Thursday, 5 August 2010

FAS at UKC –Costs of Japan

For Anthropology Students at the University of Kent in Canterbury

One of the biggest worries and one of the biggest reasons people dropped out of the Japan program in my year, was money issues. It’s the one problem everyone faces and needs to know a lot of information on, but unfortunately, it’s the least informed subject. When I joined Social Anthropology with a year in Japan at UKC there were 20 other students joined up, and now there are only 6 going. Ok, so money wasn’t the only issue, each person had their own reasons for dropping out, but this one was a huge factor in many of them, and hopefully what I’m about to say will help.

Ok, so you’re planning to study for a year abroad. Holy crap where do you start!? How much will you need to survive on your own in a place far away from your family!? Well one thing I think is that it’s just like going to University normally…only it’s on the other side of the world instead of about 100miles away. Well, when I say it’s just like going to University normally, I’m referring to the costs. People say “Ahhh Japan is so expensive to live in!” And yes it is, but only if you’re going to Tokyo. Going to Tokyo is like going to London, it is expensive. But move out of the capital and the prices are very reasonable. University accommodation is roughly 400,000 yen for the year, at the current exchange rate that’s about £3000, which is roughly the same cost as a year in Parkwood houses, or a shared house in Canterbury (possibly even cheaper). Do you want to know the best thing about it? Your maintenance loan will cover the cost! \o/ Or at least it should do (did mine). When it comes to actually getting round to paying your 400,000-odd-yen for the year, your University in Japan will tell you more information on how to do it when you’ve been accepted (which is really early on in the year).

Second scary costs: Flights! People tell me “London to Tokyo flights are the most expensive in the world, they must be at least £1000!” Wrong! Well actually they’re right, but you’re not going to be flying to Tokyo (unless you go to Waseda –I’ll explain more on that another time). I got an open return ticket to Kansai International airport in Osaka for £731 with Emirates (and airline I strongly suggest for its 30kg luggage weight limit –most are 20kgg and not enough for a years worth of luggage). A friend of mine who IS going to Tokyo got hers for around £500, but that was with Ryan air I think (one I suggest not getting –you get what you pay for). Another great thing about this is that your maintenance loan will cover the cost for your flights as well! This is because at UKC because you are studying abroad you only pay HALF the normal tuition fee, so the other half of money that the loans company would put towards tuition, goes onto your maintenance. That’s roughly £1600 to UKC and about £4300 to you to cover accommodation and flights! One note: the only money that goes to the Japanese university is accommodation. You DO NOT pay the Japanese University’s tuition fee (which can be a lot). This is because UKC and the Japanese University’s have set up something so we just say UKC. Win!

The third big scary cost is basic living. Now, with exchange rates changing ALL the time it’s hard to say exactly the costs, but I think of it as being the same as it is living at University in England. Food is cheap if you buy it and cook it yourself, but expensive if you go out every night, and the prices in Japan and England for food are roughly the same (possibly even cheaper in Japan). Travel will be the highest cost, especially if you want to visit the local sights, but it really does depend on where you go. I think I will give a better update on the day to day costs when I get out there and have a better picture of what it’s like. At the moment I’m putting aside £200 a month for basic living and transport costs.

The holidays are the best time to travel and see Japan, but can be the most costly. This is what you want to save up extra for (besides basic food). A bus across Japan can be ridiculously cheap (cheaper then England ie £30 for a bus from Osaka to Tokyo), or you can get the Shinkansen (bullet train) for £100 from Osaka to Tokyo, or fly which would be £150 from Osaka to Tokyo. In Japan it really is a case of you get what you pay for. Accommodation is the most difficult to work out because, like anywhere, there are always places trying to rip-off the foreigners. Do your research!!! I did and found Sakura House, accommodation in Tokyo which accommodates for foreigners only with rented apartments for £300 a month (instead of £600 which cheap hotels would charge). This sort of deal is perfect for staying in Tokyo for a long period (I think they also do a few weeks). Extra travel costs really do depend on where you’re staying and what you want to do. Have a rough idea and start searching early so you can get an idea for what you want to do. What I’ve planned for is roughly an extra £1000 for each month I want to travel.

Now you’re thinking “how am I going to get all the money for this!?” (because I did). I have two key suggestions. SAVE NOW! I started saving from the point I started university. If you’re lucky like me and get money from your parents to cover living costs then put a little aside each week and try really hard not to spend the little you put away. I did and managed to save £2500 in the first 2 years at Uni. Also, get a summer job! It’s worth putting the experience on your CV at later life and you can get an extra £1000 or so per job. I strongly suggest not getting a job during term time unless you can handle it, because it is important to do well at your degree so you can go to Japan. That includes learning the language before hand, which is another thing people had problems with. I’ll go onto the language issues before you leave another time.

If you have any questions on stuff I might not have covered then feel free to message me ^^

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