Like Learning to Swim in Open Ocean; Terrifying and Exhilarating Past Review

By (Japanese Language and Literature., Austin College) - abroad from 09/03/2013 to 07/13/2014 with

IES Abroad: Tokyo - Language & Culture

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Tokyo was challenging and fascinating. My time there didn't just teach me about the culture or language. It taught me that people are people, no matter where you go or how different the culture, and we can all connect with each other if we just put out the effort. It also taught me how to be confident, outgoing, and inquisitive in daunting new surroundings, even as an introvert.

Review Photos

IES Abroad: Tokyo  - IES Abroad in Tokyo Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 0-2 weeks

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

While the classes were interesting and I did enjoy them, they weren't quite as rigorous as I was used to. The resources were also a bit limited due to language availability. I did still learn a lot from those classes, they just weren't what I was expecting.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The IES staff are fantastic. They're helpful, give good advice, and are tons of fun on field trips. If you have any issues or are having difficulties with something they can usually point you in the right direction, and they can help you out with almost anything. Also, Shin-san and Lee-san seriously rock.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I had some problems with my dorm manager the first semester I was there, but the family who ran the dorm my second semester was fantastic. I also really enjoyed the large shared bath that was available for use in the evenings, and almost never used the private showers.

* Food:

The food is delicious, but some of it can be very strange or off-putting, particularly if you're not used to sea food. It grows on you, but expect to have a serious beef craving for a little while.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I never felt unwelcome in Japan, and I did my best to adopt the local customs. But I and the other students always stood out as being gaijin, and it wasn't really possible to forget that, so full integration wasn't something we ever really achieved.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I never had an issue with healthcare, but the staff specifically told us to let them know if we ever got sick, and always took us straight to a clinic whenever it happened. No one really got seriously ill while I was there though. Just your basic colds and sore throats.

* Safety:

I felt very safe the whole time I was there. You should still be alert and careful, especially if you're a girl as they do have a serious problem with molesters and perverts. But violent crime is pretty rare, and you don't need to worry about much.

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)

Tokyo is an extremely expensive place to live, especially if you want to be out and about doing things. On the other hand, between conbini and local grocery stores or markets, you can sustain yourself fairly cheaply. I lived a very spartan lifestyle my first semester without breaking a thousand dollars. However, the more you do the more expensive things are.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? ¥ 5,000
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Conbini are great places to pick up cheap lunches, socks, laundry detergent, trash bags, and various other necessary items. They're also everywhere, so if you get into the habit of buying your lunches there it saves you at least a couple hundred yen per meal.


* 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 used Japanese everywhere but with the other IES students, and our language classes were conducted with either very limited english for the lower levels or no english at all for the upper levels.

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? JAPN 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? Train platforms and restaurants are the best classrooms. Don't ask for english menus or wait for announcements on train platforms to come up in english. Puzzle your way through those kanji. As difficult as it is, you'll find they start to come easier once you've been through the ordeal a few times, and then you can use those kanji to decipher entirely new names or terms.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
  • 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?
  • The field trips.
  • The ability to travel within the country.
  • The staff.
* What could be improved?
  • I would have liked the opportunity to get out of the city more often.
  • Maybe some english tutoring on the more technical aspects of the language.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Bring a raincoat, because typhoon season will break your umbrella. Every. Time.

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 Nearly Native or Trail Blazer
Craving the most authentic experience possible, perhaps you lived with a host family or really got in good with the locals. You may have felt confined by your program requirements and group excursions. Instead, you'd have preferred to plan your own trips, even skipping class to conduct your own 'field work.'

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Japan Through Film

Course Department: Asian Studies
Instructor: Yuko Kawanashi
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Kawanashi-sensei was amazing! I usually hate film classes, and I didn't really expect to get much out of it, but she made each film relevant, and showed us how those films gave us windows to the social issues, culture, and mindset of the times. On top of that, she always chose the coolest field trips. She once took us to an open air architecture museum for an up close and personal look at the types of buildings we were seeing in the films.
Credit Transfer Issues: