Pardon my delay in posting. Orientation week has turned out to be time consuming.
I provide the following for reference, but things are bound to change over time. So it is best to always refer to the updated material provided by Meiji University for more detail.
Orientation week is actually more like ‘weeks,’ as in two. The reason I say that it's more than one week is because there are at least six mandatory meetings (depending on field of study, Japanese placement, if staying at school dormitory, among other things) that happen to be scheduled days apart. These meetings potentially could all fit in to one week, or even crammed in to a single day if they really wanted, but instead Meiji University spreads them out over the course of two weeks. And yet it's still called "Orientation Week" for some reason. Truthfully though it's nice that the meetings do leave plenty of room between each other because there is a lot of information to assimilate.
It is nice to review the information and gather ones thoughts before moving on to the next orientation meeting, but within those breaks there are many other necessary tasks. For example, in order to adjust to a new life in Japan one must do things such as shopping for food, trash bags (Japanese separate their trash in specially marked bags, it's different in every area so find out the guidelines when you get here), and any other needs or things that will simply make studying abroad more comfortable. Thankfully Meiji University gives international students the two weeks to get situated, while attending the many orientation meetings, before classes officially start. The grace period is extremely helpful.
It’s very important to take care of some things before the first orientation starts. Because it’s required by law, everyone who stays in Japan on a student visa needs to go to the local City Hall (Shiyakusho, 市役所) or Ward Office (Kuyakusho, 区役所) within 14 days from the day they arrived. Bring your Passport, the Residence Card (Zairyū kādo, 在留カード, as of July 9, 2012 everyone with a long-term visa automatically receive this Residence Card by the Immigration Authorities at the international airports), the address of where you will be living, and some money for fees (likely less than ¥1,000, but could be different depending on the area) in order to do the following three things:
Once you have done those three things make copies of everything. Copy your passport information page, passport landing permission page, Certificate of Residence, National Health Insurance card, and the front and back of the Residence Card which now has your new address written on it. At the first orientation Meiji University is going to request the copies as well as the original Certificate of Residence. If by chance you don’t have all of these documents by the first orientation then Meiji University will allow you to bring the missing item(s) to the second orientation which should be scheduled only a couple of days later.
There is no need to know how to do any of the above on your own as long as you request assistance beforehand. In order to request assistance, Meiji University will send an Arrival Form by e-mail more than a month before the arrival date. If assistance is selected as being desirable on the Arrival Form then Meiji University will arrange to send the student group called Campus Mate (www.facebook.com/campusmate2014) to your new residence in Japan. Volunteer students of Campus Mate will accompany, assist, and answer any questions.
Six things to consider about Health Insurance. First, Meiji University requires that all students register for the Japanese National Health Insurance as well as the Meiji University's own Student Health Insurance (onetime payment of ¥2,500). Second, the premium for the National Health Insurance is different in every area and is also determined by one's annual income in Japan for the previous year. Which means foreigners such as international students who haven't earned any income in Japan the previous year can report no income for at least the first year; by reporting no income the premiums are at a much lower rate. Third, the Japanese National Health Insurance covers 70% of the health care costs. The Meiji University's Student Health Insurance covers the remaining out-of-pocket expenses as long as you go to one of 160 affiliated healthcare facilities. There are also clinics on each campus. The Japanese National Health Insurance card and Student ID must be carried at all times and shown for benefit. Even if you receive care outside of their network they will still reimburse a portion of the costs as long as you submit a claim. Fourth, if for whatever reason you don’t sign up for both the National Health Insurance and the school’s Student Health Insurance then Meiji University will cancel your class registration and will not issue a transcript. Fifth, again for whatever reason you still choose not to register for the National Health Insurance at first, but then decide to register at a later date, the local government will still back charge you for the months you did not sign up regardless of whether or not you needed it. Sixth, Southern Utah University Study Abroad programs also require students to have health insurance. The required Japanese National Health Insurance and Meiji University Student Health Insurance are most likely sufficient for most peoples needs, but it is still recommended by both SUU and Meiji University to get Travel Health Insurance to help cover any additional unforeseen costs in the event of an emergency.
In the orientations Meiji University will hand out many documents such as school guidelines, the academic calendar, syllabus, and information on academic adviser, registration dates, student ID cards, commuter passes (these are discounted rates to ride the trains), fitness center, health insurance, and medical checkup for all incoming students. Many of the orientations are mandatory for all international students. However some of the orientations are only intended for those at differing student housing, schools/departments, and then there are also Japanese placement tests for those studying Japanese Language and/or are taking classes taught in Japanese.
Meiji University does teach classes in English through several different schools. Although most of the classes being offered at Meiji University are only taught in Japanese which require proficiency in the language. Japanese ability will be determined by the web placement test and oral interview during orientation week. In order to find out which classes are available please refer to the curriculum of the schools (http://www.meiji.ac.jp/cip/english/undergraduate/index.html) as well as the syllabus of classes that you might be interested in. The syllabus of classes can be viewed by logging in as a guest online at Oh-o! Meiji (https://oh-o2.meiji.ac.jp/portal/index/).
Do not try to figure out all of this stuff on your own. As I mentioned earlier, Meiji University has support groups such as Campus Mate available anytime to help students. Another support group available at the School of Global Japanese Studies is the Nihongo Corner (www.facebook.com/GJSnihongo) which also consists of students that are willing to help with your Japanese or anything else. Both groups hold several activities throughout the semester so be sure to check them out. Not only are these groups available to help, but the International Student Center of Meiji University also always encourage students to stop by their offices which are located at each campus. Every student is given an academic adviser to help with registering for classes who should also be available for questioning. And if that wasn't enough there are also counselors available to discuss any topic.
One thing that still puzzles me is that Meiji University is having all incoming International Students register for classes days after they start. This semester classes will officially start on Monday September 21st, but then Tuesday and Wednesday there will be no classes because of national holidays, and then finally on Thursday September 24th register. It seems bazaar, but on Monday I'll attend the classes I would like to take and then actually register on Thursday. Just like SUU, Meiji University allows their students to register for classes online, but why they can't simply open it up to International Students is beyond me.
Apply to study abroad at Meiji University! It's a great school with excellent faculty, staff, and the facilities are top of the line.
Welcome to the first post detailing my adventures studying abroad in Japan at Meiji University. This is an exciting opportunity. I hope this blog will be of some use to other students thinking of studying abroad as well as anyone else interested in visiting Japan.
Without going into detail about my background I first want to share my thoughts of studying abroad. In order to do that let's go back in time to when I was a bright eyed and bushy-tailed study abroad applicant seeking an exchange program. In this post I'm not going to give a play-by-play of the whole process, but rather a glance of the opportunities as well as my own motivation and concerns at the time.
Unsure of the possibilities. Wondering if studying abroad would be the best use of my time and money. I decided to take a look at SUU's Global Engagement Center's semester programs. There I found many opportunities to study abroad in different parts of the world ranging from Argentina and all the way back here to the United States of America. Yes it's apparently even possible to study within North America in a National Student Exchange. As interesting as it would be to study in another state (thinking of my home away from, Hawaii), the Bahamas, or Switzerland, my eyes were mainly set only on Japan. Meiji University in Tokyo offers spring, fall, and full year exchange programs with many areas of study and I eagerly chose them.
Can spending time abroad be deemed worthwhile? Absolutely! There's no telling the magnificent things that one will experience while delving into a different culture. Productive use of one's time is achievable intellectually, academically, and socially while studying abroad. What's truly difficulty with time is that it's fleeting and mysterious to procrastinators such as myself. There's never enough time to do everything, but all the time in the world to do nothing. Or better yet, "There's never enough time to do all the nothing you want" as Calvin and Hobbs so eloquently put it. However, if I were to do nothing then I would accomplish nothing and that's no good.
Despite my desire to study abroad I had always felt like it would result in living beyond my means. Student debt is a crippling problem in the US and I had decided long ago that if I couldn't finance at least most of my own schooling then I shouldn't go until I could. Money can be difficult to come by as a college student. I strongly dislike any debt and generally pay things off immediately, but like many others I gratefully utilize Federal grants and loans as necessary. Those that are financially strapped though should seek additional support from scholarships like the Global Engagement EDGE Scholarship if using the study abroad program as your SUU EDGE Global Project; the scholarship is available during the study abroad application. Other worthwhile scholarships are the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, Japan Bridging Scholarship, and many others found here.
When money is the main concern, find solace in knowing that exchange students pay tuition to the financial department at their home school, a.k.a. SUU. That's right, when studying abroad the exchange student pays the regular full time tuition costs of the home school even though they'll be studying at the partner school somewhere else in the world. Taking that into account, realistically the time and money that's necessary to study abroad will be spent one way or the other; regardless of attending school at home or abroad. Not only that, but Federal grants and loans can be applied to the tuition even when studying abroad. As is normally the case with financial aid, any offered federal grants and scholarships should be accepted first before considering taking out a loan.
I do strongly suggest students only apply to study abroad if enough money is at their disposal to cover the tuition, books, travel, housing, and food as well as enough set aside in case of any unforeseen emergency. It is after all unlikely that students will be allowed to work while studying abroad so don't count on that offsetting any of the costs.
Afraid to live far away from everything and everyone you've ever known? I too know that feeling as I will miss my friends and family. Missing others and one's home is natural, but nowadays just think of all the ways we have at our disposal to stay in contact with each other. Even while abroad people are going to want to hear from you. Social media in all its forms will in some capacity help fill this void.
Time, money, and people were the top three things that I contemplated before I finally applied. As I've just explained those three concerns initially held me back when they shouldn't have. The unforeseen opportunities to meet new people is exhilarating. I highly recommend taking a look at the what the Global Engagement Center at SUU can offer. Go to school and earn credits while studying abroad!