Betsy Colon - 2017 Program Participant

What inspired you to go abroad?

I had never traveled before and I was very interested in learning a new language. I thought going abroad would be the best way to achieve that!

Why did you choose CISabroad?

I chose CISabroad's summer in Japan program because it seemed perfect for me as a working student about to graduate. I don't have the time to take a semester off and go abroad, but I certainly had a month during my break to spare! It is also a bit more affordable of a program for me.

What was your favorite part about Tokyo?

I loved how efficient Tokyo is. It's crowded but there is always a way to make sure everything's always moving. Just standing on the left side if you're not in a rush makes a huge difference to somebody who is late for work or school! I also loved how friendly everybody was. Although I struggled to speak their language, they still patiently waited for me to try and get my message across.

International and local students at Seisen University in Tokyo, Japan

Me and some friends I made!

What made your experience abroad unique?

I was able to wear a yukata while walking around harajuku and I got to experience a traditional tea ceremony. I even got chosen to make the tea at a ceremony. I felt so special!!

How did local staff support you throughout your program?

Everybody was so easy to reach if I had any problems. I was given advice, directions and everything in between. They helped me stay a day longer and they even helped me get a bus to get to the airport when the program ended. They went above and beyond to help me with everything I needed!

What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?

I don't regret anything from this program. I had such a great time every single day with all my new friends. Everything I did always had a great outcome in the end!

Describe a typical day in the life of your program.

We walked to the train from our hotel rooms to get to school by 9. We then walked from the train to school. It was uphill, so it was hard to get use to..but the walk is beautiful! You pass by a lot of small shops to get yummy food. We had class from about 9:30-4:20. We were given the option of taking one class for two weeks and another for the last two weeks. I took Japanese all four weeks. So I learned Japanese Monday-Friday from 9:30-4:30. I went out somewhere everyday after school to get the most out of my experience. The school is in Gotanda which is right next to the Yamanote Line. This line takes you about everywhere with ease (shinjuku, shibuya, akihabara, etc)! On the weekends I went on my longer train rides. I went to puroland (about an hour and a half away), Disneyland (about an hour away), kamakura (about an hour or so away) and the imperial palace!

Participants of a summer study abroad program in Tokyo, Japan

Everybody in our program!

What did you enjoy doing in your free time?

I loved going to Shibuya. I was born and raised in Miami so I am very use to late nights and shopping. Shibuya was the perfect place for me. There was so much to do and everything was open so late! I went almost every Friday night, even if it was just to have dinner!

What was your accommodation like? What did you like best about it?

Our accommodation was at a flexstay in a pretty local area. There weren't many tourists where we stayed. I loved that about our area because we were able to really see the regular, quiet side of Tokyo. We were also near a bunch of ramen places and an awesome shopping street! The rooms were small (picture a one person dorm room) but it wasn't uncomfortable at all. I felt very happy in my room! They also have a stove, a microwave, fridge, cooking supplies etc already :) That helped me a lot because I didn't have to eat out everyday! I saved money just by cooking at home.

What is one thing every participant should know before participating in your program?

Go with an open mind. Don't be afraid to speak a new language (even if it's just hello) and don't be afraid to try new foods! You'd be surprised at yourself at how different you can be just by leaving your comfort zone. You're in a new country, really enjoy yourself to the fullest!

International students wearing yukata in Harajuku, a neighborhood in Tokyo, Japan

Yukata wearing in harajuku

What was the hardest part about studying abroad?

The hardest part for me was the noise level. I am from Miami, I am use to very loud people and very loud music. I noticed in Japan I was almost always too loud for the locals, but I felt I was talking at a normal pitch. It was hard to adjust at first! I also struggled with the pace that they have in school at first. They go much faster than they do in America but it's more than do-able once you get the hang of it!

What surprised you most about Tokyo?

I was surprised at how LATE everything closed! There was always something to do because there was always something open. My friends and I did karaoke until 6 am as one of our last nights together!

How difficult was it to communicate with locals?

I'd say it was fairly easy to communicate with locals. In my experience they were very patient with me when I tried to slowly say something in Japanese (some even corrected me to help me out!)

What is one thing you wish you would have known before studying abroad in Japan?

I wish I had known how easy it is to get around. I didn't expect to have so many options for fun. I would have saved more money for adventures!

If you could study abroad again, where would you go?

I would love to go to Japan again and to learn even more of the language. But if I could go somewhere else, I would pick Spain to perfect my Spanish.

What do you feel the biggest benefit of studying abroad is?

You gain so much experience from it. You learn how another culture works, you learn some of a new language and you get to try all sorts of food and drinks! You make connections with people you never would have thought you could make. It helps you grow as a person and gives you a new perspective of the world. You get out of your comfort zone and are changed for the better!

Last day of summer study abroad program at Seisen University in Tokyo, Japan

Me next to the university's sign on our last day of school

Do you have any packing tips for individuals headed to Tokyo?

Pack comfortable shoes (you're going to be walking A LOT) and a sturdy purse/bookbag to hold all your items in one place when you're out and about. Make sure to leave room in your luggage before you leave for souvenirs. In my program, there was a person that had to buy a suitcase to fit all their stuff going back. I half packed two suitcases so when I came back I packed one with my clothes and one with my souvenirs! Try to think ahead and save yourself some money.

Now that you're home, how has your program abroad impacted your life?

I made amazing connections and new friendships I didn't know I could have. I am always trying to talk about my time abroad. I enjoyed my time and I changed so much that I want others to experience the same happiness.

Would you recommend your program/provider to others? Why?

A MILLION TIMES YES! You get so much in so little time. Everybody is so amazing and the program is just so immersive! You'll really get the best experience from CISabroad.