You’d think it’d be amazing July 05, 2018

By (Middlebury College) - abroad from 08/28/2017 to 06/27/2018 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Tokyo

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Fake people exist all over the world. Don’t believe in what your home institution boasts about, that’s propaganda.

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.

Definitely not as rigorous as Middlebury in terms of the Japanese language classes offered at the university in Tokyo. Everyone who I have spoken to agrees that the classes are borderline useless. The class time is unnecessarily long (140mins a day depending on the level you are in) and most of that time is spent reading what’s written in the “textbooks” (these are made by the university itself). Most of the time (everyday) we all sit in class wondering what we’re doing there and how much of a waste of a time it is. With each semester, you move into the next level, however the class contents and the textbook contents (grammar) do not change a lot. You end up realizing, “I learned this last semester.” The only new things you possibly learn are kanji, which end up utterly useless because you don’t use them everyday. Instead, you cram them for a quiz or a test and then throw them in the garbage immediately after. Most people end up quitting the Japanese language classes the next semester and opt for other classes, but because I was in the Middlebury program I could not. Speaking of the Middlebury program, we were all forced to take a class besides the Japanese language class, which had to be taught in Japanese. Granted we knew this coming into the program, however, the university in Tokyo is in no way, shape, or form accustomed to offer study abroad students classes in Japanese. Most study abroad students take classes in English, and for study abroad students to take classes in Japanese is nearly unheard of. Most professors are shocked to see study abroad students in their classes and there is no support for study abroad students taking Japanese classes. You are left to your own devices to struggle through the class, damaging your gpa. Especially for a student whose only studied Japanese for two or three years, it’s nearly impossible to take a Japanese taught classes not geared towards foreigners. Basically, you’re set up to fail.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Wow, is there a lot to say. I’m not sure whether or not you can call the on-site administration of my program an “administration.” I feel like that’d be an insult to actual administrations. I’ve never seen such an unorganized program since maybe middle school. Especially since Middlebury hails it’s language program and study abroad program, I was in shock when I went to Japan. The existence of the Middlebury classes (which I’ve heard only exists in the Japanese program) are a mystery in and of itself — the grading criteria was not stated until late January, the purpose of the class was unknown, the classwork left us confused as to why we were there. There was no clear syllabus, and the assignments we had to do kept changing here and there. Many of us students just couldn’t comprehend the meaning of the class, and stated that it prevented us from doing other things such as actually experiencing the culture and everyday life of Japan (which is the purpose of study abroad, I assume?). Our program director, head of the administration, told us day one that she wouldn’t be helping us for the most part in finding our way through Tokyo and Japan and getting used to life there — calling it “guided independence.” What did that actually mean for us? Figuring out how to get a cell phone plan on our own, figuring our the transportation on our own, where everything around us is (for example restaurants, grocery stores, post office, etc), how classes work at the university in Japan, and even trying to find our own internships which are mandatory for the program and our grades (which was also the responsibility of the program director to find). Because of that, I amongst many other students, found out nearly six months into the program (more than halfway through) that I had to pay for national health care out of pocket, which was never stated ever prior to that moment — not even at Middlebury. Upon inquiring that thought email which was sent to the Middlebury abroad office they said it was stated in the Middlebury Japan abroad page, which of course, it was not. There is so much more to say, and I can go on pages about this, however for the sake of my time, as well as my transcript that is being withheld because of this survey, I will continue on to reviewing the next program aspect.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

The dorm I lived in (Global House) was one of the older dorms on campus. It wasn’t as high tech and shiny and new like the other ones, but it made do. There was a lot of storage space — more than Middlebury, that’s for sure. What was odd was that in the beginning of the semester I was told that Middlebury study abroad students weren’t suppose to live in my dorm because apparently there was an English pledge there and so no one could speak Japanese, only English. That was false. What was different was that unlike most of the dorms, the rules there were more lax. Most dorms didn’t allow visitors, had curfews, along with other odd rules. Mine allowed visitors, up to a certain time, and didn’t have a curfew. What I didn’t know before moving in (and this was the same for everyone else in other dorms) was that there was a hidden out of pocket dorm fee that we had to pay ourselves. In my dorm in particular, we also had to pay for our own garbage bags, toilet paper, and other suite essentials. This was all not stated in the out of pocket fees on the Middlebury page nor in the orientation. If it were stated, then there wouldn’t be as much as an outrage. You would assume that going into a study abroad program, or any program in fact, you would be given adequate information to make you aware about such fees. Especially as a financial aid student, I was particularly not impressed. For the semester abroad students, I feel even worse for because they were all shoved into one dorm (Dialogue house), which didn’t have any Japanese students (the irony of its name). Dialogue house also didn’t have any kitchen, and so those living there were forced to eat out.

* Food:

Food in Japan was good. Depending on where and what you eat, it was surprisingly cheap. I had went to Japan with the assumption that the cost to eat out would be the same in New York City, however that is not the case. It is definitely less expensive (again, depending on where and what your eat). I didn’t eat at the campus dining hall a lot (total 3 times). The menu rarely changed nor was it particularly spectacular. Also, coming from Middlebury where the meals are already included into our tuition, eating at a dining hall where you have to pay per dish wasn’t appealing.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Japanese people really like their in and out-groups. If you can’t automatically, immediately integrate and essentially infiltrate their in-groups, you’ll never be able to at all. That was the case for me. I personally am not that open nor an enthusiastic person at first meeting. And so, most people dismissed me at the beginning of the semester (one person literally said to me that they thought I hated them because of my face). It didn’t even feel like college — it felt like high school where everyone was trying to look cool in order to fit in. I absolutely hate having to act like someone I am not in order to “fit in” and so I was put into the out-group. Luckily I found some people that I became really close with, however they were also study abroad students. Upon leaving Japan, ironically many Japanese people told me “I should’ve talked to you more” and/or “it’s going to be lonely without you here” (which I have no doubt in my mind was out of obligation — something Japanese people always do).

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

(I was going to give zero stars, but apparently you can’t do that) In no way, shape, or form were we assisted nor informed about health care. We just all prayed we didn’t get sick or injured. Funny enough, I did get injured and sick along the way but I just took care of myself the best I could. Why didn’t I go see a doctor? Because no one informed us about heath care or about how much it would cover — nor did I have the money to find out. We were all given GeoBlue insurance for free, and thought that covered us for the year. However, late January rolls around and I discover that we also have a national insurance that we have to pay for out of pocket. I had been getting frequent mails regarding health insurance and had an amount disclosed which I assumed was a payment of some sort. I left them alone, thinking they were covered by Middlebury because no one had said a thing about paying for health insurance — not at Middlebury nor in Tokyo. Not was it until I personally asked about it was I informed — was most students informed — that we had to pay for national health insurance. I inquired about it in an email to Middlebury, and was told that it stated it was an out of pocket fee on the Middlebury Japan abroad website. It did not state that. So not only was I uninformed, misinformed, but also lied to.

* Safety:

One of the positive things about Japan — not the program — is that it is much safer than America

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

Never ever again would I study abroad through Middlebury. I feel like I’ve given enough supporting evidence in my review before, so please look those over. I can go on and on again, but as I’ve said before this is taking up my time, and this is withholding my transcript, so I’m just going to end this here

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)

This would’ve been a one, if not for the insane amount of hidden out of pocket fees. It really discouraged financial aid students like me to study abroad, even though Middlebury tries it’s best to be perceived as an institute that supports financial aid students (which honestly it doesn’t). Especially because study abroad students ARENT ALLOWED TO HAVE PART TIME JOBS, it makes it even harder. They have this rule under the reason that part time jobs would hinder studying and cultural experience, however that is one of the most ridiculous reasons I’ve ever heard. Financial aid students, and students in general who have part time jobs keep up their studies. Also, having a part time job allows students to experience the job culture and every day lives of the host country they’re staying in more so than just staying on campus and doing nothing at all (this is also what many Japanese people, adults and people my age alike, have told me).

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? Food: ~$50+ if you don’t eat out and want all the essentials of a meal; travel:$20+ give or take depending on how often you go out and where
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Try not to cry and stress yourself out. Your institute won’t help you.

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

This is five stars, but not in a good sense. We were “encouraged” to agrresivelt to the point that we felt isolated. If we had issues or questions, it was diffifult to bring them up because we didn’t know how to in Japanese and we were told to tell them in Japanese. We felt as if there was no adult to go to for help.

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? Second year
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? No

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? 0

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Can you
  • Even call
  • This a program?
* What could be improved?
  • So much
  • Please refer
  • To my other reviews
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Everything

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

All the classes I took

Course Department:
Instructor:
Instruction Language: Japanese
Comments: Please refer to my review of classes in general
Credit Transfer Issues: