Hell and Back Again July 05, 2018

By (Middlebury College) - abroad from 08/29/2017 to 06/30/2018 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Tokyo

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Did a lot of growing in all the solitary time I had since I had like 3 friends, but biggest thing I learned is that I have to rely on myself and only myself to get things done.

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 material taught is not intense at all, most classes felt like they were teaching common sense. Several studies did not even know what a thesis statement was nor how to craft a coherent argument in a paper. Truancy rate is also very high in classes, and if they're not truant students are head down on desk sleeping in the middle of class. I've never been so uninspired to learn in my life. All the talking at you lecture style was not my thing.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Overall, program was extremely disorganized. No syllabus was received for class expectations in the fall; we weren't told that we had to pay for a national insurance that we didn't know we were receiving until 6 months into the program; coordinator was constantly changing deadlines, meeting places/times for event without an appropriate amount of prior warning, did not really seem proactive about truly matching students with internships that actually would interest them nor develop real skills for future potential professions, etc. Nice lady, but maybe this isn't the job for her. International office also offers no support during the year, don't event introduce themselves or hold an event to get the abroad students familiar with them that I know of, and also make students do a ridiculous scavenger hunt like paper collecting all these signatures from people who work in facilities that they never used or interacted with. Most extraneous thing I had to do. A student ending up leaving the Midd program and Japan altogether early because it was hard transition for them and no real support was offered to her to get through it. That should speak volumes in itself. Wouldn't recommend this program to my dog.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Facilities were new so they were modern, clean. I had a single room so was fine with my own space. Had to fight for a long time to get all their ludicrous floor rules written down in English and were accessible for any of that needed to refer to them. Much unnecessary tension was caused simply because rules were not explained properly in the beginning despite have fluent English speakers present on the floor. I was also subjected to living on the same floor as someone who was clearly xenophobic and acted aggressively toward me and another Middlebury girl, when I tried to complain people were spending more time offering excuses for him despite not liking him personally and trying to discourage me from taking the complaint to housing and "making it a scene" than actually directing me to resources to help deal with the problem. Combined with what I felt was a lack of support from the coordinator, I was very miserable living in the dorm most of the time. Would have had much more fun living in an apartment or sharehouse most likely.

* Food:

I made my own food.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

Took me awhile to get the hang of it, but once I started doing things on my own I felt I was able to integrate more, but I knew I would never truly be accepted no matter how good my Japanese got. The people are still stuck in an antiquated mentality it seems that Japan is for the Japanese, but that's not something anyone can control.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I can't comment because I never had a serious health issue while in Japan.

* Safety:

Japan's pretty safe in general so I never really felt scared for my life or anything like I do in America.

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

Make that above answer a "Hell no", please. Like I said before, support is limited, forced to take courses in Japanese that were separate from JLP was a nightmare for lower and higher level students alike, annoying scavenger hunt from ICU administration, overall student apathy toward the importance of education was disheartening, too many rules in dorms, etc etc.

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)

Japan is an expensive country particularly with public tranport, and having had to cook for myself grocery were also expensive even on a very conservative budget.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? About 150USD/week
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Right from the start set aside at least 1000$ for a plane return ticket. Make a budget for food and transport, get a bike to get you around closer places, and keep track of how much is going on your suica bc it will get eaten up fast

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

Overbearingly. So much so that the on site coordinator even admitted to making an example out of me to other students when I accidentally said something in English to a friend. Called me out for not speaking Japanese in front of everyone, but said nothing to the two girls right next to me speaking Chinese :)

How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Beginner
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? J6
How many hours per day did you use the language? 10+
Do you have any tips/advice on the best ways to practice the language for future study abroad participants? Unless you join a club, you're most likely gonna have no real Japanese friends, so I'm gonna be real: download Tinder, download Pairs, download Meetup, chat with locals, maybe meet them if they seem like decent people, go to bars with one or two friends and strike up conversation - put yourself out there because you can be damn sure no one will do it for you.

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?
  • Absolutely
  • Nothing
* What could be improved?
  • Everything
  • Everything
  • Everything
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I would've known ICU would be a terrible fit for me, and should have just tried to go solo on a scholarship on an independent program or stuck with a different major and went elsewhere.

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 Outright Urbanite
A social butterfly, you're happiest in bustling cities with hip people, and took advantage of all it had to offer. You enjoyed the nightlife, and had fun going out dancing, and socializing with friends. Fun-loving and dressed to the nines, you enjoyed discovering new restaurants, shops, cafes, and bars in your host country.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

Demographic Anthropology

Course Department: Anthropology
Instructor: Moriki
Instruction Language: Japanese
Comments: Material itself was not challenging, the fact that it was all in Japanese is. Thanks for the GPA killing restrictions on classes, Midd. Participated less often because it was in Japanese. Seriously don't know how you can demand a student who is just really beginning intermediate Japanese take full courses in it. Teacher seemed like she knew what she was talking about half the time, but the other half was filled with irrelevant personal anecdotes. Assessed by quizzes, midterm, and final paper.
Credit Transfer Issues: I'm not trying to transfer credit for me major in this class.
Course Name/Rating:

UN Studies

Course Department:
Instructor: Yoshikawa
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Teacher had experience as an ambassador and invited 2 speakers to share their knowledge about diplomacy and the inner workings of the UN. Was a very interesting class that sparked my interest in work in the international field. Assessed via attendance/participation, group project and final paper.
Credit Transfer Issues: Am waiting for my graded final assessment back and will begin process of applying for credit transfer for my major.
Course Name/Rating:

JLP 4-6

Course Department: JLP
Instructor: Various
Instruction Language: Japanese
Comments: Was not as rigorous as Middlebury japanese classes, but the pace and coursework was still on a level that could ensure enrichment and progress of the students without going overboard, overworking them, or killing GPAs. I think Midd Japanese department could take some notes from ICU JLP to encourage student retention from semester to semester.
Credit Transfer Issues: No known issues.