Intercultural

Perks of Studying Abroad in a Large City

Marisa Ditkoff is a student at Rowan University and an ISA Featured Blogger. She is currently studying abroad with ISA in Tokyo, Japan.

My home town is a suburban area. It’s near a big city and it’s near many acres of farmland, but my home is neither of those things. It’s mainly houses with white picket fences and the occasional shopping center or town hub. It’s a common joke that there’s nothing to do aside from maybe going to the movies. Imagine my surprise when I packed my bags and moved to the other side of the world, to one of the biggest cities in existence. My weeks are packed with so much to do and see that there’s hardly ever a dull moment!

Tokyo’s comprehensive public transit system makes travelling within the city super simple and convenient. Just be sure to avoid the busy rush hour if you’re claustrophobic, since the trains and metro can get rather cramped! Trains are constantly coming and going, and they are almost always on time. After a short walk to the nearest train station, I’m usually on a train within five minutes, or maybe ten if I’m looking to catch an express ride that gets me somewhere faster.

The trains aren’t always crowded. Sometimes the station and train are quite spacious and empty, like this!

The trains aren’t always crowded. Sometimes the station and train are quite spacious and empty, like this!

Where might I be headed? Lots of places! Maybe somewhere with a view, like Tokyo Skytree, Tokyo Tower, the Metropolitan Government Building’s observation deck, or Mori Tower which usually has a neat exhibition in addition to a stunning view of the city.

Here’s an example of one of the views! You can even see Tokyo Tower.

Here’s an example of one of the views! You can even see Tokyo Tower.

When I went to the observation deck, there was a Sailor Moon event going which went through the entire history of one of Japan’s most beloved shows. Exhibitions like these are quite common and fun!

When I went to the observation deck, there was a Sailor Moon event going which went through the entire history of one of Japan’s most beloved shows. Exhibitions like these are quite common and fun!

Or, if you’d prefer a more natural view, Mt. Takao is an easy day trip from the city, and you can gaze upon Tokyo from its peak, if you’re up for a little hiking.

Tokyo can be seen from one side, but spin around and you get a stunning view of the distant Mt. Fuji.

Tokyo can be seen from one side, but spin around and you get a stunning view of the distant Mt. Fuji.

If you’re afraid of heights, that’s okay! There’s plenty else to do in the city. Such as… shopping!

There is no end to the stores in Tokyo. Selling all sorts of things from brand new and cutting edge to second hand and antique. Often stores will be stacked on top of one another, in the basement or second and third floors of a building, or multiple shops may occupy different parts of the same room. There are interesting stores with a wide variety of merchandise literally everywhere and countless restaurants serving up all sorts of delicious fare. Famous shopping spots like Shibuya 109 (known for the 109 unique fashion shops within), Sunshine City, and Takeshita Street can get a bit crowded on nice weekends but are thousands of other stores just waiting to be explored.

I happened to snap this picture during Golden Week, one of the biggest holidays of the year. Usually it’s not so crowded. Takeshita Street also has delicious crepes!

I happened to snap this picture during Golden Week, one of the biggest holidays of the year. Usually it’s not so crowded. Takeshita Street also has delicious crepes!

If you don’t like shopping or aren’t up for spending a lot of money, never fear. Big cities like Tokyo still have much more to offer. There are always events, matsuri (or festivals), celebrations, and parades going on all over the place. These events can range from traditional and solemn to festive and crazy. It’s often beneficial to wake up and head over early to nab a good spot if you intend on seeing an event, otherwise you may be standing for a long time to watch what’s going on.

If old-fashioned tradition interests you, head on over to Asakusa for some neat sights.

If old-fashioned tradition interests you, head on over to Asakusa for some neat sights.

Tokyo even has a multitude of museums, zoos, and aquariums to visit. On certain days of the year these locations may offer free entry to guests, like the Ueno Zoo does on Greenery Day every Golden Week. These places have informative and interactive exhibits that cater to everyone young and old.

Ueno Zoo is famous for its pandas, but their brown bears are adorable too.

Ueno Zoo is famous for its pandas, but their brown bears are adorable too.

I could go on for ages about all the city has to offer, but the best way to learn is to experience it for yourself. Don’t worry about the bad reputation cities often have; Tokyo has a lot of security, and the police are kind people who often patrol the streets and will always be willing to lend a helping hand if you get lost.  Compared to how living in the countryside may be and definitely compared to suburbia, the city is exciting and consistently offers a multitude of things to do at any given time. I promise, you will never feel bored.

Sumida River, Tokyo, Japan, Ditkoff - Photo 7

The world awaits…discover it.

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