Fell in Love with Japan - Will Definitely Be Back Soon! March 14, 2017

By (University of Rochester) - abroad from 09/06/2016 to 12/18/2016 with

IES Abroad: Tokyo - Language & Culture

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My study abroad program was completely worthwhile. Going into the program, my goal was to become more in touch with my cultural heritage, and I certainly did so. I also got to learn a lot about the Japanese people and had the opportunity to travel to many different Japanese cities so see how life differed around the country.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 2 weeks - 1 month

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The courses were appropriate in content, and the IES library was full of good resources to help with research. However, I felt that the Japanese class could have been more rigorous, as I felt I was a little behind when I returned to my home institution.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The IES staff does an amazing job of getting to know and supporting each and every student in the program. They have a wide breadth of knowledge and are willing to give advice on living in Japan, acclimating to your new life, and places to travel.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I felt that my homestay was a good fit for my personality. I was able to have enough individuality and freedom while having the comfort of a family and learning more about daily Japanese life.

* Food:

The food in Japan is absolutely amazing. I would highly recommend trying as many new foods as possible, especially if you travel since each of Japan's regions has it's own specialities. The food on campus is also reasonably priced and there are many options to choose from.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I felt very immersed in the local culture. I became friends with a number of Japanese students, lived in a homestay, and participated in the field placement program, which allowed me to experience the Japanese workplace. There were ample opportunities to immerse myself in Japanese culture, both organized through IES and from personal exploration.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

Health insurance in Japan can be tricky to navigate but IES makes sure that you are able to take all the necessary steps for application through the e-pal program. I didn't need any new vaccinations for my program.

* Safety:

Tokyo is the safest city I have ever visited. I felt completely comfortable walking by myself at night, and never felt unsafe at any point during my stay.

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

My study abroad experience went above and beyond what I thought it could be. Everyone was so welcoming, and though there are some small areas that didn't suit my personal needs, I couldn't have asked for a better program.

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)

Living on a budget in Tokyo is manageable, but there are many temptations for spending extra, especially if you go into study abroad with the sentimentality that "I'll only have this one opportunity in my lifetime to do this." Though I would imagine that it would be a similar case for most other study abroad locations.

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? In this program, two meals are provided a day (6 days/week in dorms and 7 days/week in homestays). Lunch is easy to manage on a budget. A meal at a convenience store (which is surprisingly very tasty!) or lunch on campus could be purchased from 300 to 1000 yen. Meals at restaurants were typically between 600 and 3000 yen. Nightlife was generally more expensive; many bars and clubs charge between 700 and 1500 yen for cover fees, not including drinks and food purchased beyond that. My biggest tip is to make a budget, calculate how much you want to spend each week, and try to stick to it as much as possible.

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

We were encouraged to use Japanese, but all IES sponsored trips and programs were held in English, or were translated for us.

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
How would you rate your language skills at the end of the program? Beginner
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? I hadn't
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? Definitely apply for a home stay and/or field placement if you want to be forced to use Japanese. You can also apply for a speaking partner to practice Japanese with through Kanda University

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

  • Local Students
  • 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?
  • IES Sponsored trips - allowed students to visit other parts of Japan for much cheaper than it would cost them to plan it alone
  • E-pal program - IES pairs each student with a local Japanese student at Kanda University (helps to make life long friends!)
  • Location - Tokyo is a fantastic city that appeals to many different people with diverse interests
* What could be improved?
  • Field Placement program - helps students learn about the Japanese workplace but was not as productive as I thought it would be
  • Japanese Language - a little more intensive at Level 1 to help learn more quickly
  • Student council - planned activities did not always appeal to all of the members of the group, felt there could have been a better way to poll for interesting activities
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Airfare and night buses within Japan can be a lot cheaper than the shinkansen (bullet train). Combined with AirB&B, you can go on a number of cool weekend trips for relatively little amount of money. Osaka was my favorite destination - I would highly recommend planning a trip there!

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.'