Getting the most out of Japan outside of school Past Review

By (Japanese Language and Literature., The University of Texas at Austin) for

Sophia University: Tokyo - Direct Enrollment & Exchange

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
Japan really has a lot of culture embedded into their society so it's interesting to compare it to the American way of life. It was overall a very good experience. My eyes were open and I received a more realistic view of what Japan was really like. I think my original concept is that Japan is like a dream world, but when it comes down to it, it's got its ups and downs. To be honest, I don't think I would handle working there for the rest of my life unless I worked for an American company. I still think Japanese is hard, and will continue to be hard, but I still love the language and for the most part, the people are nice.

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.

To be frank, I may have got stuck with the wrong teachers, but my experience abroad educationally was not a good one. Half of my teachers couldn't speak English too well although it was an English class they were teaching. The lack of instruction was also distasteful. It was hard getting used to the way they teach as it is very different to the American educational system. I think American educational systems prefer more critical thinking, opinions, and open-minded views. In Japan, it's more along the lines of narrow-minded thinking that abides by the textbook. There wasn't an extreme amount of work to do, but at the same time I didn't feel comfortable with how I was doing in the class. I also didn't think some of the teachers cared too much about teaching, so the lack of motivation in the students could also be seen. However, the classes were really dependent on the teacher.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

They couldn't speak English well, or somehow assumed that you automatically knew Japanese and proceeded to explain things in Japanese. Also, they told you different things. Their lack of communication among each other was a little shocking. They're somewhat slow at getting things done, but for the most part it was alright.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I have some connections with church people in Japan, so I was living with some people in an apartment near Waseda University, which is only about 30 minutes including walking, subway, and waiting to Sophia University. It was pretty safe, as most people around were students. I didn't have to buy anything since necessities were provided. Many of the people I lived with came from different countries, so Japanese was the only language we could communicate in.

* Food:

Food was absolutely delicious. The only downer is of course that it's somewhat smaller portions for more money. But it is mostly healthy and good. There's a road by Sophia University that many students walk along to eat different types of food, if some people are a little homesick. However, it is still probably made Japanese-style so if you want close to genuine international food, you might want to try Shinjuku.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

For the most part, Japan is an awesome place to be if you're there sightseeing and traveling, eating, etc. It can get expensive, but that's to be expected there. They have tons of festivals and beautiful places to visit, whether it be in the country or the city. Since I was a direct exchange student, I was basically on my own, but it was nice being able to explore on your own and having the freedom to go where you wanted to.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

Japan is known for being one of the top countries with a low crime-rate. It's true, it's quite safe. The school stresses that there are thefts and to be aware of them, but for the most part it's definitely safer than back home. Apparently going to the doctor often is pretty common, which is different than the States. For some reason, the air in Tokyo might be a little strange; some people tend to develop a random cough while there, but it goes away after a while and as far as I know, it's pretty harmless. Other than that, Japan is pretty clean.

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


* 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)

Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? Be careful when going out in a group of people. Even if you don't eat as much or drink as much, you basically pay the same all around, so it's extremely easy to use money when going out, even if it's one night.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? Intermediate
What was the highest level language course you had completed prior to departure? JPN 320L
If applicable, to what degree did your living situation aid your language acquisition?

Language acquisition improvement?

The best way to learn the language is outside of school, with the friends you meet, clubs you join, the interactions you get when eating out, sightseeing, etc. For the most part, even though Japanese people have learned English, they don't use it so Japanese is somewhat essential for everyday interactions. It is definitely better to speak and fail at Japanese than to strictly use English.

Direct Enrollment/Exchange

* Did you study abroad through an exchange program or did you directly enroll in the foreign university? Exchange

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Apartment
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Other
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • Americans

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Do all the "Japanese" things you can because it really is a different culture that should be experienced at least once in your life. One who is willing to try new things would probably benefit the most from this program.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:

History and Theory of Architecture

Course Department: ART352
Instructor: Kuroishi
Instruction Language: English
Comments: She made it seem easy but it was the most ridiculously impossible class I have ever taken. She did make use of the location considering we were talking about architecture and Tokyo at points during the semester so we did have some field trips to explore, but for the most part this class was horrible. She was knowledgeable but she was not a good teacher, nor was her English easy to understand. She was definitely not well-prepared. She was lazy, and her lack of wanting to teach was obvious. I definitely do not suggest taking this class with this professor. It wasn't really possible to participate in this class, so I would say I participated less.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Japanese 4

Course Department: JPN212A
Instructor: Furukawa/Koyanagi
Instruction Language: Japanese
Comments: This class was really challenging. Not only was the content relatively hard, the teachers did not teach or didn't teach well. They did not communicate with one another, did not explain things well. No field trips. They obviously were knowledgeable about Japanese, but not really prepared. Participated about the same as at home. If you can, do not take the class with these particular teachers.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Contemporary Japanese Society

Course Department: SOC364
Instructor: Oishi
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This class was relatively interesting. Although the professor tends to beat around the bush and sometimes went of topic, she was a good one. Her English is relatively good. She seemed more American in terms of teaching, being open to questions and commentary, and seemed interested in teaching. We had a field trip that was relevant to the course. She was very knowledgeable and prepared well for class. I didn't participate much as I usually don't at home anyway, but I did go to class more than at home.
Credit Transfer Issues:
Course Name/Rating:

Fundamentals of Religion

Course Department: RPH202
Instructor: Murakami
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This was a relatively easy course. A lot of readings, but if you listen in class, you could probably get by without reading. There were no field trips in this class. The teacher was relatively knowledgeable about the subject was pretty well-prepared. It wasn't that great of a class, but it was a relatively easy one. Again, I just went to class but did not participate in discussions.
Credit Transfer Issues: