Curious to know what studying abroad in Japan is like as a high schooler? Click to listen to the first episode of the Greenheart Travel Podcast! This recording was taken from a live Q&A moderated by Allison Yates, Associate Director of High School and Short Term Programs. Our guests include High School Abroad in Japan alum, Maddy, and future exchange student, Jasmine.
Jasmine: One of my questions for Maddy is, did you have a phone while you were in Japan. If so, did you have a phone plan for while you were in Japan so you could contact your host family while you were in Japan?
Maddy: Most phones come locked in America, but I had had an iPhone 6 for 3 years, which meant my phone was no longer locked so I could buy a sim card and buy a plan in Japan. Or what I did was I found a place, If I can find where I bought it they sold plans that were specific for people who were going to study or teacher. Especially if you were a student you got a discount. So, I think it was only 25 a month and you got unlimited data. I was like 7GB of 4G. I never used 7 GB and I was completely fine. And then in Japan, they use Line and lot which is a texting app.
I had texting and phone just for emergencies. I could receive a phone call or a text for free, but if I sent a text or started a phone call I would have to pay.
Jasmine: How much were you able to contact your family when you were in Japan? How many times in a week or a month?
Maddy: So I’m not really the type that needs to contact their family. I don’t think I was homesick at all, which is kind of terrible. I had a group chat online with my family, so we would text. Money, I would talk about, or something specific. I have a twin brother, so we would text insults to each other. And then you know on my birthday and stuff, I was able to call. I don’t think I ever called unless I had a specific purpose like I needed to talk about money or it was Christmas, or around my birthday. I think Thanksgiving I called.
Jasmine: So on like major holidays you were able to contact them.
Maddy: Yeah, so for me, on the East Coast, there is a 13 hour time difference. So when it’s night here it’s morning there and vice versa. So you have to consider that difference, but it’s not hard to call. I mean you can like wake up Sunday morning and like call your family but it will be Saturday night there.
Allison: What recommendations would you have for her to like right away feel comfortable wherever she’s at?
Maddy: For me, food was kind of an issue when I first got there. Of course, I was actually sick so I was actively vomiting like all the time when I first got there. So that was kind of terrible. If you’re just okay with eating literally anything it’s easier to get used to. If you use chopsticks it’s easier to get used to.
And then, I guess with your host family, it really depends on what your host family is like. And I think it’s like actually like how comfortable you feel immediately depends on your host family. If they’re treating you special, like, it might be harder to adjust. But if they are treating you like a member of their family like taking you under. My family picked me up, brought me over, and then immediately sent me up to my room to get my stuff together and my host sister came with me. Then they immediately started watching TV and through dinner, they watch TV too. They encouraged me to sit on the couch and stuff. They weren’t making me take the first bath or anything.
Maybe even ask your host family if you see them treating you special, you know, ask them maybe not to.
Allison: That’s a really interesting thing you bring up. Because I think sometimes people are like, ‘well I’m just here and it should be a big deal that I’m here.’ I mean I had that perception when I went abroad, I remember. But it’s a really good point you bring up that it’s actually better for you if you’re just like one of the other members of the family.
Jasmine: How much money did you spend while you were in Japan per month and did you have a credit card or did you just use cash? What type of system did you have?
Maddy: So I had a hard time keeping track of how much money I spent. I probably spent between like $150 and 300. Now granted, my host family was very nice and when we went out to eat they’d pay for me. So for some reasons I spent a bit less. And then if I ever went on trips you have to cover hotel costs and food costs so I would pay extra money for that. But in general, I probably spent $200.
I’d actually advise against buying too much stuff while you’re there. I ended up buying too much stuff and I had to ship stuff back and one of my boxes was robbed from and I lost like $800 worth of stuff I had bought.
Allison: Oh no!
Maddy: Yeah, yeah. I have insurance for it, I haven’t gotten my insurance money back. But I would warn against that, just be aware. Especially US Customs will search everything you sent. If you have something really packed neatly, like I had a box full of books and they opened it and I got it in a different box, just everything thrown in there haphazardly. So I would just say to pay attention to how much you’re buying because there is that risk.