Tokyoite July 10, 2018

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

Middlebury Schools Abroad: Middlebury in Tokyo

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
I loved it and I am excited to go back. Japan really became home for me!

Personal Information

How much international exposure did you have prior to this program? None

Review Your Program

* Overall educational experience

Academic rigor, intensity, resources, etc.

The Japanese language courses were very ineffective. They are extremely different from the intensive courses at Middlebury. Thus, the courses seem like a waste of time. They are very rigid, yet teach nowhere near as much in a week as Middlebury does in one day. Every day of the week runs the same course week by week, making it very monotonous. The language classes tend to be about 3 hours a day but the lectures are too long.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

Our on-site administrator is a very nice woman but she is highly disorganized. It made it easy for students to miss assignments, classes, and even field trips. There was no syllabus prepared at the beginning at the course, most times delivered only halfway through or at the end of the semester.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I lived in a dorm with a wonderful mix of Japanese and One-Year Regular students. I didn't like the cafeteria food at all but luckily, we had kitchens available to use. I was able to invest in ingredients and cook whatever I pleased.

* Food:

I give them 3 stars because they were pretty affordable ($3.50 for an average meal, not including drinks or fruits/vegetables) but they were not exactly delicious. They consisted mostly of rice bowls with a bit of meat, chicken, or fish thrown on top. There was little variety day by day or week by week. For vegans and vegetarians, the selection was even worse.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I am not sure if this is an ICU thing but it can be pretty hard to make larger groups of friends with Japanese students. I found outside socialization much more efficient for me. Japanese students at ICU can be very closed off and stick to their own groups for the most part. Besides language barrier, the general culture in Japan consists of a slow process of opening up. As foreigners we are usually seen as a curiosity and as an opportunity to help them develop English skills or to teach them about our respective countries. Therefore, you must be more persistent in using Japanese and in getting to form genuine friendships. The first part is establishing what you are looking for in your friendships and the rest should be much easier.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

We had basic introductions on what to do in the case of a health problem. However, there was not enough information on mental health, as well as things like health insurance, health insurance payments, and etc. Also, the Japanese health system is very different from the American system so when you need to go to get something checked out, you are referred to a variety of specialists for each issue, since there is no doctor available to do a whole check-up or consultation. You normally end up paying at least $20 per consultation, despite health insurance.

* Safety:

Japan is very safe in general. Mitaka, Tokyo was super safe. Students should make sure to register their bikes and have safety lights to make sure that they don't get stopped by police officers.

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

Middlebury was very restricting.

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)

Thankfully I was able to live comfortably on campus while still exploring the outside life in Tokyo through food and excursions on a low-income student budget.

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? Buy groceries as you go rather than bulk up because if you decide to eat outside during the week, some food may spoil. Buy snacks but invest in vegetables which will fill you up more. Look around for good deals when you go out for food since many establishments have similar products but different prices. Try not to shop for clothing too early in the semester and don't let it pile up. Same goes for anime and manga articles which you may want if you are a fan.

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

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? Level 2
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? Find people you can trust to help you practice. Friends, such as international students and bilingual Japanese students, are the best go-to.

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

A Look Back

* What did you like most about the program?
  • It connected us with community organizations to work with throughout the year.
* What could be improved?
  • Better explanation of how classes work at ICU.
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? I wish I knew how low-quality the Japanese language courses were going to be compared to Middlebury's classes. I also wish that I knew how far we were from other colleges and young people. In addition, I wish that I knew that the dining system was a "pay by meal" deal.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

JLP 7

Course Department: Japanese Language
Instructor: N/A
Instruction Language: Japanese
Comments: The teachers were very engaging.
Credit Transfer Issues: Hopefully not.