Studying abroad gives you a ton of choices to tailor your experience to get what you want out of it. Your living situation is just one of these choices. While some programs automatically place you with a host family or in a dorm, others may give you a choice between those options and living on your own in an apartment. While I was in Japan, I chose to live alone. Here’s some things to think about when you’re making your choice.
Living alone really means you’re on your own. Whether or not you live with roommates, you’ll have to keep track of your keys, buy groceries, cook for yourself using new types of stoves, clean, etc. This can get tricky when you don’t know which laundry detergent to buy and can’t remember the word for “bleach” in your host language, but it gives you a sense of what it’s like to live in your host country.
- Curfew? Nah.
This was one thing that I really liked about living in an apartment. Because host families are responsible for you, they may set a curfew so you’re not wandering around getting into trouble or getting lost late at night. On my program, a couple of my friends stayed with host families, and making sure they were home by curfew could sometimes be a source of stress for them, especially if they got lost on their way home.
- Social Hotspot
Because the 40 people on my program were split between 10 different apartment complexes around the school, we would choose one to congregate at in the evenings and on weekends to hang out. Whether we hosted study sessions, planned excursions late into the night, or just had a regular old party, our apartments became a place for us to gather and socialize with each other.
- Bills, Bills, Bills
Can you imagine how freaked out I was when I got the first slip of paper under my door, saying that I owed someone money? I mean, my Japanese wasn’t good enough to understand the technical terms, but I could read numbers well enough to know they wanted me to pay! Luckily it was just a formality, because my program took care of all of my bills (as many do), but it gave me a cool opportunity to learn Japanese in a real-life setting, as you won’t find a lot of the vocab on a gas bill in your textbook.
- Your Get Away
At some point, you’ll start to miss people back home when you study abroad. You may even miss weird things you didn’t expect, like a favorite restaurant or just reading a street sign in English. Some people deal with their blues by being more extroverted, and others just need some alone time to reflect and move on. If you’re one of the latter, having an apartment gives you the added bonus of privacy if you just need some time with your thoughts.
Photo courtesy of Zac Jones.
Zac Jones is junior at the University of Kentucky studying International Studies, Anthropology, and Japanese. Zac participated in the JShIP program at Osaka University during summer 2014.