Matt M., Japan – International Christian University (History and Sociology)

ACADEMICS

  1. What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB? When I was abroad I mainly took Sociology and History courses offered in English by ICU.
  2. Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad?  If so, tell us about your experience. Though I personally didn’t, there were a lot of internship and volunteer opportunities available both in Tokyo as well as throughout Japan.

HOST INSTITUTION

  1. How would you describe your host institution? ICU is a relatively small college located in the suburbs of Tokyo. Despite being in Tokyo, the campus feels like its surrounded by a forest. There’s also a fairly large population of friendly wild cats that wander around.
  2. Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join?
    Yes! Student organizations are split into either clubs or circles. Clubs have more practices and tend to be more serious. On the other hand, circles are more relaxed and bring together people with similar interests to interact socially.

HOUSING

  1. Describe your housing situation. While at ICU I lived in Oak House, one of the several dorms on campus. The dorm was gender segregated by floors with men on the first floor and women on the second and third. Each floor had a kitchen, a shared living space, and three pods that contained 5-6 double occupancy rooms.

FOOD

  1. Where did you eat most of your meals? During the school year I mostly went to the school dining commons (nicknamed Gakki). Just outside of campus, there were two ramen restaurants named Gutara and Musashiya that were popular with students.
  1. How much was an average meal?  Do you have any budgeting tips for future students? At the school cafeteria, the average meal was between 3 to 5 dollars. Off campus food tends to cost around 10 to 15 dollars. If you’re on a tight budget definitely eat at Gakki as much as you can.
  2. Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals? According to my friends it was fairly easy to follow a vegetarian diet in Japan. The school cafeteria always has vegetarian option and its fairly easy to find restaurants with vegetarian food.
  3. Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad. The most memorable meal I ever ate was probably at an izakaya (a type of pub) in Okinawa. The meal was traditional Okinawan food that was cooked in front of you while you waited.
  4. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back? I really miss ramen from the two restaurants near campus. The owners were friendly and I often met with friends there.


HOST CITY

  1. Describe your host city. Mitaka is a suburb located about 40 min from Tokyo by train. Though it’s relatively quiet compared to downtown Tokyo, it’s well connected to the rest of the city.
  2. Was it easy to get around? It was fairly cheap and convenient to get around Tokyo. The trains and buses are reasonably priced and can be used to get almost anywhere in the city.
  1. Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students? Personally, I never felt unsafe even when walking at night in my host city. However its important be aware of your surroundings and to not be careless.
  2. What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city? The studio Ghibli museum is in Mitaka and the city has a number of charming parks. Near the train stations, there are a lot of restaurants and shopping centers.


HOST CULTURE

  1. How did you handle culture shock? I surprisingly had a relatively easy time adjusting to the culture. Making friends with other international students provided a good support network that helped me adapt.
  2. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture? As someone who tends to be more introverted, I liked how keeping to yourself was more accepted/normal. However, I also liked how there were many opportunities to put yourself out there socially.


TRAVEL

18. Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad. My favorite experience was going on a two day cycling trip with the ICU Cycling Club to Mt. Tsukuba. We spent day one cycling to a small lodge at the base of the mountain stopping along the way to eat various snacks. On day two, we climbed the mountain on foot and then cycled back to the train station we started at.


REFLECTION

19. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal? My biggest fear was probably my ability to make friends in a completely new environment. When I actually got there I was able to connect well with other exchange students as well as Japanese students.

20. What was your biggest challenge abroad? My biggest challenge was probably learning the language. Though I had taken 3 years of Japanese in high school I was still quite rusty when I first arrived.

21. How have you changed as a result of your time abroad? I think as a result of study abroad I’ve become more outgoing and willing to try new things.

22. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students? Don’t be afraid to take risks and put yourself out there!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s