IES Abroad Tokyo - Language & Culture

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About

Whether you’re people watching in the hip Shibuya neighborhood, visiting Asakusa temple, or exploring Okinawa on a course-related excursion, your semester in Tokyo will be a whirlwind of adventure. As you explore your host city, Tokyo will become your classroom.

Expand your understanding of Japan with our Language & Culture Program by immersing yourself in contemporary Japan and Japanese culture. When you study abroad in Tokyo, you will take a 6-credit language course specially designed for IES Abroad students, taught at Kanda University of International Studies (KUIS), plus area studies courses taught in English.
Now is your chance to live and learn in one of the world’s most famous cultural metropolises.

Start your adventure with IES Abroad today.

Questions & Answers

As for the weekly schedule, I was in the language intensive program, not the language and culture program, so it may be slightly different. In addition, I was in the program in Fall of 2012, so it may very well be different now. The weekly schedule with a host family was like this: Japanese language class from 9 am to 12 pm on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday Classes in the evening on...

Reviews

96%
based on 16 reviews
  • Academics 7.3
  • Support 9.7
  • Fun 9.6
  • Housing 9.1
  • Safety 9.9
Showing 1 - 15 of 16
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Haley
9/10

Nihon, Lets Go!

When I travelled abroad with IES abroad, I was surprised by all the support I received once I got there. The heads of my program were so kind and helpful in every aspect, from helping me figure out my phone situation and just in general making sure we were all doing well as we travelled abroad. The events and trips that they planned were top notch. Some folks argued that it was too overplanned for their liking, but they managed to squeeze so much fun into the few days we had in Okinawa or the time we had in Asakusa that it was worth it! And even then, there was still plenty of time available for personal travel. The classes weren't too intense--the ones taught by IES were deliberately made intensive to meet the standards of a typical US classroom, whereas the classes taught at Kanda were pretty lenient. I enjoyed most of my professors all the same, short of the one who was teaching Japanese Architecture as if she were teaching it to architecture majors who had already spent years studying it and didn't necessarily grade fairly from student to student. Manga and Animation was my favorite course, simply because it actually did what many of my major courses lacked--taught some of the basics and histories, then let you utilize those aspects to analyze manga and anime of your own choosing! It was definitely a class where you got out of it what you put in, so I ended up really learning a lot in the end. The professor is also very passionate about it :)

Overall, I absolutely loved my time there, and I can't wait to stop by and say hello next time I make it back to Japan!

How can this program be improved?
I'd say probably just recognize when students have complaints about an instructor. This is something all institutions could stand to do, though, international or national. If enough people are having the same complaint, then perhaps it's on the instructor, not the students.
Yes, I recommend
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Allen
10/10

Thank You, IES Tokyo!

Looking back on my fall semester abroad (Fall 2017), I feel so grateful to have studied abroad through IES Tokyo specifically. The staff did an excellent job building community among our cohort, and I am leaving with life-long friendships because of it. Moreover, the trips throughout Japan--beyond the general Tokyo area--were so much fun.

In addition, I was able to gain real-world experience and improve my resume through the Field Placement program. My placement at the Self-Access Learning Center gave me a window into the workspace of an international Japanese institution--unlike a traditional Japanese workspace, everyone here spoke English which provided for a unique and eye-opening placement.

How can this program be improved?
Wider range of academic offerings.
Clearer transparency of professors--who they are, what their specialty is, what their teaching style is, reviews from former participants, etc.
Yes, I recommend
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Samekh
10/10

From U.S to Japan; a Travel Worth mentioning

Japan was everything I could want and more. There never was a dull moment in the four months while I was there and the staff, without a doubt, was one of the many reasons why I loved my experience abroad. It was first time ever leaving the country and despite that, I was never afraid! The staff became like a home away from home and all the friends I made helped to make me feel welcomed and never lonely. I would go again in a heartbeat if I could. I wake up every day and I miss being in Japan. I miss traveling by the trains, ordering udon and takoyaki, I miss coming back to my homestay and speaking Japanese to my homestay parents. Leaving with "Ittekimasu!" coming home and saying "tadaima" and hearing "okaerinasai". It's the small moments that stick with the most like that.

How can this program be improved?
I highly recommend more cultural field trips. I loved going to the ones provided and learning from them all, but also being able to actively participate and enjoy myself was a great bonus.
Yes, I recommend
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Julia
10/10

My Semester in Japan

I spent a semester studying abroad in Japan and I had a wonderful time. Although advertised as being in Tokyo, the university and housing were actually located at least an hour outside of the city. This was the one thing about the program that I found disappointing. I was still able to go into the city every weekend and many weekdays, but it made it more difficult. However, I know some people enjoyed being a little outside of the city.
The highlights of the experience were the IES staff and the university. The staff went out of their way to help every student have a great experience in Japan, from helping with ordering concert tickets to recommending food tours. They also set up the E-Pal program with KUIS, the partner university. This matched each IES student with a KUIS student before the program started and was a great way to make friends. Many of the students at KUIS study English and are interested in foreign cultures, so there was a really nice exchange. The emphasis on friendships with the Japanese students was a highlight of the program and certainly helped my language skills improve. There was also a student government made up of IES students and E-Pals. They organized events. I thought this was a good idea, however the students who ran it while I was there didn't put in very much effort, and it seemed that all the students missed out on some opportunities as a result.
The academics on the program were not challenging and sometimes not particularly engaging. The language classes were well taught and interesting, but some of the other teachers for the IES courses didn't seem particularly qualified to be teaching their subject. This was a little frustrating, but in the end I was glad to have the extra time to explore in Tokyo.
Overall, I really loved my experience in Japan. The commute into the city and the academics were disappointments, but in the end the friendships I made with students at KUIS made up for the location, and the time I spent exploring in Japan made up for the academics.

Yes, I recommend
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Marissa
10/10

Learn More About Japanese Culture Than You Could Ever Imagine!

Going into my undergraduate career, I knew I wanted to study abroad. My original intention was to go somewhere in Europe, since at the time I was quite the Anglophile. But I ultimately decided to study in Japan to learn more about my cultural heritage. Having grown up in a white household and in a predominantly white suburb, I didn’t know much about Japanese culture at all. IES Abroad Tokyo certainly changed that!

There’s no good way to explain how studying abroad in Tokyo changed me. I am a pre-med student, and my academic life at my home institution is very rigorous and extremely challenging. In truth, I was pretty unhappy during my first three years in college, mostly due to how cutthroat life is on my campus. Being removed from that scene really changed my outlook on life, and helped me to become a happier and mentally healthier person. A lot of this has to do with the way the program is set up socially. There is a deep sense of community in IES Tokyo. The staff is so helpful and they make the IES Center feel like your “home away from home.” They can give advice on almost every aspect of life and really get to know each of the students personally. The staff does a wonderful job of pairing each student with a Japanese e-pal, a friend who you will get to know and will spend time with you throughout your stay (not just during the first couple of weeks). They also do a great job of choosing host families, if you apply for one. I did find that the academics are not as challenging as I thought they would be. While I did learn a decent amount of Japanese, I found that I was not very well prepared for taking Japanese at my home institution. With that being said, I did learn a lot about Japanese culture. The field placement program is also hit-or-miss. I was pretty satisfied with my placement (they do their best to match your interests with the job site); however, I wish I could have done more to help my placement, and I almost felt like a burden to work flow when I was there.

Seeing lots of Japan was no issue at all. I travelled into the center Tokyo at least 5 days a week. (I actually lived in Tokyo, unlike most of my peers who lived in Chiba, where Kanda University is located). I was constantly exploring and enjoying the food scene. There was never a shortage of things to do and see (there are many events going on in the city all the time, and the IES Center staff can really help you out finding what to do!). We were also able to travel around Japan, since the program includes a couple of trips to other Japanese cities. The staff is also really helpful in planning independent trips.

Overall this was a wonderful experience and I couldn’t ask for anything better!

How can this program be improved?
The academics could be more rigorous, especially Japanese language (I was in Level 1 Japanese, since I had no prior experience with the language). I also think that the field placement program could be improved, since I didn't feel that I really helped my site very much.
Yes, I recommend
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Kellen
10/10

The Tale of Autumn 2016: An Unforgettable Adventure in Japan

I made the choice to study abroad long before I entered college. I was fortunate enough to have some international experience growing up; I genuinely felt like I knew what I was getting myself. I was so wrong. Turns’ out, living in another country for 4 months is a lot different than sightseeing around Paris or Machu Picchu. It’s better. As a tourist, you miss everything that isn’t on the front page of the guidebook. Cool, you took a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower and posted it with a different caption on four social media sites. 7 million people visit the Eiffel Tower every year, and nearly all of them take the picture. It isn’t special anymore; it’s a humble brag. I’ve been to the Eiffel Tower; it gave me a few minutes of happiness, which at the time, I believed was because I went on this foreign excursion where I learned so much about France. Or something like that. Anyway, what you miss is people. Tourists don't make friends. How can you? If you only have 7 days and can’t speak a word of the language, meaningful relationships can’t be built. My time in Japan isn’t memorable because I went to Tokyo Tower, Tsukiji fish market, Sky Tree, Kyoto, Osaka or Hiroshima. It’s memorable because of who I spent that time with.
My only reason for choosing Japan rode along the lines of “I’ve never been anywhere in Asia. I’ll go somewhere there!” From that, I applied for IES Tokyo. I knew surprisingly little about Japan before getting there. Many IES Tokyo students are Anime/Manga fans and cited that as the reason they came. Don’t worry, there’s a lot more in Japan than cartoons. IES Tokyo has an E-Pal program where they assign a local student from KUIS to help you in your transition. They are mostly English/International business majors, who speak English if you have no Japanese skills. The E-Pals in Autumn 2016 were wonderful. They aren’t being paid; they are there for the cultural exchange and the opportunity to meet foreign students. Don’t even consider not signing up for it, it’s the single best thing about IES Tokyo. The first two weeks you spend a lot of time as a big group of IES/E-Pal, and during this time, I started so many unforgettable friendships with not only my E-pal, but many others too. You’re going to Japan for cultural exchange; so do it! Take a genuine curiosity in your new friends, and just maybe you will find that they are also interested in who you are.
Japan itself is a fantastic country, you’ll get used to it fast. Use your Japanese skills, and you will find that Japan is accessible, customer-service oriented, and efficient. Almost everything is a tad different than we are used to in western countries, which is a good chance to do some cultural reflecting as to why that is. Broaden your mind! Also, Japan is safe. So safe, that if you lost your wallet, a Japanese person will run down the street to return it to you. Venturing out at night and feeling safe is something we don't have in the United States.
IES Tokyo is actually in Chiba, not Tokyo. Please be aware of this if you think you’re going to be living in Shibuya or something. That said Chiba is great! The dormitories are somewhat central between KUIS and Tokyo station, and many homestays are too. I lived in Ichikawa-Shi with a wonderful host family in a very central location. Most students were in homestays, and all recommended it. IES has a great pool of host families they use, so take advantage of that! Your host family is there to be your family, try to be close to them because they care a lot about you. I spent countless hours chatting with my host mother after dinners, I learned so much just by talking. Many older Japanese people have different worldviews than your peers at KUIS, so take advantage! The staff at IES Tokyo is wonderful. They are kind, helpful and knowledgeable if you need anything. Need a doctor? Ask the staff! Lose your glasses? Ask the staff! Mail a letter, feeling homesick or need to know the best ramen shop in Tokyo? Ask!
Caleb (IES Tokyo director) told me of what he called the “magic” of studying abroad. When IES students and E-Pals come together, it creates an atmosphere so amazing, he could only call it magic. I couldn’t agree more. It’s impossible to recreate, you need to live it yourself. When I first arrived in Japan, I told myself that this would be my only chance to be here, to take advantage and have fun. I’ve never returned to a country before because I like to see new places. Japan blew that out the window. I can’t imagine not going back now. Saying goodbye hurt a lot, which made the last day at the airport even worse. I was not ready to leave.. My story in Japan isn’t over yet. Actually, it’s just getting started. Take a chance on IES Tokyo, and it might change you. See you soon.
Kellen

Yes, I recommend
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Naomi
10/10

Prepared Me Professionally

I studied abroad in the fall of 2016 with this program and chose to live in a dorm. I had been to Japan before several times and had previously done an internship, but this was my first time combining both of those experiences being a student living on her own while studying Japanese. My favorite part of this experience was participating in the field placement where you get to experience working in a Japanese company for once a week throughout the semester. Although it is not quite like an internship, you get exposed to Japanese business cultures so it was a very invaluable experience for me. My goal coming to this program was to obviously improve my Japanese skill and become fully proficient, but unfortunately I did not meet my goal. This university you will be integrating yourself with is a foreign language school, so most of the students speak English fairly well if not fluent. In addition, all of your classes except the language one will be taught in English, so you really have to take the initiative to practice Japanese. Many people did improve and I myself was able to challenge my Japanese skill, particularly by taking the challenge of presenting more advanced topics in Japanese for the first time. I'm glad I got to study abroad on this program and I can't wait until the day I get to return.

How can this program be improved?
The Japanese classes are challenging because there are only four levels, but within the levels there is a big difference between people's skill. For example, within my class there were people who only studied a few years to people who had studied for 7+. Although this can't be helped, it is sometimes hard to keep the integrity of the class by saying everyone must only speak Japanese so that everyone can improve, if the majority just cannot do it because of the great divergence of level. Still was a very good class and I learned a lot from the other students.
Yes, I recommend
Emily
10/10

Great support and awesome program

My time in Tokyo was only enhanced by the support and experiences provided by IES. A (very negative) person that I used to know would always dismiss study abroad programs or touristy guides, saying that you can always go out and do these things yourself for free. His point was disproved by the way that IES has blown me away with their field trips, assistance, and integration into the host city that simply wouldn't have been available if I'd "gone out and done it by myself." The cost of IES is completely worth every penny, because there's no way to go to Tokyo and have the incredible experience that I and many others have had without their planning and readiness to assist. The academics were good, the integration into Kanda University (the school where you take the required Japanese courses) was incredible (re: the e-pal program; highly recommended), and the extracurriculars like field trips and guest lectures were above par. I can't recommend IES enough.

How can this program be improved?
A lot of my peers who had previously taken Japanese courses (I hadn't because they weren't offered at my school) felt that the Japanese courses offered by IES weren't nearly as challenging as the ones offered at their universities. For some, this was a relief, but for those who came to Japan to learn the language, there was a bit of disappointment. Also, a lot of the students at KUIS speak English so if you want to really practice the language you have to go out of your way to find someone who either doesn't speak English or is willing to help with your Japanese.
Yes, I recommend
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Melanie
9/10

My Semester in Tokyo

I had a fantastic time with IES Abroad in Tokyo, Japan. First of all, the location of the program was exactly what I'd been hoping for during my semester abroad. The IES Tokyo program is largely conducted in Chiba, Japan, the prefecture (like states in America) next to Tokyo, which was an ideal location in my opinion. Chiba is very comparable to Long Island, NY in that it is by the water, and a slower-paced residential area only an hour away (by first-rate public transportation) from one of the largest and brightest metropolises in the world. So you can go into Tokyo for the day by train, enjoy the city, and leave the bustle and fast-pace as you return to your quiet and welcoming town to rest after an action-packed day in the big city.
As for a unique experience that I had, I'd definitely like to mention the field trip to Kanazawa offered by IES Abroad. As a group of about 15 students we traveled on the world-famous Shinkansen (bullet train) up north to a city called Kanazawa, famous for its fresh seafood and gold production. After touring a beautiful city that had much historical charm preserved, we spent the night and went to an idyllic village called Shirakawa-go. The scenery was something out of a movie. It was brimming with stunning scenery and rustic charm, and I felt that I had been transported hundreds of years back in time. The feeling of walking around the town was indescribable, so I've attached 3 pictures that I took while there. On that day it was rainy and foggy, so the pictures are not crystal clear, but I think the beauty of Shirakawa-go can be seen just fine.

How can this program be improved?
I would include more classes taught in Japanese. I am a mid to advanced level Japanese speaker (I've been studying since middle school) and while there were classes offered completely in Japanese, they were only 2 credits, and my home institution only accepts 3 credit courses to be applicable towards a major, so I had to take mostly English language courses. Of course this is unique to my study abroad objectives, as many students in my program came from backgrounds with no formal Japanese instruction and appreciated the English language classes very much.
Yes, I recommend
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Gabrielle
10/10

IES Abroad Tokyo - Learn and Immerse Yourself in Japanese Culture

My study abroad through the IES program was an amazing experience. From the beginning, IES Chicago and Tokyo sent regular emails, regarding all predeparture information and tips. If you choose to do so, there is also an E-pal program through IES and the university you'll attend in Japan, which lets you get in touch with a Japanese student before arriving. This makes for an easier transition into school and friend-life once in Japan- and something I highly recommend! My home stay family was caring and supportive, which helped greatly with immersing myself within the culture and to develop language skills. Academics aren't exactly difficult, but some classes may take more time than others. Most importantly, choose a Japanese course that's a good fit for you, so you can learn the language well enough to have fun! No matter what you take in school- there is plenty of time to explore, go on IES sponsored trips, and participate in your own interests (nightlife, shopping, touring, etc.). But make sure to take time to immerse yourself in the culture individually as well, and go out there! IES does a great job guiding you, as well as giving you freedom.

How can this program be improved?
Give more detailed course descriptions before having to sign up for classes.
Yes, I recommend
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Andy
9/10

Lifetime Friends and Experiences

Study abroad is an eye-opening experience. Japan is an amazing place to study abroad. The culture is different from America but after a week or two you will adapt to it. Coming to this program I wanted to make Japanese friends and hang out with them, what happened during the program went way beyond my expectations. The Japanese are very nice and eager to learn English and speak English with you so it was so easy to make friends and go to different places with them in Tokyo. Tokyo is a large city with many beautiful places where you can go meet and hang out. The amount of parks within this metropolitan city is very surprising. They take care of their trash and keep the city clean unlike many US cities where there is litter all over the place.

With the program, there is more than just Tokyo. You have a week where you can travel with your friends to anywhere within Japan since everyone has break. The program also includes trips to other famous cities where you might not even think of like Kanazawa and Nikko. Even though Japan is small the different areas have different specialties.

In the end, study abroad is about having fun, making friends, and lifelong experiences. You have to be self motivated to explore all of Japan and create these memorable experiences for yourself. In the beginning it may seem like you have 4 months but it flies by when you have amazing friends by your side.

How can this program be improved?
We had to take care of some legal business by ourselves even though we did not understand Japanese that well. The program could have a day where they took us to the office and help us take care of it.
Yes, I recommend
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Clark
10/10

Dream come true.

Any organization is going to succeed or fail because of its people. At IES Abroad Tokyo, the people are experienced, motivated and more than willing to enhance the study abroad experience. I went to Japan for the semester in April of 2013. Before I arrived in-country, IES provided an E-pal that contacted me through facebook which allowed me to ask questions and have a friend upon arrival. Right as I got into Narita airport, the IES staff was there to help. From the moment I was in Japan, IES was there to help. This became a re-curing theme as anytime I or anybody else in the group had trouble, IES was there. The staff there understands, seriously, they get it. From presentations and small little group activities I was able to learn and bond with my fellow students. Once school started I developed a routine and just tried as much as possible to immerse myself in the culture. The academic program is great, the extra-curricular programs even better. Ultimately everyone in my group that wanted to return to Japan to teach or live did. As I write this I am preparing to move to Okinawa and I can't wait. Ultimately, your study abroad experience is what you put into it. You'll find that human beings don't differ too much from one another. The relationships and experiences we foster with one another define who we are. I can't thank IES Abroad Tokyo enough.

How can this program be improved?
Kick us out of the Yellow Sofa area. That was my crutch.
Yes, I recommend
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Christy
8/10

My Experience With IES Tokyo

Overall, I had a very rewarding experience during my time with IES. What was great to me about IES was the fact that teachers wanted to make sure you learned while also giving you the chance to explore Japan and your surroundings. Although this is a language intensive program, you aren't pushed to the point of being stressed. You will learn more of the language, but I don't think I was challenged enough academically. What was helpful in learning more Japanese was being surrounded so much by the language and by hanging out with my e-pal. IES pairs each abroad student with an "e-pal", which is a Japanese student attending the university who you can get to know before getting to campus. This was super beneficial for many of the abroad students because they had the opportunity to befriend and hang out with a Japanese student to learn more about Japan's culture. We could practice our speaking skills with them and jump into the social scene with more ease. IES was also extremely involved with the students in providing constant information about events going on around Tokyo. We got to go on two long field trips to the countryside (3-5 days each) and also went on a lot of other student council-run trips around the city. IES Tokyo definitely wants their students to be able to get the most out of their time in Japan. It is a great program for students looking to get immersed into the culture while also practicing their Japanese skills.

Yes, I recommend
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Kyri
10/10

Spring in Japan

This program has everything you would need, expect, and want.... plus more! The location is close enough to the city to be able to go anywhere without much trouble. The people are helpful and kind. They really are there for you for anything. The school is a good environment and the people are fun.

Yes, I recommend
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Kenna
10/10

Beyond City Limits

There's a lot to be said for studying in as metropolitan an area as Tokyo. You'll never be able to take advantage of all the opportunities available, and the train system allows you to go almost anywhere in the country with incredible ease. Make sure you get a map of the train system at first though, and keep it with you until you learn your way around.

That's not to say that big cities and bright lights are all there is to Japan though. Most of the country is actually pretty rural, and the scenery is breathtakingly gorgeous. There are beautiful hiking trails, mountains to climb, and gorges to explore nearly everywhere! Nikko is an especially good place for this. If IES doesn't schedule a group trip there, you should go check it out!

Make sure to travel outside the city as much as you can. As exciting as Tokyo is, you'll have the most fun on your trips outside of it. Try looking up famous festivals in Japan and taking a day trip to visit one. They're always great fun, and you'll get to see and try a lot of new things. Personally, I would recommend the Narita Taiko Festival. If drums are your thing, this is for you! Great food and incredible performances every time you turn around. Make sure to try the Unagidon! If you're looking for something a little closer, head to the Jidai matsuri in Asakusa. Samurai, lords, princesses, shrine maidens, and ninja all in one glorious parade!

Also, keep the climate and weather patterns in mind while you're packing. Spring semester has the rainy season, and fall semester has typhoon season. Typhoon season will break your umbrella, so bring a raincoat instead. You should also keep in mind that most places in Japan don't take cards, so bring cash.

How can this program be improved?
The only real complaint I had with this program was that the way the classes are scheduled, you have to spend all day at the IES student center, or on campus. You can't really finish up your classes in the morning and head out to explore.

It can also be kind of hard if you end up with a class where the teaching style is difficult for you to follow. The professors will try their best to help you, but they don't have office hours or anything like the professors on your home campus, so often you'll just have to tough it out.
Yes, I recommend

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