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Lux Hileman details what it’s like to study abroad in Japan


To travel the world is a dream for many people, especially young adults in college. The perfect opportunity for this is the Elizabethtown College study abroad program where as a student, you can choose to travel to over 38 countries for either a semester, a year or faculty-led short trip. The best part of this is that most of these programs are relatively cost effective, because they only cost the price of the normal tuition and the cost of your plane tickets.

 For the spring of 2024, I decided to study abroad in Osaka, Japan. I ended up saving money due to the scholarships I received and was able to use this scholarship money towards paying for my plane ticket as well. The advisors through Etown and the school that I chose to study at made the process leading up to studying abroad easy.

To study in Japan, I had to go through the application process of asking my professors to write me letters of recommendation, submitting my own essay applications and getting medical clearance by my personal family doctor. As I chose to go to Japan, I also chose to get the vaccination for one of the viruses only contractible by mosquitos in Japan: Japanese Encephalitis. This ended up costing me a bit more money than I expected, however, it’s expected when traveling abroad that you will need to get additional vaccinations.

In my opinion, the hardest part of studying abroad is the lead-up to getting to the country of your destination. This is because you must apply for a visa, navigate the airports and often make currency exchanges. The way that I had to get my visa was through the mail. This was because I live in Pennsylvania and the nearest Embassy of Japan is in New York City, with the only available appointment times being when I was not available to drive up there for multiple days at a time.So, I sent all my travel documents such as my passport and Certificate of Eligibility (COE) to the embassy through the US Postal Service. 

Another aspect that was hard was the navigation of airports when traveling alone, especially when the country you are traveling to primarily uses a different language. For example, when I arrived at the Haneda airport in Tokyo, it was quite stressful figuring out where to go to board for my connecting flight to Osaka Airport, due to most of the people not speaking English fluently and the terminals being in different buildings that you had to get to by boarding a bus. However, once I got to the school, it became a lot easier to manage traveling around the local area due to the bus and train system being extremely easy to navigate and many places being within walking distance as well.

As for the culture differences, it is obvious to the locals that we are American when traveling abroad in Japan, due to the overall outgoing and bold nature of Americans versus the Japanese locals. An example of this is just in the way that we speak. In general, we talk louder than most of the locals, and it is expected for you to be quiet in public areas like trains. This also includes not answering your cell phone or listening to music loudly in these areas as well. It is also common for students to attend every class. If you are sick, you must have a doctor’s note,whereas in America, we can just email the professor if we don’t feel well.

Some of the positive aspects of studying Japan that I have experienced so far include making friends from various cultures, being able to improve my language skills and traveling around the country to experience aspects unique to Japan. An example of this is that I have made friends from America, South Korea, Japan, England, Germany and Switzerland. I also got to see iconic spots such as the Osaka Castle, Kyoto Imperial Palace and the Osaka Aquarium along with many others.

Overall, I highly recommend studying abroad not only for the language exchange, but also for the unique viewpoint you gain while abroad while experiencing another culture firsthand.