Overwhelming experience December 25, 2017

By (Brandeis University) - abroad from 08/28/2017 to 12/15/2017 with

IES Abroad: Tokyo - Language & Culture

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
From my internship, I learned a lot about Japanese work/life culture, I learned how to navigate the transit system, I tried new foods every day and literally was exposed to something different each day.

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.

Some classes were harder than others. By far, my Japanese course was the hardest. I've never studied it before, so it was very overwhelming at first - but you get the hang of it eventually. It turned out to be really fun and I could talk with locals by the end of the semester!

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

For most of the part, everyone was really friendly and always asked how you are/what you've been up to/suggest cool spots in Tokyo to see.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in a dorm. It was clean; vacuums and irons are provided. If you're looking to eat traditional Japanese food, live with a family (but beware: most of the home stay locations are not in Tokyo and it's expensive to travel to and from the city every day). The food in the dorm was terrible - so terrible that kids usually ate out.

* Food:

Never have I been so satisfied with food in my whole entire life. Each meal in Japan will leave you hungry for more. Not even joking. Best food of my life.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I made Japanese friends at school and at my internship, I learned a language that I deemed impossible beforehand and I was able to learn how to navigate the busiest and most efficient metro system in the world.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I didn't have an experience with healthcare, but the IES staff is ready and willing to bring you to a local clinic whenever you need.

* Safety:

Japan is one of the safest countries in the world - I never felt unsafe. But, women should especially pay attention when they're on crowded trains commuting. Groping is a serious issue there. And, while Japan has taken steps to reduce this, it's still a prevalent issue and people on my program were groped.

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

The program wasn't in Tokyo - it was in Chiba. I would prefer to be located in Tokyo or another city in Japan (Kyoto, Osaka).

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 is expensive. You will spend a lot of money - whether it's on food, train tickets or omiyage (souvenirs).

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $100
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Buy a 24-hour Tokyo Metro train pass - for 600 yen, you have unlimited rides on all Tokyo Metro trains. There are student discounts for museums and other train passes, too.

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

6 hours of Japanese each week with weekly quizzes, tests and oral exams.

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? 4 years of French
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? Know and love Hiragana - Katakana is not as important, but it certainly helps you read menus.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans
* 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?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Directors were always available and willing to help
  • Field placement/internship
* What could be improved?
  • Take classes with Kanda University, rather than just IES-sponsored courses
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? The location. It's not Tokyo. They also make it seem like you're going to be taking classes with locals, but you're only enrolled in IES courses with other IES kids. Unless you're fluent in Japanese, you won't be enrolled in any University courses.

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:

The Contemporary Economy of Japan

Course Department:
Instructor: Sugimoto
Instruction Language: English
Comments: If you can only take one class on this program, make sure it's Economics with Sugimoto. Not only is the professor engaging and fun, we learned a lot about the contemporary Japanese economy: fashion, healthcare, marketing, the car industry, electronics and the future and Abenomics. I loved that we took field trips!
Credit Transfer Issues: Nope!