Adjusting to life in Japan: A short how-to guide.

Photos by Ayesha Abid, (Georgia State University) Student Correspondent CET Japan, Summer 2017

Living on your own can be hard; living on your own in a country that doesn’t speak your language is an adventure.

Doing the CET Japan program means that your life long dream of living in Japan will be coming true. It does stop feeling like a dream very quickly, however, when you realize that your two years of language study (in my case) haven’t prepared you to ask a supermarket clerk where the cooking oil is.

So here are my top tips to prepare you for life in Japan:

  1. Study as much as you can before you arrive. I know that sounds terrible, but when I first arrived I realized just how much Japanese I did not know. Some of your first assignments will also help learn how to communicate basic things, but if there is something in particular you do, that you want to continue to do in Japan, I would study that particular vocabulary. I like to cook, but the only things I knew how to ask for were carrots and most meals need more than carrots.
  2. Make a list of things you want to do. If you are not staying in Japan before or after the program, limit that list to the Osaka and Kyoto area. Most people think of Tokyo when they think of Japan, but the program takes place in Osaka. It’s a beautiful suburban city, but it is nowhere close to Tokyo. It also probably would not be feasible to make Tokyo a weekend trip. Osaka and Kyoto are full of amazing places to visit that you can visit over the weekend. The summer program is also very short. Right now, I am two weeks in, and it is already 1/4 of the way done. Use your list to prioritize, so the program doesn’t end without you doing what you wanted to have done the most.
  3. Make a budget for yourself. Living on your own means having to go out shop for meals, paying for travel, and paying to have fun on your own. Don’t forget to factor in souvenirs for your family and friends too. The cost of living in Osaka is slightly higher for me than it was in Atlanta, but it is possible not to spend a ton of money. On the CET cost breakdown, it lists $1,700 as the average out of pocket money students spend on things that are not included in the program. I don’t eat out every day, and shop at the supermarket where things are cheaper than the convenience stores. So I am well below budget, even though I do travel with my classmates.
  4. Have fun! The program is intensive and there are points where you will feel this overwhelming need to stay home and study, but you can’t just lock yourself up in your room forever. Going out with your housemates even if it’s just to the closest 7/11 can help you de-stress.
  5. Communicate with your teachers. If you’re massively overwhelmed and need to drop to an easier class, or if you are not going to get credit for your current class and need to move up, it’s better to get that worked out earlier rather than later so you aren’t switching classes close to an exam, or when it will be almost impossible to catch up.
  6. Get acquainted with all of your housemates. Most university students have part time jobs, so your Japanese partner may not always be home. In case of emergency, homework deadlines, etc. its best to be on good terms with everyone you’re living with. Setting on Line chat helps everyone locate each other quickly and if you have a question chances are that someone will be online and be able to answer.