Stories from Abroad (Part III): Ben’s Japan Adventure
In our third “Stories from Abroad” series, Benat Onatibia Camara shares his experience of doing an exchange program at GRIPS in Japan. Here’s what he has to say:
The experience at GRIPS has been great so far. The range of facilities that the school offers is quite amazing: from a nicely equipped gym to your own study desk and laptop computer. Furthermore, the school is located right in the heart of roppongi, home to many of the city’s best restaurants and bars.
Settling in wasn’t as easy as one would expect. The school currently lodges most of its students in 3 different residences. I was not eligible for the newest and most centric residences ( Nakano and Odaiba) and was offered a spot at Misato (in Saitama prefecture; 80 minutes commute to school). Since I didn’t want to live so far I had to find my own place, which comes at a high price in Tokyo. I currently share a flat with 4 people in Yoyogi Park which is quite close to the school. You either sacrifice location (commuting time and amenities in the area) or should be ready to pay money out of your pocket.
GRIPS has a clear economic policy focus and most of the modules on offer are from this discipline. So if you don’t intend to concentrate in economic policy it probably isn’t the best choice for you. In the current global economic environment, characterized by low interest rates and deleveraging banks /households, Japan’s contemporary economic history serves as a great antecedent. The school offers a number of monetary economics modules, taught by great faculty, that are highly relevant to Japan’s lost decade. If you are into this you will greatly enjoy your stay at GRIPS.
Most of the students at GRIPS are government officials mainly coming from Asian and African countries. The average age of the class is above 30, more similar to LKY’s MPA program. Since these groups live far from the city center, occasions of social gatherings are rather scarce. You need to be outgoing and try to meet people so that you can enjoy to the max.
The pros are pretty obvious. The food is absolutely amazing and not as expensive as one would think. There is a small shop in every corner serving the most amazing ramen or yakitori. Furthermore, the exchange takes place in autumn, probably one of the nicest periods to visit japan, where leave watching is a pseudo-religion. Since air asia inaugurated flights in Japan, I will try to discover the Northern island of Hokkaido. A place I always wanted to visit.