Grace J., Japan – Keio University (Linguistics)

Japan has so much to offer and some amazing experiences! I made great friends from all over the world and so many unforgettable memories.

ACADEMICS

  1. What types of classes did you take abroad and how did they compare to UCSB? Since I went abroad my second year, I chose to focus on general classes rather than my major classes. Practically all of the classes I chose related to Japan. I took classes such as “Intro to Japanese History and Culture” and “English and English Education in Japan” as well as continued language classes. The major difference between classes at Keio and at UCSB is that classes meet only once a week and, since it is a semester system, you will be taking more classes at once. Still, the pace feels slower since most classes do not give out assignments continuously and many classes graded primarily on final papers, projects, and such. Also, at Keio, we registered for classes at the start of the semester instead of beforehand, so we had a trial period where we could try out different classes.
  2. What was your favorite class abroad? My two favorite classes abroad were “Japanese Buddhism,” which consisted of field trips to temples and class-relevant events, and “Cultural Presuppositions in Japanese Communication,” which consisted of a lot of intercultural discussion about social norms and ways of thinking and acting.
  3. Did you intern, volunteer, or conduct fieldwork or research abroad?  If so, tell us about your experience. As a Freeman Intern, I interned at a small English school called English Vitamin, Inc both semesters. I taught English to grade school students through books and worksheets. It was such an enriching experience and gave me a lot of skills that I could use in my future career.

HOST INSTITUTION

  1. How would you describe your host institution? Keio University is one of the oldest institutions of higher education in modern Japan. It is very well-known so a lot of people in Japan were impressed when I told them where I studied.
  2. Are there student clubs/organizations that UC students can join? There are many clubs at Keio that are open to international students. I did not join any clubs or circles, but I had couple friends in dance clubs, for example.
Courtyard at Mita Campus in December 2018

HOUSING

  1. Describe your housing situation. I stayed in an international dorm that housed other exchange students as well as Japanese students. My dorm had suites with four rooms, half used by Japanese students and half used by international students, but a lot of dorms also had single rooms. It was special, also, because it had onsen (public baths) on the first floor for the residents to use. There were many dorms to choose from and I knew some exchange students who found apartments on their own as well.
The entrance to my dorm

FOOD

  1. Where did you eat most of your meals? I ate out a lot with friends but at home I would often get combini meals, especially when I was too busy to cook (I definitely miss the onigiri). The dorms also have rice cookers in the kitchen so I used them a lot too.
  2. How much was an average meal?  Do you have any budgeting tips for future students? Depending on what kind of food and where the restaurant is located, the meals average around $10 or ¥1000, the lowest I saw was probably around $4 or ¥400 at chain restaurants such as Saizeriya. You can definitely dine expensively, but meals in Japan are pretty affordable. Combini meals are an inexpensive alternative.
  3. Would it be difficult for vegetarians/vegans and others with strict dietary restrictions to find meals? Yes, it’s somewhat difficult for people with dietary restrictions, but it’s doable. I had friends with dietary restrictions that managed the whole year.
  4. Describe your most memorable dining experience abroad. My friend took us to a really nice eel restaurant and I was the best eel I ever had. I craved unagi a lot after that…
  5. What local food or drink do you miss most now that you are back? There was a really good Indian food restaurant called Sagarmatha down the street from my dorm. An RA took us to it our first night in the dorms and my friends and I would go often. Also, I definitely miss having easy access to good ramen and gyoza. I also miss taiyaki and restaurants having complimentary tea…


HOST CITY

  1. Describe your host city. The Keio dorms are around Hiyoshi campus and it was very nice because it was more residential and did not have really any tourists, but it was still only a 30 minute train ride to Shibuya or less than an hour to Yokohama. There was a lot to do just at Hiyoshi station and just like anywhere in Japan you easily find convenience stores and vending machines (super convenient).
  2. Was it easy to get around? Yes, it was super easy to get around in Japan. The public transportation is organized and mostly punctual. Definitely something I miss being back home. Most of the signs have the romanized names and on the trains and buses they have the stop names in English, Chinese, and Korean. Plus, after a while on your normal route, you are able to read the station names from the kanji.
  3. Did you feel safe in your host city? Do you have any safety tips for future students? I felt very safe in my host city. It’s always good to be cautious but probably the main worries you’d have in Japan are natural events. Keep in mind safety instructions from orientations and keep in touch with the local UCEAP office.
  4. What were some interesting/fun things that you did in your host city? Izakayas are always fun and there are options for non-drinkers. Torikizoku was my favorite Izakaya chain because it’s affordable, everything you order is about $3 (same price) and you just have to count up how much you ordered to figure out how much you’re spending. Of course karaoke is a must and there were at least 3 places at my closest station. There is always fun stuff to do around Tokyo and Yokohama but one popular place I enjoyed a lot was teamLab Borderless (moving digital art museum).
teamLab Borderless – Feb. 5, 2019


HOST CULTURE

  1. Describe any cultural differences you experienced while abroad. Everyone is (expected to be) very quiet and orderly on the train which is very different. Japan is a low-context culture and that is something that takes getting used to. There are more rules for social politeness and order which weren’t too difficult to follow but is something to be aware of. Something I remember a few people had trouble with was people don’t do small talk with cashiers and such which they had been used to. Also, you don’t need to say anything when someone working in a shop says “irrashaimase” even though it’s really tempting to respond somehow.
  2. How did you handle culture shock? I just followed what everyone else did in public and I didn’t really have any problems. Just in general, it’s good to be considerate and respectful.
  3. What is your favorite aspect of your host culture? I like that there is a larger emphasis on respect when in public.
Kinkaku-ji, Kyoto, Japan – Feb. 2019


TRAVEL

  1. Tell us your favorite travel story from your time abroad. I took a two week trip to western Japan my friend during spring break (Keio’s spring break is two months so more like our summer break). We visited Nagoya, Inuyama, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Kobe, Okayama, and Hiroshima and the number of photos on my phone increased by, no kidding, about 6.000 photos. It was such a great trip and I visited some of my favorite places in Japan.
Cablecar up to Mt. Rokko in Kobe – Feb 2019


REFLECTION

  1. What was your biggest fear about studying abroad that turned out to be no big deal? Probably just getting around when I had no idea how anything worked. I ended up figuring it out pretty quick, only taking the wrong train once during my first week. It makes sense once you’re used to it and people can be helpful.
  2. What was your biggest challenge abroad? The humidity in summer…I bought many paper fans.
  3. How have you changed as a result of your time abroad? I definitely changed during my year abroad. I feel like I had a lot personal growth and, since I’ve been home, people who have known me all my life have told me I seemed to have changed in a good way.
  4. What is your advice to prospective UCSB EAP students? Definitely consider studying abroad if you are able to and don’t be afraid to do stuff that seems a little scary and go on adventures if you get the chance.
My friends and I at Yamadera, Yamagata – July 2019


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