IES made Tokyo better than it already was August 11, 2016

By (Pennsylvania State University - University Park / Penn State) - abroad from 03/29/2016 to 07/17/2016 with

IES Abroad: Tokyo - Language & Culture

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I took a lot with me from this program. I learned that learning a language is one of the hardest things a person can do, I learned a whole lot about myself, I learned when it's actually an earthquake or when it's just the bus rumbling the ground around it. I learned so much and it was absolutely worthwhile.

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.

A lot of people felt as though the Japanese courses didn't stack up to those at their universities (I couldn't comment because I'd never taken a class before my program). Also, a few of the courses had instructors with whom lots of students had problems throughout the semester. However, my own experience was great.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Staff is awesome and ready to help with literally anything you could need.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Homestay was an awesome experience and I lived in a really safe, convenient part of the city.

* Food:

My host family's cooking was incredible. If I was home for lunch, they'd feed me. Can't speak for every homestay or for the dorms, though.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Definitely integrated with the culture and the people very well. Only lost a star for the language immersion; almost every Japanese person I met spoke English.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I got a stomach bug maybe halfway through the program. It was something I'd never had before, so I decided to go to the doctor's and Ishikawa-san took me as soon as I walked into her office and asked. No appointment, no waiting time. The doctor only saw me very briefly before prescribing some pain meds. It was cheap and quick. However, my host mom made it clear that doctors often guess at your issue, and when she was sick, it took four doctor's visits to get some medications that worked for her. This wasn't my own experience, though.

* Safety:

I'd never felt safer than I did in Tokyo, or in Makuhari where school is, or in Funabashi where I lived. Never a worry of walking home at night, never a worry of gun violence in a gun-free country, never any real worries of safety, honestly. They warn about perverts on the train but this is never something I had a problem with. The safest city in the world, probable.

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

IES is great. There's not much else to say than that.

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)

Tokyo isn't as expensive as everyone says . . . maybe it's because we had a favorable exchange rate, but I never thought food was too expensive. You could get a great bowl of udon for the equivalent of $3 and campus food is super cheap. There was a girl on my program who lived on rice balls from the convenience store and she lived on quite the tight budget and did ok. It all depends on how you spend your money.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $250, but I was a big spender. It's easy to spend less.
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Save as much as possible! I worked 3 jobs during my break between semesters and I put away every extra penny for a year before studying abroad. I was totally self-funded. For that reason, I was able to spend a lot. It really makes a difference when your friends want to go to karaoke and you don't have to worry about paying for it.

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

Everybody I met spoke English. Everybody. For that reason, it was so so hard to use Japanese when it was just easier to speak English. This is not the ideal program for those interested in language immersion.

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? I had only self-studied before coming to Japan.
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? Study the vocab, meet people who don't speak English, and just try your best to speak as often as possible - especially if you have a host family.

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

  • Americans
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 10+

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • KUIS and the e-pal program (meeting local students)
  • Field trips
  • Location
* What could be improved?
  • Language courses
  • Reviewing some teachers' abilities
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? At KUIS, they have this lounge called SALC (it stands for Self-Access Learning Center and serves as an English-only speaking area) where tons of Japanese students come to practice their English with the international students. It's a great way to meet people and it became the hangout for a lot of us. Also, KUIS has a program called Bekka, where students from around the world study directly at KUIS. I didn't know this, but it was cool to meet people that way.

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 Outright Urbanite
A social butterfly, you're happiest in bustling cities with hip people, and took advantage of all it had to offer. You enjoyed the nightlife, and had fun going out dancing, and socializing with friends. Fun-loving and dressed to the nines, you enjoyed discovering new restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in your host country.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

AS 320 - Japanese Through Film

Course Department:
Instructor:
Instruction Language: English (subtitles lol)
Comments: This is a really chill class wherein you watch a movie each week and write a short thought-piece on it that's due the next week. You get a good look at the history of Japanese film and you don't have to worry too much about hardcore academics (which is why we're really here!).
Credit Transfer Issues: PSU also counted this as ASIA499 and I'm trying to get them to count it as and art class.
Course Name/Rating:

MK325 - Key Features of Japanese Marketing Strategy

Course Department:
Instructor: Sugimoto
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This class is a must. I had already taken the equivalent at my university, but I switched into this class after the first week because I had heard awesome things about it from the students who took it from the beginning. We took field trips to two HUGE names in Japanese business (SoftBank and Avex) and our guest speaker was a model! Sugimoto-sensei's lectures are fun, engaging, and he's always as interested in American culture as we are in Japanese culture. I recommend this class higher than any others.
Credit Transfer Issues: The issue I had is that I'd already taken PSU's intro to marketing and this counted for exactly the same thing, so credit-wise, it was a waste of my time . . . but I learned so much and had so many awesome experiences in this class that I don't regret a thing.
Course Name/Rating:

AN392 - Social Organization in Japan

Course Department:
Instructor: Tada
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Ok so uh . . . don't take this class. Unless you know exactly what you want to do when it comes to working in Japan, don't go into this class thinking you can wing it. Being someone who doesn't know what sort of career I want, I requested a business placement, and I was placed at a phone company where I literally spent eight hours a day factory-resetting old phones by myself. Everyone who didn't take this class had Wednesdays free instead of working for free for eight hours, and most of us wished we hadn't taken the class. Granted, some people had cool placements like in NGOs or in shrines or even in an animation company, but these were the people who knew what they wanted. If you're unsure like me, don't waste your Wednesdays. But also, it's gonna look great on a resume (especially for JET) so that's a plus.
Credit Transfer Issues: Yeah . . . PSU counted this class at ASIA 499. I'm furious, to say the least. I spent more time for this class than any other, ever, and ASIA 499 is the equivalent of a useless credit. I'm trying to petition to get it to count as an anthropology course, which will only count as a gen ed anyway. No matter how it works out, the credit transfers won't be worth the time I spent in this class.
Course Name/Rating:

Level 2 Japanese

Course Department:
Instructor: Matsuo-sensei
Instruction Language: English/Japanese
Comments: Matsuo-sensei is the best. The content of the course was pretty good but maybe not challenging enough.
Credit Transfer Issues: PSU counts it as JAPNS299