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Opportunities abound in the Land of the Rising Sun. Whether you are studying on one of Japan's four major islands (Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, or Shikoku), or exploring one of the other 4,000 islands comprising the archipelago, you will find a study abroad experience as unique as Japan's aggregation of traditional and modern (falling somewhere between the busy Tokyo streets and the nearby zen gardens).
Japan is a prosperous nation - the second largest economy in the world - but is much more than advanced technology or fancy electronics. From the postcard-perfect sights of Mt. Fuji to your first cup of sake to the dizzying speeds of the bullet train, Japan is a student's dream destination!
The secret to any successful study abroad experience begins with research, so you're already off to a great start! Now let's take a look at some useful information that will get you one step closer to eating sushi, singing karaoke and improving your kanji in Japan.
Language-intensive courses are at the heart of study for many overseas students, and understandably so! Living in Japan will give you many chances to put those language skills to use--practice your Japanese with the locals and engage them in conversation, even if it just over the price of soba noodles versus udon!
Japan's strong education system has significantly impacted the country's transformation over the last century into the economic powerhouse it is today. Acquiring Japanese language skills will open up many opportunities for internship and career opportunities, as fluency in English and Japanese is a desired skilled for many multinational companies that operate in Japan.
When you select a study abroad program, consider the differing types of accommodation offered. Some programs will give you many options, while others will have only pre-arranged accommodation available.
GlobaLinks guarantees all students a place in the on-campus residence halls, whose first floor offers Japanese-style rooms and a communal Japanese-style bath. CIEE only offers homestay options to their students, claiming this living situation, "provides students with an unparalleled opportunity for language acquisition, cultural immersion, and local community involvement." The Center for Study Abroad (CSA) offers all accommodation types for their students.
Some program providers will include extra activities in their program costs to enable both community building and extensive learning. If you prefer to have a more independent program, I would recommend finding a program that gives you more freedom to decide how to fill your time. If you want all of your Japanese ducks in a row even before you leave America, then a program with many cultural activities included is more suitable.
IES Abroad's program in Tokyo includes many field trips to places of historical and cultural significance, including a five day homestay in the city of Mobara to see first hand Japanese familial life. CSA's summer program in Japan organizes and offers excursions such as a trip to Mt. Fuji, a lesson in tea ceremonies, a night of Kabuki, and international student parties. All activities are optional and available for an added cost. Another approach is just to include all program activities in the overall costs; GlobaLink's program at Asia Pacific University in Japan includes an overnight trip to Nagasaki, and scavenger hunts around Beppu with your pre-arranged Japanese study buddy!
Next, you have to narrow down your search. Check out the list below that highlights some of Japan's most popular study abroad destinations.
As home to over a quarter of Japan's population, Tokyo can be best described as "crowded," - crowded with people, opportunities, adventures! Asia's trendiest call Tokyo home. At the same time, when exploring this city, you will discover that some of its neighborhoods feel less urban and more like country-life plucked straight from rural areas and placed smack dab in the city. It is these contrasts that make Tokyo an ever-changing and exciting city. Tokyo has been named the most expensive city in the world, and is the financial backbone of not only Japan, but all of Asia. Tokyo has graced the world stage as one of the most modern cities in the world, and is a "must-visit" for every study abroad student in Japan!
Steeped in history, Kyoto is home to innumerable shrines, museums, palaces, and temples (and 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites!). Some of Japan's oldest traditions, such as the tea ceremony, flower arranging, and geisha schooling originated in this city.
Located in the Kansai region of Japan, Kyoto is dedicated to preserving Japan's oldest traditions, yet it is also an energetic, contemporary city. Modern conveniences are readily available, making Kyoto a perfect destination for study abroaders looking to explore Japan's past without sacrificing the familiar comforts of home.
The price tag for a semester in Japan may be a little steeper than some of its other Asian counterparts. Don't let the cost hold you back - besides budgeting and planning, the following scholarships may free up some space so you can spend your yen on a new manga comic!
Spencer Huddleston works for myGengo, a Tokyo-based startup devoted to breaking down language barriers and making global communication accessible to all through high quality human translation services that are scalable, convenient and affordable.
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