Weighing the pros and cons of my two-week trip in Japan studying International Relations at JF Oberlin University, the cons beat the pros easily. I’m sure other people had great experiences and great things to say about Japan itself and the study abroad program, however that’s just not how I felt about it. Of course there were a couple things that I enjoyed and some people that I met that I had fun with, however none of those memories were worth the overall emotional and physical pain that the program put me through.
First, I would like to say that it is not UTC’s fault at all. I think that relying on a third party program to help your students while they are in a new country across the world can be difficult and that the third party program should be held responsible for the ridiculous circumstances that I was put through. While completing two weeks in Japan for the International Relations course, the first week we were in class for about 5 hours a day and the second week we were in class for 8 hours a day. This is not including the two hour trip it takes to get to the university and then get home.
Also we were not given many of our activities and schedule lists until the week before our program or the day of. This made it harder for just about everyone to be able to plan their own personal activities and schedule out their day. On top of that, our hotels were extremely small and bathrooms were uncomfortable. I understand that almost everything in Japan is a lot smaller, however the pictures and the way that CIS talked about the hotels did not make it seem that we would be in this situation.
Also, the hotels didn’t include things like extra towels or house cleaning service which meant we would have to pay for our own laundry services. I found this to be extremely frustrating as I paid $4,000 for 2 weeks knowing that the activities and the hotel costs and the institution payments did not equal that. Furthermore, our school schedules were constantly changed and our class assignments were forever being adjusted.
Now let’s focus on some positives. I did go see Mount Fuji which was extremely breathtaking and I went to Jiyugaoka district which I spent around 7 hours in. Mount Fuji was extremely beautiful. The guided tour was amazing. Of course this was something personal that I did so everything was out of my own pocket, but it was still a nice relief from the busy Tokyo as I am not a city girl. Jiyugaoka district was by far the most amazing area of Tokyo that I saw. I did so much shopping in that area and found clothes that fit me perfectly. There were so many cute little shops and stores and everybody was so polite. It was a much calmer and quieter area than Tokyo which, again, was a great relief for me.
Overall, I am very disappointed in my trip. Getting there was such a hassle with my flight, being there was such a hassle with the school, and then afterwards it was still a hassle as I still had an assignment to complete and had to deal with the possibility of this affecting my gpa. It’s made me not want to be encouraging to future students or even my kids if they ever wanted to go on a study abroad trip.
Helene Haile (BS Psychology and Political Science) spent the Summer 2023 semester studying abroad in Tokyo, Japan through CIS Abroad. Helene had the following to say about studying abroad, “Just have more money than you think you will need and ads an extra 2 weeks for personal travel.”
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