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Off-Campus Study

ISEP at Ritsumeikan University in Japan

Founded in 1869, Ritsumeikan University (RU) is one of the oldest and most prestigious private universities in Japan. RU accommodates approximately 34,000 undergraduate and graduate students, including over 700 international students, and is comprised of nine colleges, thirteen graduate schools, and a law school, as well as various research centers. Two main campuses, Kinugasa Campus located in northwestern Kyoto and surrounded by historic temples and shrines, and Biwako-Kusatsu Campus in Shiga Prefecture, which overlooks Lake Biwa, the largest freshwater lake in Japan, provide an excellent environment for studies of the humanities, social sciences, and advanced technology fields.

This program would be suitable for students that are ready to be abroad, but would still like some of the academic services that a U.S. college provides.  It is a good choice for someone that is a world traveler OR has never left their hometown.

Learn more about Ritsumeikan University here! Read the ISEP Country Handbook to learn more about visa requirements, educational system, and culture.

Program Type

Exchange or Direct-Enroll


Kyoto, Japan

Languages of Instruction

Japanese, English - For courses taught in Japanese, advanced Japanese language proficiency, or JLPT N1 level is required

Program Dates

This program is open only for the spring term.

Spring 2018: April to August

All dates are tentative and may change.  ISEP will alert all accepted students of final dates.


To be eligible to participate in this program, students must meet the following requirements:

  • Good academic and judicial standing during time of application AND time of participation in program
  • Undergraduates must have completed at least two semesters of study at Lake Forest College AND have second-semester sophomore status or higher before participation. 
  • At least 18 years of age by the program’s departure date. 
  • Be able to stay at the host program for the duration of the semester, including through the exam and travel periods
  • Language Requirement: For courses taught in Japanese, advanced Japanese language proficiency, or JLPT N1 level is required.
  • Students must submit ISEP language proficiency report in the application, even if native speaker.
  • Minimum GPA of 3.0.  


Students applying to ISEP must apply for an Exchange option (in any country) as a first choice but may apply to a Direct option as a back-up.  Direct options may have an additional cost.


ISEP Exchange chance of placement for US students is generally Very Limited.


Ritsumeikan University’s Kinugasa Campus in Kyoto, Japan’s ancient capital, is located within walking distance of several UNESCO World Heritage Sites including the famous temples of Kinkakuji and Ryoanji. The city enjoys a harmonious blend of the ancient and the modern, and in addition to being a base of traditional industry, higher education, and tourism, Kyoto is also home to a number of cutting-edge high-tech companies.


The Study in Kyoto Program (SKP) brings together students from around the world. It offers numerous courses in Japanese language and culture, utilizing the extensive historical and cultural resources of the ancient city of Kyoto.

Students typically enroll in 5-8 classes per term, which averages to 12-15 hours in class per week. A term runs for 15 weeks. 

Classroom Culture

Japanese students are typically very quiet during class. Rather than interrupting the professor to ask questions, Japanese students may be more inclined to wait until the class has dismissed before speaking with peers, checking their text books, or meeting with professors to ask specific questions.

Open questions presented for anyone to answer within the classroom may receive little feedback from Japanese students. Professors in Japan often times call students by name when seeking classroom participation.

Japanese students sometimes refrain from using eye contact when speaking with their professors. This does not mean that these students are insincere nor does it suggest that the student is being disrespectful.


Attendance plays an important role in the final grade for students, especially for Japanese speaking class. Speaking examinations are given periodically to students to test their language comprehension abilities.

Academic Environment and Teaching Style

Please understand that the academic system is quite different. Classes are usually lecture-based, instead of discussion or group work. Classes are often much larger than those found at Lake Forest College. Grades are based heavily, at times almost entirely, on one end-of-term exam, though some courses will also offer a midterm.  Professors are often more formal than those in the United States.

All courses/modules may have prerequisites.  Some departments may have limitations on numbers of courses that can be taken within or outside it.  Be aware of these limitations.

Can review the country handbooks for ISEP here as well:



ISEP Placement info: http://www.isep.org/Coordinators/us_placement_notes_english.asp

Please review country handbook for more information on the education system, grades, class hours, and classroom etiquette.


Students attending Ritsumeikan University through ISEP will be enrolled in the Study in Kyoto Program. Students are eligible to apply to the IJL track of study: 

Intensive Japanese Language Track (IJL)
Class sizes are kept small, between 10-15 students, allowing experienced instructors to cater to the needs of each student of all skill levels. Students take courses in listening, speaking, reading, and writing at a variety of levels from Introductory to Advanced. For a list of courses click here

This track may be 8-9 semester credits. Students may take additional elective courses offered in English through one of the following tracks: Open Study in English Track (OSE) or Business Track (BT).

For more information on courses being offered click here.


The following fields are available in Japanese: law, social sciences, international relations, policy science, letters, economics, business administration, science and engineering, and information science and engineering. 

Language Requirement: For courses taught in Japanese, advanced Japanese language proficiency, or JLPT N1 level is required.

Course Approvals

Check to see if your department has pre-approved courses here. If not, don’t worry. You can work with your advisor.



Experiential Opportunities

Students are welcome to use the resources at the on-campus Volunteer Center to pursue volunteer opportunities. The Ritsumeikan University Volunteer Center provides support for students wishing to volunteer for a good cause. Whether you are interested in health issues, the environment, or international activities, the Volunteer Center can direct you to an opportunity that meets your interests and schedule. The Volunteer Center holds information sessions, programs, and events throughout the school year to encourage students to volunteer their time.

Student Life

Among Japanese universities, RU is particularly distinguished by its enthusiastic student body, which in addition to a commitment to academics and research, is also highly active in community service and international volunteer projects as wells as athletics and extra-curricular activities. 


All students participate in a four-day orientation before the start of the semester. Topics and activities covered include:

  • Campus Tour
  • General Program Overview
  • Health Guidance Session
  • Japanese Placement Exams
  • Life in Japan Q&A Session
  • Crime & Safety Seminar
  • Earthquake Awareness Drill

Students also meet with the student “buddies” who will help them with their adjustment to Japan.


The host will provide arrival directions with acceptance packet.


A study in Kyoto Program Buddies works to assist international students as they first arrive and get used to life in Japan and at Ritsumeikan. Buddy friendships last throughout the program and often wind up being highlights of the program for many participants.

SKP Buddies and on-campus student organizations host various events for international students throughout the year, including parties, hiking, and field trips. In addition, the yearly school festival offers a unique glimpse of Japanese college life. Participation fees vary depending on the event, but many are free or of little cost to international students.

There are also over 700 student-run clubs at RU, providing diverse options for interaction with Japanese students and pursuit of personal interests.

Housing and Meals

Students are generally placed in single rooms with access to cooking, bathing, and laundry facilities. A stipend is provided for students to purchase meals on campus, at local restaurants, or to purchase ingredients to cook in the dormitory or apartment. 

Financial Information

For all approved programs for guaranteed financial aid transferability, students pay their Lake Forest College tuition plus a program fee. The program fee for a semester with the ISEP Exchange program includes orientation, on-site director, college fees, housing and a stipend to cover the equivalent of 19/meals per week.

Here is an estimated budget for the Fall 2018/Spring 2019 semester:

Budget Item


Lake Forest College Tuition


Program fee (estimated)

Note: Spring may have added cost


College Deposit (credit)


Total Expected Billed by Lake Forest College


ISEP Fee due on Stage 2 Application


College Deposit due on Acceptance (non-refundable, but shows as credit on bill for off-campus term )


ISEP-required health and repatriation insurance ($90/mo estimated)

Note: Some countries require national insurance. Check ISEP


Additional Meals


Estimated Airfare


Estimated Personal Expenses (passport, visas, immunizations, textbooks, supplies, personal expenses, additional national insurance, if required, travel insurance, additional travel etc.)


Total Out-of-Pocket Expenses




Tuition rates and program fees are subject to change each year, but this information was up-to-date as of March 2017.  We will notify applicants, and update this page if the program fee or other estimates change.

Keep in mind that you may spend more or less in certain areas like personal expenses, travel, meals, or airfare, depending on exchange rates and your own spending habits. Classroom or lab fees are not included in this estimate and will depend on your course registration choices.  

Don’t forget to apply for scholarships! A great listing can be found here.  

Do check your student account on My.Lakeforest for your aid awards, as much of this will go with you. If you want to compare your program to the cost of being on campus, those numbers can be found here: https://www.lakeforest.edu/admissions/tuition/fees.php

You can discuss with Financial Aid your specific aid package and your expected family contribution.

Experiences of Former Students


The SKP program gives students the best opportunity not only to improve their Japanese language skills but also their understanding of Japanese culture. If you are open minded you can find friends for a lifetime and you can have the time of your life. -Alexandra Reininger, Germany