Take the Leap! July 05, 2018

By (Wellesley College) - abroad from 08/30/2017 to 06/26/2018 with

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Tokyo

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I improved my Japanese skills a lot through this program and was able to learn about the local culture and environment through my work as an intern and my experience joining a school organization. I also became much more independent and now feel comfortable supporting myself in a foreign environment.

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.

I think the Japanese courses were challenging enough to push my language abilities but were not too difficult. I think I was placed properly, which definitely helped with my confidence. I also liked the ICU courses I took, which were in Japanese. Though it was very difficult because of the language barrier and I may not have picked up all of the subject information, these classes really helped improve my Japanese. I actually would have liked to take more ICU courses if I had the time.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

I was given a lot of assistance with my internship and my advisor seemed to be available if I had questions regarding my classes. However, the Middlebury courses themselves seemed a little disorganized, so it was sometimes difficult to know what was expected of us for that part of the program.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I was initially a one-term student, but extended to stay in Tokyo for the full year, so I lived in both the exchange student dorm and a normal student dorm. I did not really like the exchange student dorm because even though the rooms were very nice and new, I felt a little cut off from the rest of the student body. Also there was no kitchen, so I could not cook for myself. Once I moved into a regular student dorm, I really enjoyed the dorm experience. There was always help if I needed it and it was great to be a part of a community on campus.

* Food:

I really like Japanese food, so I had a good time with that. There were also restaurants near campus that were relatively cheap.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I joined one of the clubs on campus, and they really welcomed me into their group, so from the beginning I felt really connected to the school community through them. Once I moved into a regular student dorm as well, I was really introduced to a different aspect of the culture and community, which really helped round out my experience. I would definitely recommend joining a club on campus to truly get connected!

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I didn't have any major problems during my experience, but when I wanted to go to the dentist, ICU's health care center referred me to a dentist. Even though I was pretty confident in my Japanese, the center referred a dentist that could speak English so I would feel more comfortable, so I think they are used to helping international students with any health issues (the health care office also has personnel who can speak English as well if this is necessary).

* Safety:

Even though Tokyo is a large city, it felt very safe, especially around campus. Obviously there are some areas you might not want to walk around by yourself late at night, but in general I felt very safe.

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

Even though it was very difficult, I liked that we had to participate in a local internship and take all classes in Japanese. I think this program really pushed my Japanese skills.

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)

Once I moved into a regular dorm with a kitchen, it was easier to live on a student's budget, but without the kitchen it was a little difficult. I still spent less on food than I would at my home university, but it was a lot easier to stay within budget when I could cook for myself.

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? ~70
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Try to make a budget and stick to it. It can be hard to stick to a plan, but if you limit yourself to eating out with friends only once or twice a week, you will save a lot of money.

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

We had the language pledge (to only speak in Japanese).

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? An intensive advanced course (the previous summer)
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? Just having daily conversations with your roommates and fellow club members is a great way to pick up the language. You will learn a lot of phrases and intonation from just sitting by a native conversation, and it will get to the point where you can easily join in.

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? 10+

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • Internship program
  • Time to join school groups/clubs
  • Language pledge
* What could be improved?
  • Clarity of expectations for Middlebury courses
  • Connection between one-term students and student body (if not part of a club)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I had started as a one-year student rather than a one-term student because I could have been more connected from the beginning, but I think in general learning what to do along the way was part of the experience. (I do wish expectations for the Middlebury courses were clearer from the beginning, however).

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!