The Best Time of my Life August 10, 2018

By (Harvey Mudd College) - abroad from 03/27/2018 to 07/15/2018 with

IES Abroad: Tokyo - Language & Culture

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I learned a lot about various aspects of Japanese society and culture and got to experience many of them firsthand. I had plenty of opportunities to practice Japanese, of course, and my language skills greatly improved thanks to the immersion. The best part about the program for me was all the people I met and the many lifelong friends I was able to make. Meeting other study abroad students as well as local Japanese students through clubs and other activities was incredibly fun and rewarding. My study abroad experience was definitely worthwhile, and I would recommend it to anyone.

Review Photos

IES Abroad: Tokyo - Language & Culture 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.

Classes could be a bit boring and long (most were three-hour lectures). They were all focused on Japanese language and culture, which I really appreciated, but if you're looking for a STEM component, for example, this might not be for you. The Japanese language course was the best course I took; I learned a lot, and the teacher was great. Overall, workload was fairly light, which meant I had plenty of time to immerse myself in the culture.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The IES Abroad Tokyo staff is absolutely fantastic. They did everything they could to make our time enjoyable and planned many different outings and events for us to connect with and learn about the local culture. They were all very approachable and friendly, and I really enjoyed getting to know them in addition to the other students.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

There were three housing options available: homestay, dorm, and apartment. I lived in the apartment, which gave me freedom (no curfew) and the ability to cook for myself. The apartments were about an hour away from the school, which was on the longer side of commutes for IES students. However, this meant I was closer to central Tokyo, which was nice for when I wanted to go out. I had a single in the apartments, with two roommates who mostly kept to themselves. I wish I had gotten to become closer with the people I was living with, but overall I really enjoyed staying in the apartments.

* Food:

There are several cafeterias, as well as a convenience store, on campus, all of which have decent food for not too expensive (expect 300-500 yen per meal, depending on how much you eat). There are also plenty of off-campus options, such as convenience stores, fast food places, and other various restaurants. Food is comparatively cheap in Japan, though at many restaurants that serve American-type food (e.g. burger or steak places), the portion sizes are also smaller, which was annoying at times. There are also plenty of grocery stores with a good selection if you'd like to cook for yourself. As a whole, I looked forward to pretty much every meal since everything tasted so good (maybe I'm biased - Japanese food is my favorite), and I could eat on a budget when I needed to.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

There were countless ways to get involved with the local culture through clubs, IES-organized cultural events, and the e-pal program (where each study abroad student is paired up with a Japanese student). I took advantage of pretty much every opportunity available to me, and I urge others to do the same. The people I met and spoke with are what made my time in Japan so memorable, and I'm so glad I was able to make the most of my time by engaging with the local community so often.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I didn't have any serious health issues while abroad, but the IES Abroad Tokyo staff was always ready to help in case something did happen. There was support available for minor stuff as well, such as when I caught a cold for a few days.

* Safety:

Japan is, in general, a very safe country, so there isn't too much to be worried about. There are some areas in Tokyo that can be a bit risky to visit at night, and IES Abroad Tokyo made sure to brief us on all of those risks when we arrived. There was also the risk of natural disasters, namely earthquakes and flooding from typhoons, but nothing major happened in Tokyo while I was there (though areas of western Japan were hit pretty hard by an earthquake and some floods). The IES Abroad Tokyo staff seemed very prepared, though, in case something did happen, and definitely prioritized students' safety.

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

A lot of features of IES Abroad Tokyo -- such as the e-pal program and the regular events where we engaged with the local culture and community -- were what made the program so memorable and enjoyable for me. The staff was always incredibly helpful and approachable as well.

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)

Transportation can be expensive, and if you want to eat out a lot, food can be, too. There are definitely cheap food options available, though.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Around $100-150
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Convenience stores are a great place to get food if you are trying to eat on a budget. Onigiri and donburi are filling and pretty cheap. Cooking for yourself will also save you money compared to going to a restaurant, of course, but can still be costly if you want to get fancy with your cooking.

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

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? Third semester college Japanese
How many hours per day did you use the language?

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Other
* 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? 10+

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Engaging with the local community
  • Improving my Japanese language skills
  • The IES Abroad Tokyo faculty
* What could be improved?
  • Range of classes offered
  • Structure/curriculum for certain courses
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had taken advantage of cheaper food options from the start, instead of waiting until I had spent a lot of money eating out already.

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 Networker
An active student leader, it was important for you to network abroad as well. Once overseas, you sought out student clubs, volunteered with local organizations, or attended community events. You encouraged your friends join you, and often considered how you could reflect your international experiences in a resume.