Messages from Past Participants
Chaereen Pak (International Christian University, Summer & Fall 2017)
International Christian University (ICU) in Mitaka, Tokyo offers an immersive study abroad experience to anyone who is interested in learning more about Japanese language and culture. I studied at ICU from July to November 2017 (my winter break was super long!), taking three credits worth of Japanese and two elective courses taught in English. I lived in the dorms on campus and devoted my free time to exploring Tokyo. Through navigating your way around the city, your language skills will improve immensely. A few of my favorite areas were Shibuya, Shimokitazawa, and Omotesandō. Don’t forget to eat ramen and gyukatsu, take advantage of the phenomenal public transportation, and check out some hip coffee shops and museums while you’re there. Doing life alone in another country sounds intimidating, but I can say that those five months were some of the best months of my life—and I wouldn’t have spent my semester anywhere else.
Victoria Green (Sophia University, Spring 2018)
I studied abroad at Sophia University (上智大学) in Tokyo for the Spring 2018 semester and it was a wonderful and rewarding experience. Tokyo is a really unique city and there was a lot to explore, so I was happy to have had four full months to see and experience various things. At Sophia I studied Japanese language, culture, and history. The Japanese curriculum was fairly rigorous, but because of the class, and because I was constantly surrounded by Japanese, my language skills were able to improve a lot. The biggest piece of advise I could offer to someone studying abroad in Japan would be to try and travel around as much as possible. Japan is such a beautiful country and it has so much to offer outside of the big cities. My favorite experiences in Japan were going on adventures in smaller towns or climbing mountains and seeing temples in more rural areas. It was also amazing to immerse myself in as much traditional Japanese culture as possible by visiting Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, joining the kyudo (Japanese archery) club at my school, going to festivals, bathing in an onsen, and trying new foods. If you have the opportunity to go to Japan, go! Spending a semester in Japan was honestly the best experience of my life, and I look forward to going back as many times as possible in the future.
Allison Capron (KCJS, Spring 2018)
Study abroad through KCJS was a nice break from Penn. I spent a lot of my time exploring Kyoto and trying different foods. My spring break trip to Tokyo was one of the highlights of my study abroad as I got to eat a giant cotton candy. As for the learning experience, I took an interesting class on minorities and migration in Japan. I learned about various issues in Japan and it gave me insight about whether I wanted to live in Japan in the future. The language class helped me gain a better grasp and it solidified my foundation on Japanese and my ability slightly improved. Talking with Japanese people, acknowledging your mistakes, and asking them to fix those mistakes were incredibly beneficial. Looking back, there were challenges and I wished I had done certain things differently but overall, I truly enjoyed my study abroad and I definitely wish I had more time to explore Japan.
Isabela Rovira (KCJS, Spring 2017)
I’ve always wanted to study abroad in Japan before I came to college. I’m happy to say that it lived up to and exceeded my expectations! I attended KCJS in Kyoto and it was a great city to experience the rich traditions and history of Japan. I was able to study traditional arts and even learn shamisen from an internationally renowned performer!
I definitely learned Japanese the fastest by speaking with my host family every day. They were so kind and happy to get to know me.
Like so many others have said, the semester goes fast so make sure to go outside of Kyoto and experience everything the Kansai region has to offer! As someone who grew up without public transportation, I was amazed that I could basically travel throughout Japan by myself using only buses, trains and subways. And on top of that, Japan has some of the best public transportation in the world. Go out there and see Japan!
Elliot Oblander (Hitotsubashi University, Spring 2017)
Being on full exchange means there’s a lot less structure than a program centered around study abroad students like KCJS. As a result, it requires a lot more planning and forethought, but also affords a lot more flexibility; I was able to take mostly graduate-level courses in economics and challenge myself to learn new theories and methods in a way I hadn’t been able to do previously at Penn. Having the language exposure outside of the classroom meant my Japanese skills improved in ways that would have been impossible in the US. I met many amazing people and explored as much as I could to find lots of hidden gems of locations around Tokyo. My semester at Hitotsubashi was without a doubt the most challenging but most rewarding experience of my life. One word of advice: a semester is way shorter than you think it is! Make the most of your time, and spend a year abroad if you can!
Ji Kim (Hokkaido International Foundation, Summer 2017)
Summer in Hokkaido International Foundation(HIF) was exactly what I needed after a year at Penn. Not only was I able to immerse myself in a completely Japanese speaking environment, but also really broaden the view towards the world. Through the intensive Japanese language program, students are able to complete a year-long Japanese language curriculum in eight weeks. Additionally, there are so many exciting cultural classes that students can participate, which usually include interactions with local Japanese people. The Japanese language classes, experience with Japanese host families, cultural classes and interactions with program participants coming from various interesting backgrounds altogether shaped wonderful memories I had during the summer! I strongly recommend HIF program to people who are interested in the Japanese language and culture!
Nicholas Han (Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies, Spring 2017)
The Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies was a really great opportunity to experience living in Japan not as a tourist, but as a resident. In particular, the homestay program meant that I was able to live in a Japanese household, converse daily with my homestay family, and eat together. While of course I visited multiple popular tourist locations and shrines in Kyoto, what I found the most enjoyable was exploring and becoming familiar with the area; I had a takoyaki restaurant called Takotora near me that I frequented, a favorite ramen restaurant, and more. As for the classes and program at Doshisha University, they were great in helping me use my Japanese and find clubs/programs in Kyoto to participate in. The political history and manga classes were interesting, and I definitely enjoyed how they opened up a new perspective into the history of Japan different than the one that you would learn in the US. Overall, I really enjoyed the way KCJS integrated the student experience with the surrounding community.