The Best Decision, Greatest Memories, and a Rewarding Adventure August 10, 2019

By (University of Illinois - Urbana-Champaign) - abroad from 09/05/2018 to 05/17/2019 with

University of Illinois: Illinois Year-in-Japan Program

What did you gain/learn from your experience abroad? Was it worthwhile?
1,000% worthwhile. I shudder at the thought of having not gone. Going to Japan has allowed my Japanese to improve exponentially. I can without doubt say that I have gotten much better at using and understanding Japanese, so much so to the point that I feel very comfortable accomplishing things by myself here, using only Japanese. Studying abroad has also helped me develop as an individual, helping me gain more self-confidence, independence, and a more positive outlook on life, adventure, and the world. By simply completing this program, let alone completing this program having made so many wonderful memories that I will cherish forever, I have proven to myself how adaptable and capable I can become, and how having a positive mindset about new places and new experiences is the best way to live out my life.

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 Study Tours to various culturally and/or historically significant sites in Japan were awesome and invaluable. The Japan Studies classes were always taught by interesting professors who live in Japan so they gave unique insight to their fields of study. The Japanese language classes vary depending on your assigned level, but mine had pretty fun teachers.

* Host Country Program Administration

On-site administration of your program

There is an entire center on campus (KIEC, or the Konan International Exchange Center) with staff dedicated to helping you and your program experience go smoothly. They were always available and ready to help.

* Housing:

How satisfied were you with your living arrangements?

Best part of the program for me. My host family was absolutely lovely, welcoming, patient, and supportive. We did many things together, they introduced me to many new and delicious foods, and they helped me a lot in the first few weeks to figure things out. We remain close today.

* Food:

Literally, all Japanese food, everywhere in Japan, be it from yattai stalls or chain restaurants, is good. Some may be more good than others, but in my experience all Japanese food is good.

* Social & Cultural Integration:

How integrated did you feel with the local culture?

By the end, I certainly felt like I could successfully live in Japan independently. I was able to become accustomed to daily life and I could speak the language moderately well. Do not, however, expect to stop feeling like a foreigner in Japan.

* Health Care:

How well were health issues addressed during the program?

I never had an experience with the healthcare in Japan, but I had friends who did. The program staff were great with assisting them in any way they needed, from finding doctors to even going with them to help with interpretation.

* Safety:

I've never felt safer. You won't get things stolen. In fact, you'll probably get lost things returned to you. I walked alone at night many, many times and never felt unsafe. There are a handful of seedier areas, but even those are generally safer than anywhere else in the world you'll go. Just have common sense and you'll be just fine.

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

The amount I gained from participating in this program is insane. I never would have thought the oft-heard cliches of studying abroad ("It changed my life," or "I'm a whole new person now") would be true, but they are. I would absolutely go back to Japan and do it all again, for all the cool things I saw and did, all the awesome people I met both locally and from around the world, and all the improvement I saw in myself in terms of language and personal character. I'll admit, I cried when leaving Japan and the Year in Japan Program, so if they doesn't say "I'd do it all again," then I don't know what does.

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)

You can live very cheaply in Japan. If you're on a tight budget, you can still have a lot of fun. There are cheap food and cheap fun options. And if you're not on a tight budget, you can still have cheap food and cheap fun!

Not including program expenses, about how much money did you spend on food and other expenses each week? 3,000 - 6,000 yen
Do you have any general money-saving tips for future study abroad participants? You will be given some form of scholarship (20,000 - 80,000 yen/month, depending on your school and applications) but I still highly recommend going into the program with some personal savings available for use. To save money while there, refrain from buying snacks at the convenience stores (it's tough, I know), see if you can make your own bento boxes for lunch, opt for cheaper restaurants (or eat at home more), go to karaoke before 7 PM, buy a USJ Year Pass, take buses to faraway places like Tokyo.

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

My host family didn't speak English, so I had to use Japanese in order to communicate with them. This helped me improve leaps and bounds.

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? Intermediate Japanese
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? Ask for a host family that doesn't speak English, make friends with Konan students, join clubs at Konan.

Other Program Information

* Where did you live?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* Who did you live with?

Select all that apply

  • Host Family
* 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?
  • My Host Family
  • Other Students
  • Location
* What could be improved?
  • More Study Tours (2 per semester)
* What do you know now that you wish you knew before going on this program? Even though I took over 1,500 pictures, I wish I took more, especially more with my friends in them. You'll want to remember everything.

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!