Study Abroad in Japan
and How to Pay for It

By Jeffrey Angles

I am glad that you are interested in study abroad in Japan!I often hear from students that studying abroad in Japan is the most valuable and rewarding experience they have during their entire time in school.Not only do study abroad students come back with increased language skills and cultural knowledge, they have wonderful memories and valuable friendships they maintain for the rest of their lives.

We at Western Michigan University are lucky because WMU has an amazing array of study abroad programs with some of the very best universities in Japan.Because WMU created study abroad relationships decades ago, when relatively few schools in America were sending students to Japan, we were able to form relationships with some of Japanís most famous universities.As a result, you have the opportunity to study at extremely well-known, prestigious universities for a price that is only slightly more than regular tuition at WMU and that is far, far below the regular tuition for a Japanese student to attend the same university.(In fact, if you are an out-of-state or international student at WMU, then your tuition to study abroad will probably be LESS than what you pay to study in Kalamazoo.)Because many of our partners are among Japanís top universities, we find that this helps a great deal later down the road when students are applying for positions with Japanese companies or further graduate school in Japanese studies.Just imagine if you could say that you spend a year at the Japanese equivalent of an Ivy League school!

Below is some information about studying abroad and how to pay for it.Please read it carefully, as it answers many of the questions that I typically hear from students.

You MUST be enrolled as degree-seeking WMU student to participate in our study abroad programs.If you are enrolled as inter-institutional student, you must transfer to WMU and be a full-time student at WMU before you can apply to participate in our programs.

You must have studied at least two semesters at WMU before you can go on a study abroad program.This is one way that we ensure that you have the ability to perform well in Japanese classes once you arrive in Japan.That being said, you are welcome to apply during your first semester at WMU, but please be aware that the selection committee tends to give priority treatment to students who have studied Japanese for a couple of semesters already and to students that have a proven track record of good grades at WMU.If you are a first-year student at WMU and we do accept you for a study abroad program, you will be accepted provisionally and will be only allowed to go if your grades during your first two semesters at WMU are at the appropriate GPA or above.

Table of Contents

1.   What study abroad programs does WMU have to Japan?

2.   What is the process of applying to study abroad?

3.   What scholarships are available to support study abroad in Japan?

4.   Who are the contact people for these study abroad programs?

5.   What should I do if I have general study abroad questions ?

What study abroad programs does WMU have to Japan?

WMU has several study abroad programs to Japan for different lengths of time: an academic year, a semester, or even just two weeks.  Each program has slightly different deadlines, paperwork, requirements in terms of GPA, and costs.Also, each university or program has a somewhat different atmosphere. 

For more information about each school, go to the Study Abroad webpage, and use the pull-down menu to get information about each individual program.The Study Abroad website contains far more information, including web links, photos of the schools, details regarding housing, details about cost, and so on.

Quick Comparison Sheet for WMU Programs in Japan

WMU Study Abroad Programs in Japan: Quick Comparison


Japan Religion & Culture Seminar

Nihon University

Keiō University

Rikkyō University

Daitō Bunka University

Ritsumeikan University

Otaru University of Commerce



Tokyo & Nikkō




Higashi Matsuyama, Saitama (North of Tokyo)


Otaru, Hokkaidō, (Northernmost main island)

Hikone, Shiga Pref.


None; Open to all majors

JPNS 1010

JPNS 2010

JPNS 1010 (Business students: completion of JPNS 1000 recommended)

JPNS 2010

JPNS 2010

JPNS 2010










(business only)







(business only)




Summer 1






Summer II









Faculty-led; Offered every other year (summer I only)

Spring or summer

Academic Year

Academic Year (Business students: Fall or spring)

Academic Year

Academic Year

Academic Year

Summer; Semester; Academic Year










First Friday in March





12/9 (business only)




First Friday in March





12/9 (business only)




Third Friday in September

Summer 1

1/20 (priority deadline)







Dates vary (see website)

Summer II








Dates vary (see website)


Good academic standing

Minimum 2.75

Minimum 3.5

Minimum 2.5

Minimum 3.0

Minimum 3.0

Minimum 2.5

Minimum 2.5

Main areas of study

Japanese religion (taught in English)

Intensive Japanese language program

Japanese language, Some Japanese studies courses in English

Japanese language, four Japanese studies courses in English per semester

Japanese language, any course (provided student has lang ability)

Japanese language, numerous Japanese studies courses available in English; Courses on business

Japanese language, Courses on business, management & economics in English

Japanese language, Some Japanese studies courses in English

Where most classes take place

On the road, temples, shrines, and religious sites

In building for foreign students (separate from main campus)

In building for foreign students on main campus in Minato Ward

In classrooms for foreign students on main campus near Ikebukuro

In classrooms on main campus in Higashi Matsuyama in Saitama

In classrooms on main Kinugasa campus in northwestern Kyoto

In classrooms on main campus in Otaru, Hokkaidō

JCMU campus; 1 course maybe taken at near by university; Internship opportunity


Arranged (temples, hotels)

Special housing for intíl students

Off-campus apartment bldg

Off-campus dormitories

Special housing for intíl students

Special housing for intíl students

Special housing for intíl students

On-campus dormitories


Dean's Scholarship for Summer Study Abroad

President's Grant; JASSO

Murakami; President's Grant; JASSO

President's Grant; JASSO

President's Grant; JASSO

President's Grant; JASSO

President's Grant; JASSO

President's Grant; JCMU Schoarship

Other benefits

Special chances to see rare treasures

Lots of language instruction in a short time

Famous university, one full-ride scholarship each year

Famous university, exciting Tokyo location

Great immersion experience since few foreign students there

Famous university, superb location in beautiful ancient capital of Japan

Stunningly beautiful location, skiing just outside

Campus next to Lake Biwa; close to Kyoto

Main contact;;;; Business students:;;; Business students:;; Business students:;;


All of the semester-long and year-long study abroad programs listed above have a central core of language classes.  Students will take a placement test on arriving in Japan to determine which level of language class they will enter.  In almost all cases, Japanese-language classes form the largest part of the student's curriculum in Japan.

Certain universities have other classes in English about Japanese studies or other subjects.  For instance, Ritsumeikan University has the widest array of classes in English about the arts, politics, and other subjects.  Rikkyō University has four classes per semester in English about Japan, usually in history, culture, literature, and economics.  Otaru University of Commerce has a wide array of classes in English about economics, business, management, and so on.  The exact classes that are available differ from semester to semester and, therefore, are sometimes difficult to determine in advance. 

Sometimes students who study abroad in Japan on the programs above take other classes such as gym, English-language literature courses, or a third language since those allow them to take classes alongside other Japanese students and make friends.Typically, we do not recommend that students expect to fulfill a lot of their general education requirements or major-related classes (such as classes necessary for engineering, psychology, or computer science degrees) during their study abroad experience.Those non-Japan-related courses are taught in Japanese and are usually too linguistically challenging for the beginning learner to do well.

In addition, we can send students on other programs than those listed above. One especially good program is the following.

1)   Japan America Student Conference (JASC) (Month-long study tour in Japan): Takes a group of American students to Japan each year, allows students to see a lot of Japan while learning about Japanese culture & society, involves a lot of contact with Japanese students.


Talk to the Study Abroad office if you are especially interested in this or another non-WMU program.If you have a strong desire to study at some specific university in Japan, there are ways to accommodate those requests.You can contact us and we will be glad to talk to you about the possibility of studying at other institutions.
Back to Top

What is the process of applying for study abroad?

If you are interested in applying for a WMU study abroad program to Japan, here are the steps you need to take.

1)   Enroll as a Japanese minor or major, if you have not already.While studying abroad, you will get many credits, and you should make sure that they count toward your degree!To enroll as a Japanese minor or a major, please contact Dr. Jeffrey Angles (, 518 Sprau Tower, TEL 269-387-3044) or Dr. Rika Saito (, 518 Sprau Tower, TEL 269-387-3020).

2)   Think about how long you want to study abroad in Japan.Do you want to be there one semester or do you want to spend an entire academic year in Japan?  You might consider the pros and cons of each below.

a)   Study abroad for a semester only

i)     PRO: It is easier to fit a semester of study abroad into a schedule, especially if you study abroad during the summer.Certain programs, such as engineering, have a relatively tight schedule with lots of coursework, making it hard to take a year off to study abroad.

ii)    CON: Students who study abroad for a semester only often find that they wish they could have stayed longer.No sooner are they getting used to a place, understand the train system, make some friends, and so on, than they have to return to the United States.

b)   Studying abroad for an academic year

i)     PRO: Many scholarships, especially ones at the national level, only support year-long study.  The reason is that most organizations feel like they get more bang for their buck with a student who will be there for a year. 

ii)    PRO: Students will have about three times the length of time in Japan than if they go for a semester only.This means three times the time to experience the country, improve oneís language ability, and to gather friends and other experiences.

iii)  PRO: Students are able to take advantage of vacations to travel within Japan, to other neighboring Asian countries, or back home.If you study abroad for only a semester, there will not be any vacations in the middle of your stay.(Your only vacations are on the weekends and whatever free days you might have before classes start and after they end.)

iv)  PRO: The cost of doing a year long program is only about TWICE the cost of study abroad for a year.Still, the amount of time you will stay is almost three or four times as long as a semester, so that means a much better value for your tuition dollars.

v)   CON: Students sometimes get homesick if they are away for a long time.Fortunately, internet communication technology has made it much easier to stay in touch!

vi)  CON: Most of the classes our students take abroad are Japanese language or Japanese studies courses, so if you need lots of coursework in other areas such as engineering, computer science, geology, etc., it may not be possible to do it during your time Japan.We recommend that you take as many major classes as possible BEFORE or AFTER you go to Japan.That way, you will not slow up your graduation.

3)   Contact Dr. Jeffrey Angles or Dr. Rika Saito to tell them about your interest.  They can answer your general questions about individual programs, universities, procedures, and deadlines.Their contact information is as follows.

Dr. Jeffrey Angles
518 Sprau Tower
TEL 269-387-3044

Dr. Rika Saito
518 Sprau Tower
TEL 269-387-3020

4)   Consider the program choices and start thinking about your top three.In doing your research, please use the Study Abroad website, which has detailed information about each of the schools and programs in Japan.Be aware that if you are applying for an academic year in Japan, you only need to have a GENERAL idea of which university you would like to attend.  (You do not need to have pinpointed which one exactly.)

5)   Contact the study abroad office on the second floor of Ellsworth Hall to make an appointment to meet with Eri Nishiyama, who is the study abroad coordinator for Japan. She will show you how to fill out the online application.Her contact information is as follows: TEL 269-387-5890, you meet with her, you will discuss your application and any additional questions you might have.

1)   In your online application, you will need to provide the e-mail address of two people who can write letters of recommendation for you.  At least one of them should be a Japanese teacher who has had you in class. Please let your teachers know you want a letter before you submit their names as references.Also, you might want to remind your teachers AFTER you finish the online application.They will then know to look for the e-mail asking them for information about you.

2)   Meet with Dr. Angles or Dr. Saito to talk more specifically about the courses that you might be taking in Japan.  When you meet with them, please bring the Student ID and Application Number that you receive when you submit your application.If you cannot meet them in person, then please send them the Student ID and Application Number by e-mail.

3)   Submit your application to the study abroad office by the deadline listed on the individual webpages for the different schools in the above section

a)   For a year-long study abroad program, the deadline is usually in DECEMBER of the previous calendar year.

b)   For a spring semester study abroad program, the deadline is usually in early OCTOBER of the previous calendar year. 

c)   For a summer semester study abroad program, the deadline is usually in DECEMBER of the previous calendar year.  

4)   The Study Abroad Office and Japan studies faculty will convene a committee to screen applications.  Potential applicants for academic-year programs, will be called in for a one-on-one interview. Some of the questions will be in Japanese, some in English.  One of the reasons for the interview is to get to know students better and to help determine student need and to help match them to potential universities.

5)   The Study Abroad Office will contact students about their acceptance to the programs.  At this point, the Study Abroad office and Japanese studies faculty will have matched students with an individual university or program in Japan.

6)   The Study Abroad Office will help students with any additional paperwork needed for their individual program.  Also, the Study Abroad Office will help students with the visa application process. 

7)   Students MUST arrange to get a passport on their own.  Most US Post Offices have information about how to get a passport, but click here for information about how to apply for a passport. 

8)   During the last several steps of this process, students should be applying for scholarships to help support their study in Japan.See the information about scholarships below.

Back to Top

What scholarships are available to help support study abroad in Japan?

The Study Abroad office is very good at helping WMU students get scholarships to study abroad.  Most students receive some support from one or more of the following scholarships, meaning that for many students, it is cheaper to study abroad in Japan than to study on WMU's campus in Kalamazoo! 

There are several major categories of scholarships to help support study abroad programs in Japan.  Each one of the following scholarships requires a separate application, and each has its own deadlines.Be sure to read through all of this information carefully!  The Study Abroad office will try to remind you of these scholarships, but ultimately it is your responsibility to apply for these on your own, so be sure not to wait until the last minute to get started.

Below is a list of the major scholarships that our students routinely apply for, but there are other scholarships out there.Information about additional study abroad scholarships can be found on the "Scholarships" page of the Study Abroad website or in the binders of scholarship opportunities kept in the Study Abroad office.Also, sometimes students are able to find information about additional scholarships for study abroad on the internet.

1)   Scholarships offered through the Study Abroad Office

a)   President's Grant for Study Abroad: For WMU students who apply to WMU-sponsored programs.  BE SURE TO APPLY FOR THIS!  This is one of the biggest and easiest scholarships you can apply for.  The application is only one page long and can be downloaded by clicking here for the application

IMPORTANT: To be considered for the maximum award from the Presidentís Grant, be sure you have a FAFSA on file with the university.  If you do not have a FAFSA on file with the university, the maximum amount you can receive is just a few hundred dollars.However, students with FAFSAs on file often receive several THOUSAND dollars!Click here for information about how to put a FAFSA on file with the university.

b)   One-Year Scholarship to Keio University: One full scholarship (covering tuition and major expenses) is given to one student each year to attend Keio University, WMU's oldest sister institution in Tokyo.  All applicants for year-long programs are automatically considered for the Keio University scholarship.No extra paperwork is necessary.

c)   Deanís Scholarship for Summer Study Abroad for WMU Faculty-Led Programs: For WMU students who are going on short-term programs sponsored by WMU.(People participating in Dr. Covellís excellent Japanese Religion & Culture tour are eligible for this.)

2)   Scholarships offered by other parts of the university

a)   Department Travel/Study Abroad Award & President's Award and Scholarships for Study Abroad: Offered by the Department of Foreign Languages to WMU students who are enrolled in departmental programs (including the Japanese minor) and going abroad for a semester or more.Forms are downloadable from the link above or by contacting Jennifer Morrow in the Department of Foreign Languages (TEL 269-387-3001).

IMPORTANT: The scholarship above is NOT the same as the President's Grant, which is offered by the Study Abroad Office!(The similarity of names often leads to confusion.)ALL study abroad students going to Japan SHOULD apply for this.To be eligible, you must be officially enrolled as a Japanese minor or major.

Despite what the instructions on the scholarship application might suggest, students going to the program at Nihon University during the summer ARE ELIGIBLE to apply for this scholarship.
(The programs that are ineligible are short, two-week or three-week programs.The Nihon University program is long enough that it counts as entire semester of study abroad.)

b)   The Department of Economics in the past has sometimes had scholarships for students applying to study abroad.For more information, contact the Department of Economics.

c)   If the money is available in the budget, the Honorís College has sometimes in the past offered small amounts of money to Honorís students who are studying abroad.Please contact the Lee Honorís College to inquire about scholarship possibilities for studying abroad.

3)   Scholarships offered by organizations outside of the university

a)   Bridging Scholarship for Study Abroad: This is a national scholarship competition sponsored twice per year by Association of Teachers of Japanese, located in University of Colorado.  Often, we have one WMU student per year earn this scholarship.Forms are downloadable by clicking the link above.This scholarship is for one academic year of study abroad.(Spring or summer-only programs are not eligible.)

b)   West Michigan World Trade Association Scholarship: This scholarship is to promote international knowledge among people living in Western Michigan.Preference is given to students who participate in SHORT-TERM (semester-long) programs, like the one at Nihon University.Preference is also given to people who are interested in and/or studying business.

c)   Freeman-Asia Program: This is a program run by the Freeman Foundation and administered by the Institute of Internaitonal Education.It seems to increase the number of US undergraduates who study in Asia.Students going on both semester long and year-long programs are eligible.The funding is lucrative, so be sure to spend some time on this application.

d)   Critical Language Scholarship: This is a government-run national scholarship designed for students who are studying less commonly taught foreign languages, including Japanese.It is a national competition, and the competition is stiff, but winners receive a large financial package.Students going on semester-long programs and academic-year long programs are both eligible.

e)   Gilman International Scholarship: Prestigious national scholarship awarded by Institute of International Education.  The application process is difficult, but WMU has had several students win this scholarship in the past! Forms are downloadable by clicking the link above.

f)    National Security Education Program (NSEP): A government grant for people studying less commonly taught languages, including Japanese.  Recipients must spend some time working in the public sector after their return.  Forms are downloadable by clicking the link above.

4)   Scholarships offered by the host universities in Japan --> Once students are placed with a specific host institution in Japan, the host university in Japan may apply on the student's behalf for one of the following scholarships.  (The student may need to fill out some additional paperwork to help this process along, but the student will not initiate this process.)  

a)   Association for International Education, Japan (AIEJ)

b)   Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) Scholarship

All of the scholarship applications require letters of recommendation from your teachers.Here are hints on how to get a good letters of recommendation.

1)   Please request a letter of recommendation WELL in advance of the deadline.Often, your teachers are writing many other letters of recommendation too, and you want to give them enough time to tailor the letter of recommendation to you specifically.Professors are very busy with teaching, administration, and research, and so we usually require a couple of weeks advance notice.

2)   If you are applying to a national competition (such as the Bridging Scholarship or the Gilman International Scholarship), then it is best to ask one of your teachers who has a PhD to write on your behalf.(In the Japanese program, Drs. Jeffrey Angles and Rika Saito are the two professors with PhDs.)

What is most important in a letter of recommendation is the opinion of someone who knows you from class.Still, a recommendation from a professor carries more weight than a recommendation from a teaching assistant or part-time instructor.If you have had Dr. Angles or Dr. Saito for a class, it is best to ask them.

The Study Abroad office has additional information about other scholarships in a binder in its office.  You are encouraged to go to the office and examine the binders.There may be something hiding in there that might be applicable for you.

Be aware that applying for scholarships to support study abroad in Japan is nerve-wracking.  Because the notification dates for many of the scholarships is very late, students usually have to apply to go to Japan first, then wait until late spring or early summer before they will learn exactly how much scholarship money they will have to support their study abroad experience.  For this reason, it is important to plan ahead and think carefully about finances.  

Back to Top

Who are the contact people for these study abroad programs?

The following people are your main contacts for the study abroad programs in Japan.

  • Dr. Jeffrey Angles, Associate Professor,
    Dept. of Foreign Languages
    518 Sprau Tower
    TEL 269-387-3020

  • Dr. Rika Saito, Assistant Professor
    Dept. of Foreign Languages
    518 Sprau Tower
    TEL 269-387-3020

  • Ms. Eri Nishiyama, Study Abroad Coordinator for Study Abroad Programs in Japan
    B-2425 Ellsworth Hall
    TEL 269-387-5890

For the Japan Religion & Culture Seminar, your main contact isÖ

Back to Top

What should I do if I have general study abroad questions?

Contact one of the following people.

1.   Dr. Jeffrey Angles, Dept. of Foreign Languages , TEL 269-387-3044

2.   Dr. Rika Saito, Dept. of Foreign Languages , TEL 269-387-3020

3.   Ms. Eri Nishiyama, Study Abroad Office , TEL 269-387-5890.

We will be happy to answer your questions!

Back to Top

Report broken links or outdated information
Return to the homepage of Jeffrey Angles
September 6, 2011