Studying abroad was a really important goal for me in college, and it was one of the things I was most excited to take part in when I committed to Chapman. I decided to study abroad in Japan because I was ready to challenge myself by traveling as far from home as I could. I felt that going somewhere with the potential for a larger culture shock would help to me have a more fulfilling experience. Despite the pandemic pushing my study abroad back one semester, I was finally able to go to Japan in the Fall of 2022! I studied at the Temple University Japan (TUJ) campus, which is located in the Setagaya ward of Tokyo. 

The flight to Japan was the longest trip I had ever been on, and it was also the first time I had ever flown alone. I was so anxious about being able to get from the airport to my dorm all by myself, but there were representatives from TUJ waiting at the airport to make sure that all of us arrived safely. Luckily, I also met some girls going to the same dorm as me, so we split a taxi and eventually they became my best friends in Japan! Our dorm was called Hakusan House, and it was located in Bunkyo, about a 40-minute train ride from campus. I was happy to have a single room, but some of my friends lived with roommates and also really enjoyed it! There were communal kitchens, a laundry room on the top floor, and a room with a projector and bean bags where my friends and I loved to watch movies! The long commute also worried me at first, but I ended up really loving the subway system in Japan because it is so clean and efficient! 

I took four classes at TUJ, which each met only on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This was a great schedule because I had a four-day weekend every week, and with the frequent holidays in Japan I ended up with two week-long breaks which I used to travel to Osaka and Kyoto! TUJ has a combination of study abroad students and full-time students, many of whom are from Japan and want to earn an American degree. The other great thing about TUJ is all of the excursions, clubs, and other programs they offer. There are many different day trips and overnight trips that you can register for which are led by professors and provide really fun experiences! I went on a day trip to Tokyo Dome where my friends and I got to go roller skating, another where we got to practice kintsugi pottery, and one where we did our own glass carving! TUJ faculty also provide advice for students who are planning to travel by themselves, and they make traveling within Japan, or even to another country, much more accessible. 

One of the best things about Tokyo is how walkable it is! My friends and I had so much fun taking the subway to different stops and exploring new parts of the city. There were some specific places I was eager to visit, but some of the best days I had were when I was just wandering by myself and discovering new things. One of my suggestions would be to get a good international phone plan or SIM card, and do some research into your options. One of the biggest drains of my data was using my phone for Google Maps to get around so often! 

I took two separate trips on the bullet train (shinkansen) while I was abroad, once to Osaka and once to Kyoto. The shinkansen was one of my favorite experiences, and I think it’s a must for anyone studying abroad in Japan! It feels like being on a luxury plane, but even better because you can see all of the scenery as you pass by—including Mt. Fuji! When I went to Osaka, I stayed in a hotel by myself for a while, and then moved to an Airbnb-type house with some friends when they joined me a few days later. Both accommodations were really nice, and it was pretty easy to book them online. My friends and I went to Universal Studios Japan which was super fun! I also got the chance to see a performance of Phantom of the Opera at the Osaka Shiki Theatre, visit Osaka Castle, and try some restaurants and cafés that my Japanese friend recommended!

I went to Kyoto a couple weeks later, and spent five days there by myself. Some of my favorite places to visit were the Kiyomizu-dera and Kinkaku-ji temples, especially since I was taking a Japanese Religions course at TUJ. I also went to Arashiyama to see the famous bamboo forest and feed the monkeys at the monkey park! This was a super long day of walking, but definitely a really memorable one for me. I also visited Fushimi Inari Taisha and then took a train to Nara to feed the famous deer! Some of the other things I did in Kyoto included visiting the International Manga Museum and having my portrait drawn, taking a tour through Nijō Castle, and looking down at the city from the top of Tsutenkaku Tower. I would encourage anyone who is going abroad to spend some time on their own, because this helped me to make the most of my travels and get to do all of the things I wanted to! 

That being said, the girls that I met at the airport ended up being my best friends on the trip, and I’m still friends with them! We spent so much time together including exploring our neighborhood, visiting the mini pig and otter cafés in Harajuku,going to Shibuya and visiting a haunted house for Halloween, and eating monja together many many times! Studying abroad was the best experience of my life, and I’m so fortunate that I got to share it with such amazing friends. I never imagined that I would meet such incredible people, and I am so so thankful for that. The entire experience definitely pushed me outside of my comfort zone in a way that I really needed to be pushed, and I came back to the U.S. and Chapman as a much more independent and adaptable person. I recommend studying abroad to anyone who has the ability to do so, and I encourage people who have extensive degrees like I do to talk to their advisors and see if they can make it fit within their four-year plan! I didn’t know if it would be possible for me, but I’m so glad that I stuck with it and I can’t wait to go back someday!

Isabel Wiesber

Temple University Japan

Fall 2022