Study Abroad in Japan: Will I Get Credit at My School for the Courses I Take in Japan?

One of the advantages of studying in Japan on an official exchange program sponsored by your own college or university is that credit is arranged in advance: you earn credits just as though you were at home. Branching out into other programs, or enrolling directly in a program at a Japanese institution, makes the question of credit more complicated. The host university may grant credit, but it won't help you unless your home institution will accept it.

It's important to check with both the school you plan to attend and your own university as you begin planning for study abroad, to see whether they will accept credit granted by the overseas institution--either directly from the foreign school or from another US university working with that foreign school. If your school will accept transfer credits from another US institution, you may decide to enroll in a study-abroad program sponsored by a US university that is approved by your own school. In that situation, you will pay tuition to the "third-party" university because they will be issuing a transcript that will then be honored for credit at your home institution.

If you enroll directly in a university program in Japan, like that at International Christian University or Japanese national or private universities, you may receive only certificates attesting to the work you have done. Your department of Japanese or Asian studies will most likely be willing to convert these to credit; but it is important to talk to them in advance. If direct credit transfer cannot be arranged, you may be able to negotiate credit based on performance on language placement tests, or for independent study.

To avoid misunderstandings, it's a good idea to obtain written guidelines from your school about expectations for credit. Likewise, talk to administrators at your host school about their expectations, and be sure they know well in advance about any documents you will need to take with you when your course of study is completed.

ATJ and other organizations involved with study abroad in Japan are working to develop curriculum guidelines that will make it easier in the future for universities on both sides of the Pacific to communicate in the same terms about courses and credits. We are also hoping to develop a service that helps US institutions decipher and interpret Japanese course information so that credits can more easily be transferred. Watch this space for news.