location
  • Fast-paced classes
* What could be improved?
  • Opportunities to meet local students
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Studying grammar, kanji, etc from the book is less valuable than speaking Japanese and immersing yourself in the culture, so don't spend too much time every day doing homework/studying. You can take similar courses anywhere, but you'll only be living in Japan this once.

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!