Tokyo: Smaller Than You Think Past Review

By (Electrical, Electronics and Communications Engineering., 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?
It was definitely worthwhile for me. I took classes I would never have taken at UT (I am an engineering major) and I really challenged myself academically that way. I wouldn't say it has changed my academic plans, but studying a different kind of thing improved my work ethic and attitude toward studying.

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.

With the exception of some 400/graduate-level courses which were offered, the workload was fairly low. The professors are extremely lenient and practically expect students to either skip class or not really pay attention. As with any university, professors can be hit or miss. There were some excellent professors and some terrible ones that I had during my year, but overall I would say the level was average. Even competent professors cannot do much because many students had little incentive to study. In Japan, the hiring process depends much less on grades and subject matter studied than other countries, so students need only worry about attending a university with a good name and the rest will sort itself out. The result is that professors have a difficult time because even in higher-level classes students often do not have necessary basic knowledge.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

The administration was in some ways hostile to exchange students. They were inflexible regarding class choices, and unwilling to let students make any decisions. They were unwilling or unable to help most people.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

I found an apartment before going. It was much closer to school and the city than the dorms suggested by Sophia.

* Food:

Food is pretty decent if expensive. If money is an issue I recommend making your own food. If possible shop at a "gyomu supa" which is a supermarket for restaurants and such which sells food for cheaper and also carries frozen vegetables and meats which can be hard to find other places.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

I traveled around on my own to different areas of Japan and it was one of the more enjoyable things I did. You meet very different people outside of Tokyo and it can be very refreshing.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

* Safety:

I didn't have any issues. I knew some people who made use of the healthcare and they said it was cheap and good, at least for the basic stuff they did.

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


* 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? The cellphone cost more than I wanted. Also if I were to go again I would get a furnished apartment. It was a huge hassle to get rid of stuff I had acquired over the year.


* Did your program have a foreign language component? Yes
How would you rate your language skills at the beginning of the program? None
Language acquisition improvement?

The language classes which I took were fairly good, but the program did not really encourage use of Japanese. In fact, I would say that it discouraged Japanese use at school by placing all of the exchange students together and forcing them to take classes in English. The students who were most successful in improving their language ability did not do so at school. Joining a club is an option but it can be difficult because some clubs are either filled with other exchange students or not very friendly to foreigners. Clubs outside of Sophia were usually a better option for people interested in making Japanese friends and speaking Japanese. Most students found it difficult to speak Japanese at all on campus. Most students are proficient enough in English that when a student who appears to be a foreigner speaks the conversation will by default happen in 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

  • N/A
* Who did you take classes with?

Select all that apply

  • International Students

A Look Back

* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Sophia puts you in an environment that is not all that different from a normal university in America, so be careful not to just glide through your time here. It is all too easy to only really associate with other foreigners and have little or no contact with Japanese people during your time here, in fact most students do just that. Alienate yourself a little bit from what is comfortable socially for you and you might be rewarded.

Individual Course Reviews

Course Name/Rating:


Course Department: APOL3210
Instructor: Nakano, Koichi
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Professor Nakano is extremely knowledgeable about this field and comparative politics in general. His lectures were interesting and well structured. The class itself was not very challenging because the exams were fairly easy. On the day of the exam the number of students present increased by a large amount, suggesting to me that nearly half of the students enrolled in the class did not regularly attend. Nakano was sure to keep us up to date with current events in Japanese politics which made the class very interesting.
Credit Transfer Issues:
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Course Department: AHST4540
Instructor: GRAMLICH-OKA Bettina Ingeborg
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This was a seminar on "the body" in history in Japan. There was a lot of reading but it was well organized and I learned a lot. Professor Gramlich was very skilled at getting us to talk about the texts and explore them fairly deeply. It was fairly challenging though because it was necessary to do a fair amount of reading for each class in addition to an even larger amount of reading for my own papers. Professor Gramlich was always well-prepared and knew the texts well.
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Course Department: ALIT3310
Instructor: Thompson, Mathew
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This was a survey course of Japanese literature. I enjoyed it but there was a lot of poetry which I found hard to get through. In addition to this a large portion of the course was devoted to reading the Tale of Genji, which is also difficult to get through. Professor Thompson is helpful though and I don't think the workload was unreasonable at all.
Credit Transfer Issues:
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Course Department: ALIT3320
Instructor: Thompson, Mathew
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This was a survey course on Japanese literature, with a focus on women and sexuality. Thompson is a good professor who was more than willing to talk with students to resolve any issues. He is genuinely interested in the subject material and this comes across in his lectures. That said, the course can be boring at times, but that really depends on what kind of literature you enjoy.
Credit Transfer Issues:
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Course Department: AJPN3212
Instruction Language: Japanese
Comments: This course was split into reading/writing and oral. The oral class was not very useful, since most that section was based on projects which had to be done out of class. So during the oral class periods a lot of time was wasted. The reading/writing section was straightforward but good. It follows the textbook pretty closely and was challenging enough. The workload was perhaps too low. We definitely could have fit more stuff into a semester.
Credit Transfer Issues:
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Course Department: AIBE2002
Instructor: NAGANO Mamoru
Instruction Language: English
Comments: This class was mostly useless. The students in the class were not required to have a grasp of basic math concepts necessary for economics, so the course only covered economics in the most superficial way possible.
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Course Department: APOL4130
Instructor: Peou, Sorpong
Instruction Language: English
Comments: Professor Peou was a poor professor. This was his last semester at Sophia though so most of this information will be irrelevant. He came to class unprepared, and spoke only in the vaguest terms. He often told us things that were false and either later corrected himself or, more often, was corrected by a student. While going over a topic he would often refuse to give names or dates. He was not a very good speaker in general. His grading system seemed to be mostly arbitrary. It was fairly obvious that he only skimmed or didn't read large portions of many people's essays.
Credit Transfer Issues:
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Course Department: AJPN3221
Instructor: Suzuki/Koyanagi
Instruction Language: Japanese
Comments: This course was split into two sections, one for speaking/oral communication and one for reading. In the reading sections we read short stories and other texts and were then quizzed on their content and overall meaning. In the oral sections we had debates, watched a drama and also read various texts. Interestingly this section required considerably more writing than the reading section. I learned quite a bit but it could have been much harder and better organized.
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