Ten Study Abroad Programs in Japan
A number of variables shape a student's study abroad experience in Japan: whether you live with a host family or in the dormitory, whether you attend a program in a large city or small town, and to a lesser degree, what part of the country you go to. There are cultural distinctions between the Tokyo region and the Kansai region (Kyoto-Osaka area) on the main island of Honshu, as well as differences from island to island to consider, too. Not to worry. Students can have rewarding experiences in all environments.
Because many Japanese universities are restricted to accepting students only from institutions with a current affiliation, you'll want to check out your home institution's established exchange partners first. Though this may seem like yet another obstacle to overcome (especially if you've set your heart on a specific program), exchange partnerships are established with a student's best interests in mind.
Pat Quade, Director of International and Off-Campus Studies and Theatre Professor at St. Olaf College, explains the benefits of attending programs sponsored by a home institution. "Students pay their own college tuition plus a program fee and then pay only their room and board at the Japanese sponsoring institution. The benefit to this is that if it's a St. Olaf-sponsored program, it's not transfer credit. Students retain their financial aid-local, federal, and state-and they have the full service support of our office, as opposed to dropping out the institution and going on their own."
Susan Schmidt, Executive Director of the Bridging Project Clearinghouse for the Association of Teachers of Japanese, and Phyllis Larson, Associate Professor of Japanese at St. Olaf College, both cite the ease of finding homestays as one of the advantages to study abroad in Japan. However, Schmidt warns that students who choose this option should take into consideration their host family's lifestyle and possible expectations.
"After living on my own for two and a half years before Japan, it was hard to live with a strange family, adopt their rules, curfews, and so on. I had a twelve o'clock curfew and had to be respectful that they had a 2-year-old [child]," says Melisa Lansky, who was a junior at the University of Colorado when she studied in Japan in 2002. Nonetheless, she says that living with a host family gave her more chances to eat traditional meals, practice speaking Japanese, and learn about Japanese culture than her counterparts living in the dorms had.
Many students also are dismayed by how much time it may take to make friends.
"Everyone wants to talk to the gaijin [foreigner], but few people actually want to get to know you," warns Mike Merriman, who went to Japan for his junior as a University of Colorado student. "I ended up with some pretty good friends, but it took some time."
So if you understand beforehand that being isolated from your Japanese classmates is a real possibility, you can make plans for overcoming the barriers to establishing friendships. Study abroad administrators recommend joining an extracurricular club as one possibility. Merriman's advice is more straightforward: "Avoid Americans. American students invariably get together and complain about Japan."
Living in a metropolis (like Tokyo, for example) is another experience that you'll need to prepare for mentally, especially if you've never lived in a big city. On the other hand, studying at a program in a smaller town may make you the center of the community's attention.
Larson encourages students to think about their personal needs, their personal reactions to stress, and their goals prior to studying abroad. She also prompts student to keep in mind that no program is perfect and no program can completely meet each and every individual need of every student. Fully consider all your options before you commit to a program.
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The programs listed here are programs of both public and private universities. Because all Japanese universities are part of a national system and must follow a national curriculum, all programs meet a national standard. Check each program's Web site or write to them for details.
1. Associated Kyoto Program
Location: Doshisha University, Kyoto
Contact Information: Associated Kyoto Program, Whitman College, 345 Boyer Avenue, Walla Walla, WA 99362, Tel: 509-527-5111, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE)
Contact Information: CIEE, 633 Third Avenue, 20th Floor, New York, NY 10017-6706, Tel: 1-800-40-STUDY, Fax: 212-822-2779
3. Institute for the International Education of Students (IES)
Location: Three locations: Kasugai, Nagoya, Tokyo
Contact Information: IES, 33 North LaSalle Street, 15th floor, Chicago, IL 60602, Tel: 1-800-995-2300, Fax: 312-944-1448, Email: info@IESabroad.org
4. Kanda University of International Studies, Japanese Language and Culture Program
Contact Information: Japanese Language and Culture Program, Academic Administration Department of Kanda University, Wakaba 1-4-1, Mihama-ku, Chiba-city Chiba 261-0014 Japan, Tel: +81-43-273-1320, Fax: +81-43-273-1197, Email: email@example.com
5. Kansai Gaidai University
Contact Information: Center for International Education, 16-1 Nakamiyahigashino-cho, Hirakata City, Osaka 573-1001, JAPAN, Tel: +81-72-805-2831, Fax: +81-72-805-2830, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
6. Kyoto Center for Japanese Studies
Location: Stanford Japan Center, Kyoto
Contact Information: Kyoto Center for Japanese Studies, c/o Stanford Overseas Studies, P.O. Box 20346, Stanford, CA 94309, Tel: (650) 725-0233, Fax: (650) 725-7355, Email: email@example.com
7. Kyushu University
Location: Fukuoka (largest city on the island of Kyushu)
Contact Information: Hakozaki, Higashi-ku, Fukuoka-shi, 812-8581 JAPAN, Tel: +81-92-642-2111,
8. Nagoya University Program for Academic Exchange (NUPACE)
Location: Nagoya University, Nagoya
Contact Information: Nagoya University, NUPACE, Furo-cho, Chikusa-ku, Nagoya 464-8601 Japan, Tel: +81-52-789-2198, Fax: +81-52-789-2199.
9. Sophia University, Japanese Language Institute
Contact Information: Sophia University, 7-1 KIOI-CHO, CHIYODA-KU, TOKYO, JAPAN 102-8554.
10. Waseda University, Center for Japanese Language
Contact Information: 1-104 Totsukamachi, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 169-8050, JAPAN, Tel: +81-3-3203-4141 (Operator), Fax: +81-3-3202-8638 (Center for International Education), International Programs, Admissions: firstname.lastname@example.org
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