My Unforgettable Semester with IES Abroad February 01, 2020

By (The College of William and Mary) - abroad from 08/28/2019 to 12/15/2019 with

IES Abroad: Tokyo - Language & Culture

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
My language skills improved quite a bit, and I learned how to play traditional Japanese drums and shamisen. The memories I made in Tokyo will last a lifetime.

Review Photos

IES Abroad: Tokyo - Language & Culture Photo IES Abroad: Tokyo - Language & Culture Photo

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 1 month - 6 months

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

It's not difficult to ace your courses if you do your assignments (with the exception of the Japanese language course, depending on your level). Professors were generally available and willing to help out with questions. I feel like I learned a lot about Japan in my classes while I was studying there.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I loved our administrators so much. They were so helpful to me and got so excited whenever I expressed interest in getting involved in the local culture/community. They really encouraged me to put myself out there.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The dorm I stayed in was pretty great! The beds were futon-style, but I got a single room, and the communal bathroom is extremely nice. You'll get food twice a day during the week. Visitor rules are quite strict, but I enjoyed living there. The Mini-Stop around the corner from the dorm was my favorite thing about the town I lived in.

* Food:

The food at the dorm was good! It took a while for me to get used to not having easy access to western cuisine (even the western selections at the dorm were often still foods I was unfamiliar with), but there were a ton of meals that I really enjoyed there. There was miso soup and rice available at every meal, and that was great!

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Integrating with the local culture is very much up to you - with this program, you could make a lot of Japanese friends and throw yourself into the local culture, or you could also just do your coursework and avoid interaction. IES Abroad does a good job of letting you know your options when it comes to opportunities like Language Partner Program, Kaedemate program, music lessons, campus events, and club sports. Joining a wadaiko club at my host college was a fantastic opportunity for me - I went to local festivals, ate a lot of great street food, played traditional instruments, and met many good friends.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I didn't have an experience with health care in Japan, but was fully informed of what my options would be if I needed it.

* Safety:

I never felt like I was in danger in Japan. The only thing I had to look out for were people approaching me at the train station; there were a couple of times when I had uncomfortable conversations on the platform with people noticing that I was a foreigner and asking a few too many questions.

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

I loved IES Abroad; I had the freedom to shape my experience just the way I wanted to, as well as all of the great travel opportunities that I was allowed as I studied with them.

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)

It's going to be hard not to spend more than you're used to in Japan - there's just so much to explore. Living on a budget wasn't easy all the time (especially when I wanted to go out into Tokyo on the weekends), but there was a lot of amazing food available for low prices at the grocery store and konbinis.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $170
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Utilize the konbinis - cheap food and very convenient breakfasts!

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

You don't have to have any knowledge of Japanese to study in Tokyo with IES Abroad. (But I recommend having at least a little knowledge of the language before going to Japan at all!)

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? 302
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? Join a club on campus! It's the best way to meet new friends and join a small community of Japanese-speaking students, and practice your language skills in a low-pressure setting. Also, if someone speaks to you in English, try to respond in Japanese. You'll find yourself becoming more and more comfortable with daily use of your second language.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • Americans
  • International Students
* 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?
  • Club activities
  • Excursions
  • Proximity to Tokyo
* What could be improved?
  • Coursework difficulty
  • Proximity to campus
  • Orientation length (a little long)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew how much commuting I was going to do. I also wish I had known that the courses would not be language-focused so I could practice Japanese a little more before I arrived.

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 Academic or Linguist
You went abroad with specific academic goals in mind; the program credentials and rigor of your coursework abroad were very important to you. You had a great time abroad, but never lost sight of your studies and (if applicable) were diligent with your foreign language study. Good for you!