Poor choice of program, good choice of country Past Review

By (Austin College) - abroad from 03/25/2014 to 07/11/2014 with

IES Abroad: Tokyo - Language & Culture

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned NOT to ever have anything to do with IES ever again. I also learned a lot of foreign language from daily interactions and came to greatly appreciate Japanese culture.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

Some classes were good, some were not so good. If you do take this program I recommend taking one or more classes at KUIS university. DON'T just do the IES provided classes. They very American style and you won't get the experience of a Japanese classroom.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The administration at IES Tokyo is extremely bad. With them, I ran into everything from simple bad attitude to threats and bullying. - One of my friends was told she was 'juvenile', 'did not understand Japanese society', and was 'wasting her time here' when she broke a minor IES policy. Her life dream has been to learn Japanese society and come to Japan, so she was understandably very upset. - Several administrators have a very bad, 'it can't be done' attitude. Seriously, ask them a question and that's all you'll get: 'it can't be done'. No explanation, no problem solving skills, no compromises. - On the other hand, you may be threatened. I asked about dropping a class and was threatened by the director. He told me, in short, that he would kick me out of the program and have my visa revoked if I dropped the class. All I wanted to know is whether it was a possibility ... - Obviously these drawbacks made me very wary of approaching IES for help with any issue, so basically they were worse than useless in that capacity. - This is not to say everyone is all bad. There are several very helpful and likable people too, but on the whole my experience was very negative. - For this reason alone I would recommend not taking this program.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

If you must go with this program, and I don't recommend it, then DO NOT STAY IN THE DORMS. No matter what. They are ancient, stinky, the girls one has no air conditioning in most of the building, and you WILL BE TREATED LIKE YOU'RE LIVING AT YOUR PARENTS HOUSE BY THE MANAGEMENT. Seriously, they seem to think it's their job to check up on you all the time and will call IES if you don't come back early enough at night EVEN WHEN YOU TELL THEM NOT TO. - They are overpriced. For the same money you can rent a small apartment. - They are both at least 1 hour from school. - NO VISITORS OF THE OPPOSITE SEX ARE ALLOWED. None whatsoever are even allowed to come into the building, even in the common areas. If you want to hang with your girlfriend/boyfriend or just friend, forget it. This is enforced with security cameras and an ever present manager sitting in front of the door. - If you don't want to do a home stay, then I highly recommend checking out apartments independent of IES. I rented one with the help of Aonissin real estate (www.aonissin.net for English website). They speak english, instantly reply to emails, are very helpful, and will set you up in no time at all. - One last time, DON'T STAY IN THE DORMS.

* Food:

Again on the dorms, the food service is very inadequate for most guys. Girls seem to be more okay with it, but for guys there is not nearly enough food served. It's also very low quality so you won't feel like eating it anyway. Worse, IES TOKYO DOES NOT ACCOMMODATE DIETARY RESTRICTIONS. The dorm food menu is set and always serves something with meat or very occasionally fish. Yes, there is a section on the IES application asking about dietary restrictions. No, they will not actually serve you according to those restrictions. One of my friends has a peanut allergy, was served peanuts, and had to go to the emergency room. Another friend is vegetarian, could not eat the dorm food at all, but received no monetary compensation or help from IES to pay for outside meals.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The program seems to nurture a disconnect between you and Japanese culture. All the students eat lunch together in the IES center, speaking English and go to IES classes in the center which are nearly all in English. On the KUIS campus it is possible to get involved, but IES doesn't really push students to do so. They do have an epal program, but very few IES events involve the epals, so it's pretty much up to you to hang out with them.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Like I said, one of my friends had to visit the emergency room for a serious peanut allergy. He ended up going there in a taxi because no one called an ambulance for some reason, even though he felt extremely bad. - It's worth noting that Japanese ambulances often to not have well trained paramedics. Usually they are staffed by retired firefighters or policemen who may have a very basic medical training, but can't really do much for you. Also, if it looks like you may die, hospitals can (and sometimes will) not allow you entrance to their facilities in order to keep their death rates down. Just something to keep in mind :) - I went to the doctor because I got the flu and rather than the modern breath detection method I'm used to in the states, they stuck a probe down my nose which was very painful. This is because new medical technology usually has difficulty gaining acceptance in Japan and doctors usually stick to older methods. - National medical insurance is mandatory, but pretty cheap.

* Safety:

Japan is pretty safe since everyone more or less minds their own business. However, Tokyo is a very large city and has some seedy patches just like any other. Americans will typically be fine because we're used to that sort of thing.

If you could do it all over again would you choose the same program? No


* 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)

Tokyo is one of the most expensive cities in the world. I read all about that and didn't believe it could be that bad. I was wrong. Expect to have extreme difficulty spending less than $100/week. It's very easy to spend over $200. Home stay students had a better deal since their meals were better and they did not have to pay for quite as much food. - Food, very very expensive for anything with protein. The Japanese love carbs and I found myself having to buy a lot of extra protein food.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? On average, $200. Some weeks were much less some much more.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Don't travel. Trains are very expensive, especially the shinkansen. Rent a car or look into buses if you want to go a long distance. Go with the home stay. Home stay parents will typically take you out on trips on the weekends and pay for everything. They also serve much much better (and more) food than the dorms.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
* 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?
  • nothing, seriously, I can't think of one thing IES did right.
* What could be improved?
  • DORMS, get rid of them they suck
  • STAFF, the center directer is flat out unsavory
  • COST, IES charges too much and gives too little
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I'd read a critical review detailing all of IES's failings. I would have used a different program.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Environmental History

Course Department:
Instructor: Colin Tyner
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Environmental history just sounds boring right? WRONG, this class was fantastic. I learned a lot of Japanese history that I never would have come across in any other way. It was also pretty hard, but nothing too difficult - just challenging. Highly recommend taking it if you're in this program.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Japan Through Movies

Course Department:
Instructor: Yuko Kawanishi
Instruction Language:
Comments: Japan through movies was okay, but I had a little trouble understanding the reasons behind some of my grades. Dr. Kawanishi wasn't very helpful at first with this, but in the end it worked out. Overall I'd say this is probably the easiest IES class, but beware some of the films are pretty sad and will make you cry!
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Japanese History at KUIS

Course Department:
Instructor: Aye Chan
Instruction Language: English/Japanese
Comments: Aye Chan is the reason you take this class. He is a very interesting individual and has a very ... unique teaching style. Always interesting and fun, highly recommend, but don't expect to learn much Japanese history.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Japanese Society at KUIS

Course Department:
Instructor: Kamei
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This class was the only one I had with Japanese students and gave me a little insight into how regular Japanese college classes work. Learned quite a bit, would recommend.
Credit Transfer Issues: