One big decision you have to make before coming is whether or not to apply for a homestay or a dorm. For this, I chose a dorm and I personally preferred living in a dorm. I think that homestays are a great experience, and most everyone that I knew that had a homestay absolutely loved it. I only heard about one bad experience (and she was able to move to a different homestay), but everyone else says that they were matched pretty much perfectly with a family that they would mesh well with. I think homestays are an amazing way to improve your language skills and develop cultural competency, so if those are your main goals I would 100% recommend it.
However, for me, I get really anxious living with people I don’t know—I have accommodations at my school so I can have a room alone. It takes me a while to get adjusted and I feel like if I had been put in a situation with that many unknowns I think I would have been very overwhelmed. Also, even though the dorm I lived in (Foyer Nanzan) was a 20 minute walk away, I still preferred that versus the very long distances you would have to ride on the subway/train everyday for class. My friends who were in homestays didn’t mind it because they could sleep/do homework and such on the way there, but I think it would’ve been too much for me personally. I also felt like I had a lot more freedom than those in homestays in some senses, just because I didn’t have an obligation to be back home at a certain time.
Since I was put in Foyer, I didn’t get to meet a lot of people in my dorm, but most people are in Janssen and it is a lot more community-based! At Foyer, you get your own room, kitchen, bathroom, washing machine, etc. with no suitemates. I was put there because I am non-binary, and the bottom floor isn’t divided by sex/gender, so that was super accommodating! For Janssen, it is a lot closer to campus: about a 4-minute walk to the main building. It is divided by sex, and you get your own room, but have suitemates—one being a Japanese student. Then, you have communal bathrooms and a laundromat instead of having one just for yourself. There are also more communal areas in Janssen. The bottom floor is welcome to guests; whereas in Foyer there are no guests allowed. A lot of people seemed to really enjoy Janssen, and from being on the guest floor it seems really cool! You don’t get to choose which dorm you get to go to, but most everyone gets into Janssen. Like I said, I was put in Foyer since I am non-binary and it was listed on my accommodation, so that’s why I was put in that one specifically (you can also check out my blog about being trans in Japan if you’d like ;)) There are a couple of other dorms that you can get, but I don’t know too much about them. One of my friends was in Rainbow House and they were provided breakfast and dinner, but at every other dorm you are not given this option. The rules in the dorms are pretty strict, but nothing too stressful! The main thing is just not being allowed to have people in your room, which sucks at first, but there’s plenty of other opportunities to hang out with people outside of it!
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Hello! My name is Macks and I'm a sophomore at the University of Tennessee majoring in Child and Family Studies with a minor in Japanese. I love learning, hiking, reading, and playing the guitar/ukulele. Studying abroad is super important to me and I am so very excited to be able to share my journey with other people :)