Tickets: #Get them as soon as your Study Abroad counselor says your good to go. If you will wait extra week you will pay extra $100.
Dorm vs Family: # The thing about family stay is that you have a chance to learn way more then you would otherwise. You will get first hand experience on how Japanese live and you will learn 20% more just by being around Japanese people. The family that you will stay usually have either a child or one of the parents who speaks English, therefore sometimes you might end up with a family that speaks English very well. By you living with them, they can practice or their kids can practice English. On most of the occasions only one family member will speak English therefore, most of the conversation will be in Japanese anyway. Females are portrayed to be weaker therefore families, and dorm managers feel like they need to protect them, which might cause higher restriction on when she can come back. Although if you explain what you will be doing and what time you come back there shouldn’t be any problems. #Dorm on the other hand is more self-living. You have a room and not much going on at times. You can move more freely but the dorms still have a curfew, for guys dorm its usually 12, for girls dorm its 10-11pm. If there are other people who speak English you might find yourself speaking English all the time, or people trying to convince you to go out all the time. So I suggest balancing that out. You came to learn Japaneses. In my dorm the washer was free, and you had to pay for drier. Everybody hang their clothes outside to let it dry so there was no need for dryers at times, unless there was no sunny weather for more then a week.
Climate: #It is very hot and humid during summer, so you will sweat a lot. If it gets hot, you will need a bottle of water, or other drink to cool down. So water alone might cost you few hundred over the course of 3 months. Although it is hot, summer is a rainy season therefore it will rain for a while. Usually it will rain for few hours and after that everything clears out. When you are walking from home to school its hot, when you sit in class it will be freezing, so dress appropriately.
KCP program: # Very intense. All classes are in Japanese. You have 3-5 different teachers teaching you over the course of a weekend. One in a morning and different one afternoon. Each time you learn different language structure. They also have an English speaking teacher that is available at certain hours after school to help you out. You will learn fast, so you need to keep up. Getting to know the teachers pays off. If you are going there to slack off, and you speak Japaneses, you might ask around about some kind of internship. You won t get payed, but its something nice to put on your resume.
Money and Traveling: #I suggest taking with you no more then $300. You should exchange $100 dollars when you get to the airport, and the rest as you need it. You can exchange money at City Bank, or at Japans bigger banks like “Mizuho.” The rest of money you can withdraw using your Visa/ MasterCard debit card, or the credit card. Using Japan postal atm is free of charge, so usually you get charged by your bank in US, for LaSalle bank I think it was $1.75. I usually withdrew by $300 or 30,000 yen, which lasted around 3 weeks. #Traveling around city is easy with trains. Trains start to run at 5-6am and end at 12-1am. Be aware that the last trains usually run only to major stations, so if you leave too late you might find yourself getting a taxi cab from major station to yours for $20-$30. Taxi drivers don't know areas really good so you need to know where you live, have address, know nearest train station from your house, or know hot to get to your your house. You can visit a lot of cool places on Saturday/Sunday so use it to your advantage. I went to Fugi mountain, climbed it at night, and got to the top by 4am to see a sunrise. Very interesting place to see, if your in shape, and know what you doing. You will be amazed by the traffic to the top. If you have a place in mind that is few hours away, you can take a bus. In “Shinjuku” station there is a travel agency that has English speaking agents in case you want to explore more. If you plan to travel to other cities after semester ends you can buy a train pass that will take you where you want. Of course having a plan is a must. Also have your insurance on you, you might use it. #Also be aware that airport is more then hour away from a city, and it costs at least $20 to get from airport to city. So if you are going to Tokyo earlier, have a place to stay by the airport or in the city, before you get there. #Have some clothes, and make sure you can survive two-three days without luggage as luggage gets sometimes lost if you take multiple routs to get to Tokyo.
Trains: #My program KCP, covered train travel, therefore it wasn’t that much of a problem. The big stations like “Shinjuku” will have a lot of maps with train lines so you want to pick one up there. Get one that has Tokyo and suburbs as usually you will be living outside of Tokyo. Whether you stay at dorm or with a family you will be travel around 30min-1h30min each day, each way. My dorm was 1h 10min away, which is an average for Japanese. In the morning 8-9 am the trains are packed with people so sometimes it will get really hot on the train, and you rarely get a seat. Trains in Tokyo are a great thing. You can go anywhere you want as long as you have a train map, so always have on you.
Food: #If you don't read or speak good or at all Japanese, ordering food might be a hassle sometimes, but people who work at restaurants usually understand where you are coming from, so you shouldn't have problems. In first few days I suggest walking around and see what is around. I realized almost at the end of trip that there was a great restaurant right next to where i lived. Bigger restaurants have pictures so that makes it easy. Tokyo has a lot of American restaurants such as McDonald, Wendy's, etc. I suggest not eating there. Your are in Japan you should try Japanese food, its great and it blow your mind away. When you comeback you don't want to tell people that you didn't try any Japanese food.
Books: #My program has given us books. If you are serious about learning Japaneses investing in electronic translator is a must. It will save you a bunch of hours when you study. At book stores you can buy these huge posters they have wit Kanji for elementary school kids. They might get helpful when memorizing them.
Law: #Obey the law. No crossing over street unless there is a “walk” sign, you might get a ticket. Watch out for cars they drive on the other side. Clubs usually check your age so you might need your passport.
Friends and other: # You can post a note at http://www.japan-guide.com/ you can see if anybody in your area is interested to meet up. Or you can just start having conversation in Japanese over email. #If you are going with your friends and planing to live together, you can visit: http://www.sakura-house.com/ You could find an apartment for 600-800 a month, so if there is more of you, you could save on housing and maybe find it closer then your dorm could be. Be aware that some housing have a gratitude fee, which is an extra monthly rent which you give at the end of your stay. So if you are getting an apartment make sure there is no such fee. #If you want to find some helpful tips on Japaneses language you can visit http://www.thejapanesepage.com/ which has a bunch of study examples and quick phrases you will need to order food, or to get around.
# If you have any questions let me know at: firstname.lastname@example.org Lukasz Szybalski (Rukasu Shibarusuki)