If you are a college student, you might be considering studying abroad sometime during your four years at your university, but making a decision about when and where to study abroad can be a daunting task. For those of you thinking of the possibility of studying abroad in Japan, hopefully this post will be helpful to you.
First, why do you want to study abroad? Have you been to Japan before? Have you always wanted to live in Japan someday? Or, like me, do you want to immerse yourself in the culture and language of Japan? The reason that you are studying abroad is really important to what kind of experience you will have during your stay away from your home country. Honestly speaking, if you want to go to Japan just because its the “dreamland” of anime, manga, fashion, etc, then maybe studying abroad in Japan is not for you.
In the age of globalization, many universities are expanding their study abroad programs; however, depending on your field of study and your college, it may be difficult to find a program that suits you – especially if you want to study in Japan. My knowledge is limited to schools in the United States, but colleges with good international studies programs will generally have a decent selection of study abroad programs – in fact, studying abroad is even required for international studies majors at many universities. Colleges on the west coast of the United States have more developed relations with Japanese institutions, and thus may also have a greater selection of programs to Japan. I go to The Ohio State University, which I partially chose to attend because of the many opportunities to study abroad. At OSU we have 8 programs just for going to Japan, most of them being for either 1 or 2 semesters (September – December or September – May). Make sure to check out what kind of programs your university offers before you start your application.
So, when do most people study abroad? Generally speaking, you need at least 2 years of language study completed before your departure to Japan, along with some prerequisites such as a basic Japanese culture class. This means that most people apply for study abroad their sophomore year of college so that they will be abroad their junior year. This gives them time to take any necessary prerequisite classes. I studied Japanese in high school for four years, so I applied my freshman year and will be in Japan fort he duration of my sophomore year. If you can take an intensive course over a summer and study abroad your sophomore year, I would highly recommend it, as you have time when you return to sort out the transfer of credits and make sure you take all the courses you need in order to graduate on time.
As general advice, make sure you meet with your Adviser before you start applying for study abroad to make sure that you will still be meeting all the requirements for graduation. Many people find themselves needing an extra year after study abroad (which is totally fine), but if you can’t afford to spend another semester or year at University, then the early you start thinking about studying abroad and planning for it, the better!
And finally, the process of applying for study abroad is different at every school, but usually starts in October or November of the year before you hope to be going. Studying abroad is expensive, so try applying for lots of scholarships and check out big ones like JASSO and MEXT, which are provided by the Japanese government. Hope this post helped some of you and good luck!
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