Lizzie Lawrence is studying Asia Pacific Studies with Japanese at the University of Central Lancashire, and she's about a week away from going to do her year abroad at Akita International University in Japan (in the 'Scotland of Japan' to be precise). She says, "Since I have been doing a large amount of planning for this, I want to share some tips with other future travellers," so here is her advice about packing, money, travel and contacts...
Tokyo, Japan - beautiful, peaceful, collegiate, metropolitan, suburb
Living in a homestay with an elderly, conservatively-minded couple for 10 months was a trial at times, but ultimately a good experience as my language and cultural experience improved immensely. I really enjoyed my stay there, although I did face a bit of a problem when a change in teaching took place half-way through the course, which badly affected my study at the International Christian University. There's loads to do and see in Tokyo, so you'll never be bored and with the great transport system, you can get around easily and efficiently, even if you want to go further afield from the town centre.
Considering a year abroad, but not sure whether you will be better suited to Europe or East Asia? Here are some important factors to consider before filling out your year abroad destination forms!
Despite what people may know about sushi, when I got to Fukuoka I realised that my biggest problems would be gastronomic. I was studying Japanese, and had very little knowledge about Japanese food, so when I found that I did not know what any food was, I struggled to find food that I liked, or knew how to describe. The social life was brilliant though - what a city! I stayed in a dormitory with 100 people, so I made quick friends there. Nearby there are restaurants, game places, bars, etc. and in the city centre there is even more choice. I went to Tokyo, Hiroshima (twice), Kumamoto, Oita and Kagoshima.
If I had the chance I would definitely go to Osaka again - the place is great as it is close to cultural places such as Kyoto and Nara and the big metropolitan city of Osaka. My host family were definitely the highlight of the trip as I am in still in contact with them now, but the university itself was dire. Kansai Gaidai University wasn't very good in terms of actually improving my Japanese - the language lessons were only 50 minutes a day for spoken language learning and 3x 50 minute lessons a week for writing. The 'big international section' they boasted about was solely for the Japanese students, as all of the foreigners were put together, and with more than half being American and a great number of the rest being Australian it meant that there were a great number of lazy English speaking students around who did not use their Japanese, if they even were able to speak it, on a daily basis. The highlight though was being able to stay with a host family. As they didn't speak English, I was forced to use my Japanese and because of them I learned more Japanese and experienced more of the Japanese culture.