International Christian University
Tokyo, Japan
10 months

International Experience

I chose this program because the school is located in Tokyo, Japan's capitol city, and because the school has one of the best language programs in Japan. The students here are required to be functionally bilingual by the end of their freshman year in order to continue with their educations; Japanese students take English classes almost exclusively their freshman year, while foreign regular students take 5 hours a day of Japanese (and possibly a PE class) for their first three terms. I was very interested to see what kind of international community that kind of attention to language boundaries would produce.

I wasn't disappointed. Although I wasn't able to see it at first (since I lived and went to school here), ICU is unlike the rest of Tokyo. As a blond American girl wandering through downtown Tokyo, I stood out, people looked, they acted different toward me almost automatically. But on the ICU campus, where 10% of students are foreign, I'm treated as a normal member of the community.

Global House

I chose to live on-campus during my time abroad, and ended up in Global House, the newest dorm. The name is fitting; unlike the rest of the dorms which house around 20 Japanese students and 4-6 foreign students, Global House is literally half-Japanese, half-foreign. The way people end up blending together because of this is fascinating. Global House is also one of the only co-ed dormitories in Japan; a Japanese newspaper even wrote an article about it this year! Another perk is that there are private rooms; four rooms make up each unit, which include a kitchen and shower. Most off-campus dorms don't even have a community kitchen, and include only a public shower. Global House is a pretty luxurious place to live.

Other Housing

Other housing options include men's or women's dormitories on-campus, which are the least expensive places to live, but which require you to share a room, generally with a Japanese person. There are also off-campus dormitories in the Tokyo area with private rooms, but these don't include a kitchen or private toilets/showers. The final options, and possibly the best for serious students of Japanese language, is a homestay. While limited, living with a Japanese family is the best way to learn quickly about Japanese culture, and to use Japanese in every day life.

Mitaka-shi

International Christian University is located in the Mitaka prefecture in West Tokyo. A comparatively up-scale neighborhood, Mitaka is safe and offers students everything they need for daily life: grocery stores, an array of restaurants, shopping centers, banks, salons, even the ever popular 99 yen store (dollar store). While the closest train station (Musashi-sakai) boasts bright lights and towering hotels, ICU itself is positioned in a park, surrounded by beautiful woods (which happen to be crawling with cats), allowing students to take a breath of fresh air away from life in the densest city in the world.