Didn't meet my expectations January 08, 2018

By (Wellesley College) - abroad from 08/27/2017 to 12/21/2017 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Tokyo

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I did improve my Japanese. I learned it is very hard to meet local Japanese people. I also went out to experience Japanese food, sights, and different places, and also visited many contemporary art museums. I'm not sure it was worth my time because I was expecting to learn a lot from the Middlebury courses but I did not. I also felt like I made almost no Japanese friends.

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? 6 months+

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The ICU Japanese classes were great. However, the Middlebury classes were less than satisfactory. There was only one professor who we met with most of the time and she always seemed to be disorganized and assignments were not usually clearly explained. The course description said that the class would be about Japanese culture, but most weeks were focused on Japanese agriculture (and while this is still an important subject, we could have spent time on more important subjects). Though it was interesting to have a class where we did readings and discussions in Japanese outside of a language class, I felt like I did not learn much new information.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

All the administration relating to ICU and Middlebury were kind and responsive to questions. However, I felt that I had to deal with the immigration office, city office, and cell phone service provider all on my own, which was pretty stressful considering that nobody spoke English and I'm still learning Japanese. As I said above, the professor for the Middlebury classes is nice but does not seem to be very organized and at times seemed hard to reach.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Dialogue has comfortable and well-furnished rooms. However, there are no other Japanese students to have "dialogue" with, as it is only an international dorm. I felt like there was not much community in the dorm as well. There is also no kitchen, (which other dorms have), which would have been nice considering the cafeteria food is not good. Driers are also inconvenient, as they take over 3 hours to finish a normal-sized load.

* Food:

Cafeteria food is palatable, but not very good. There was no kitchen in my dorm so I could not cook my own food. The only other affordable option nearby is convenience store food, ramen, and pizza.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Dialogue house provides no integration with Japanese students. Since Middlebury classes are with other foreign students, they provided almost no integration, except for the community engagement "mini internship". For that class I worked at a sushi shop, but it was hard to connect with the shop owner. I tried joining a club on campus, but they had their first meeting in the middle of the semester and by that time it felt like they wouldn't bother making a foreigner friend since I would be leaving so soon. There didn't seem to be any other way to integrate with other Japanese people.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I had to sign up for healthcare by myself at the city office, but it was easy to use when I had to go to a clinic. The on-campus nurse is also very kind and helpful.

* Safety:

Tokyo is pretty safe - I came across no safety issues.

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

The Middlebury classes were less than mediocre, there was not much integration with Japanese students, and ICU is very far from the city center.

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 was pretty expensive to live in Tokyo. I definitely spent the most on food and transportation. I feel like transportation was always a lot of money because from ICU to the center of the city you have to take the bus and then a long portion of the rail.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $200
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Get a bike so you can bike to the station. If you stay for the whole year and can use a kitchen, going to the grocery and cooking your own food is probably cheaper. Daiso is basically a dollar store with good products.

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

Using the language is a big part of the program. Besides Japanese class, the Middlebury classes were also in Japanese and I could talk with Japanese people in the Community Engagement class. One thing I will say is that I think all foreign students should be integrated into Japanese dorms, as the dorm I was in had no Japanese students to practice Japanese with. I feel like it would have also helped if there was some way to connect the Middlebury students with other Japanese students to have conversation.

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? The Advanced Japanese course at Wellesley College.
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? Stay in a dorm with Japanese students, and also join a club that meets often.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students
About how many local friends did you make that you will likely keep in touch with? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • ICU's Japanese class
  • it's in Japan
* What could be improved?
  • Middlebury course content
  • integration with Japanese students: doing away with the international student-only dorm and providing more opportunities to talk with Japanese students would be nice
  • more accurate and less vague program description online
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew that joining a club was the only way to talk to Japanese students, so I would have quicker joined a group that met up more and wanted international students. I wish I knew that the Middlebury courses weren't very good, so I could have potentially gone with another program. It also doesn't make sense that we can't take another regular ICU course during the fall semester, which I think we should be able to. I also wish I knew that ICU is not close to the city center, and that it would be better to be in any dorm other than Dialogue House.