An okay program, but just not for me January 29, 2018

By (Wellesley College) - abroad from 08/30/2017 to 12/15/2017 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Tokyo

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
For people with no experience with Japan, it's a pretty good program since it forces you to be an active part of Japanese society. However, some academic portions of the program were not very fulfilling, and the administration of these courses was sometimes frustrating (class requirements were not clear, syllabus was not provided at an early date, there were sometimes mistakes in deadlines, etc). If you've never been to Japan, want to immerse yourself in Japanese society (and aren't afraid to put yourself out there), and want to be close to Tokyo, then this is a good program for you.

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.

The Japanese language course at ICU was fast-paced and demanding. The courses offered by Middlebury were much different in nature, and oftentimes assignments didn't take that much time to complete. Overall the Middlebury courses at ICU were not very enjoyable or fulfilling; furthermore, the internship portion that is required for the program can vary widely between students and isn't always a fulfilling experience either.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Middlebury staff was always very helpful and understanding, but sometimes they did not know how to answer my questions, and their replies to my inquiries were occasionally very delayed. In addition, most students did not receive help with going to the immigration office, getting cell phones, and so on, which can be very scary in a foreign country where you don't know the language very well.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Nice facilities, but occasionally dirty.

* Food:

Dining hall food is available, and although the menu changes everyday it can get boring (also most options are not very healthy). It can also get pretty expensive, with most options costing anywhere from 300-500 yen. There is a grocery store nearby that is accessible by foot/on bike, so I usually went there to buy my own food. Various restaurants and convenience stores are also near campus, but if you go to them too often it can get expensive.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

The ICU campus is actually far away from the "city" part of Tokyo--it takes you a while to get off of campus, if you're looking to be more part of the urban section of Tokyo. Even on ICU's campus, it's pretty hard to make friends with Japanese students unless you really put yourself out there (joining clubs, going to student events, etc). I saw many students that only made friends with other study abroad students. The Middlebury program trips and academic courses help students who have never had any experience with Japanese culture learn about Japanese society and culture, but just barely.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

The ICU health office is easily accessible, although they can only really provide you with resources on local English-speaking doctors/clinics available--they cannot offer much treatment themselves. Thus, if you have a health problem that is significant, you'll probably be required to walk/bike to a clinic outside of campus.

* Safety:

The campus, as well as the surrounding city (Mitaka) is always very safe.

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

For me, I was looking for a program that would focus heavily on Japanese history and culture. The Middlebury program focuses on some "hidden" parts of Japanese culture (such as the dying rural populations of Japan), but doesn't really go beyond that. I also did not think the internship and blog-writing portions of the program were very fulfilling. I would have rather taken more content-based courses, or even courses offered by the host university instead.

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)

Food costs can be high if you eat at the dining hall, so I often went to the nearby supermarket and bought low-price sale items. I didn't have very much money to spend, so I rarely left campus or bought things for myself. If you are a person that wants to go into the city often, or wants to do a lot of shopping, have adequate funds prepared before you go to Japan.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? $60~$90
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Don't eat every meal at the dining hall. Look for sale items at the local grocery store. Invest in a bike to travel back and forth to the train station from campus, as the bus costs a lot of money. Don't go out too often.

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

The Middlebury Language Pledge required all students to speak in Japanese at all times. However, there were times when English was spoken.

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? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? JPN 202
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? If you want to improve your language skills, you have to be outgoing and proactive--talk to Japanese students on campus (in clubs or in class), and don't be afraid to talk to Japanese people off-campus either.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Dorm
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Local Students
  • 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?

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Japanese language courses
  • Food
  • Proximity to Tokyo
* What could be improved?
  • Academic content/course structure
  • Course materials (syllabus, readings, etc)
  • Administration
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? You cannot work in Japan, so money will be tight. I also didn't know exactly how the Middlebury courses worked, and I didn't know an internship was required of all students.