Studying abroad is one of the most exhilarating, challenging things that a student is ever likely to do during their academic career. Students today can go anywhere in the world. While Europe, the USA, and Australia are all common choices among exchange students, a somewhat-hidden gem for exchange students is Japan – specifically, Tokyo. With a population of thirteen million people, one could be forgiven for assuming that Tokyo is too densely populated to be an ideal student exchange location. But those individuals would also be wrong. Surrounded by stunning natural landscapes and rich with cultural vibrancy and immersion, Tokyo is a wondrous place that is as diverse as it is whimsical. More and more exchange students from around the world are making the Japanese gem on the map their chosen exchange destination. It is not difficult to understand why.
With a chaotic, exciting pace of life and an abundance of things to see and do (including, but not limited to, ancient temples, sweeping, bright city streets, and powdery snow on the outskirts and in the surrounding mountains during the Winter season), Tokyo has earned its place as one of the most-visited destinations in the world annually, and it should be on every student’s travel list…so why not take the leap of faith and take your exchange in Tokyo? (you won’t regret it). When any student makes the decision to adventure outside of their comfort zone, there are many questions that are asked. Students want to know how to travel around Tokyo, where to stay in Tokyo and what there is to do in Tokyo. These are all excellent questions, especially for first timers, finding one’s way around Tokyo can be a little tricky to navigate.
First and foremost, while learning an entirely new language is not something that every traveller has time for (particularly if you are studying), it pays to at least learn a few words and key phrases. Such words and phrases include ‘hello’, ‘goodbye’, ‘thank you’, ‘no thank you’, ‘my name is ____’, and ‘do you speak English?’. It may sound strange to even bother learning only a few key phrases and words, but these are the phrases and words that can make your life abroad a whole lot easier. Generally speaking, you will find that there are some people that speak English just about anywhere in Japan, but going to the effort to try to master their language speaks volumes of your respect and willingness to embrace the entire experience, and the locals will pick up on that.
Japan is a country that is abundant with beautiful, unforgettable sights and destinations. In Tokyo, there is an incredible wealth of things to see and do. There are astonishing temples and shrines that are both ancient in build and timeless in nature. There is also (arguably Japan’s most infamous destination of them all) Mt Fuji, a cool two and a half hours train ride from Tokyo city. With so much to see and do, it can be overwhelming to figure out how exactly you are supposed to be able to fit it all in. The Japan Rail is Japan’s most efficient, speedy mode of public transport (and considering the fact that Japan’s public transport as a whole is quite time efficient, that is really saying something). A JR pass can be bought for $250USD. This pass gives you unlimited access to any JR line in the country for a full week – including the high-speed trains.
If you are travelling to Tokyo from a western country especially, take hand sanitizer with you. In Japan – including Tokyo and its surrounds – finding soap dispensers in public restrooms is not common. Having hand sanitizer on call and on person will make your life infinitely easier (and cleaner) while you see the sights and get your school work done. Additionally, buying a Wifi hotspot at the airport is a must if you want to have full coverage during your time in Tokyo (whether it be a few days or a few months), and if you want to have unfiltered access to websites during your time in the city, activate and hold close a VPN. This will make your studying, research, and travelling time so much more efficient and in line with what you are used to, rather than being pulled out of your comfort zone entirely.
Japan as a whole is a stunning country with rich history and astonishing natural landscapes. There is no doubt about this fact. but Tokyo in and of itself is an unforgettable destination that somehow manages to weave together all the best and brightest things that Japan has to offer, as well as throwing in some unique locational traits and sights that are only possible in Tokyo. Exchange students from around the world are increasingly opting to come to Tokyo to broaden their global awareness and to breathe in the air of a different, exciting place than they would normally venture out to. Anywhere else in the world, there is nowhere quite like Tokyo. A student exchange experience in Tokyo is bound to be unlike anything else you have ever done or seen.