I received a lot of emails recently asking about my experience in Japan. I'm so so SO happy to hear from my readers and please keep emailing me :p
There are a few questions that come around pretty often in the emails so I figured a lot of people had the same questions. Therefore, I will try to cover as much as I can in this post. If I forgot something or you want more details, please contact me by the email address down below or comment down here!
Program and application
The program that helped me go to Japan is called Greenheart Travel (CCI) which you can check out by clicking here-->Greenheart Travel
They are a company based in Chicago I believe and they have programs for destinations around the world. As in my application for this program, I just found them online and sent them an email. They replied to me fairly quickly and I just bombarded them with emails full of questions. The representative from the company was very patient in answering my questions and she was such a sweet person. She helped me complete my application forms and contacted the organization in Japan (JFIE). We mainly communicated through emails, I just sent her my applications by email once I filled them up and it was just very easy overall. They do require that you have two years of Japanese learning I think (?) I'm not sure. If you have any further questions about them, you should definitely contact them! They have a rather strict set of rules though so make sure you check that out before signing anything!
I find it's really important to look at various programs and do a lot of research before deciding on one program that really suits you. I emailed three different programs and I decided to go with the one that I'm most comfortable with.
Before going to Japan (language, packing, preparation)
I went to Japanese school every Saturday for four years before deciding that I was ready to go on an exchange trip. My goal was to evaluate my Japanese level and to improve it by speaking to native speakers. The Japanese level of exchange students vary so it's not such a big deal, but I think in order to enjoy your stay even more it's better to be able to communicate and understand people around you. It will be easier for you to make friends too!!
Packing... I hate packing... I'm so bad at packing you can't imagine! I didn't have any sort of plan when I was packing so my suitcase ended up with a lot of useless things, which is always the case. So I can't really say anything about it but bring the minimum of clothes and stuff that you know you will buy in Japan!! You will be living for months there so you will definitely buy things anyway.
I did some research about my host school before leaving Canada which isn't really preparation, it's just curiosity *tehepero*
I didn't do a lot of preparation except for buying gifts for my host family and some souvenirs for my classmates.
School (making friends, school life, classes, clubs)
My host school had a rather close system to the North American high schools. We had no uniforms but most girls still wear "Nanchatte Seifuku" which is a fashion looking like school uniforms but actually not. Those clothes can get really expensive too!
I had a home room class every morning with the same people but I was free to choose my classes. I chose a lot of physical education classes, as I've mentioned in my older posts. I do have some classes with my home room class, such as one of me gym class, chemistry, Japanese, etc.. Obviously, I'm most familiar and close with my home room classmates. However, I'm a rather outgoing person so I talked to a lot of people in my other classes too. Especially in phys. ed., it's easy to become friends with team mates. It also helps to join lots of clubs, it makes you meet lots of new people and new friends. I met a lot of people in sports clubs!
School life at my school was pretty relaxed. I felt like most didn't care about their marks THAT much so even during exam period they were still pretty relaxed. I know other schools may be different though so don't take my word for it. People at my school were very outgoing too towards exchange students.
I think JFIE does a great job with finding host families in general. Mine was such a great family, I've mentioned in a lot of posts. I've heard about other students having problems with their families since it is a very different culture and life style. My family was very open about things so we got along really well. Getting along with your family is very important because you're going to be staying with them for months. It's always nice to have gifts and souvenirs when you first get to your host family and for Christmas, birthdays, mothers' day, fathers' day, etc.. It doesn't have to be super luxurious but something that shows you've put thought into. Of course, communication is key in most situations. Even if your Japanese isn't the best, still try to talk with your family and don't be afraid of asking questions because that's how you learn!
My advicesMy advice is just to try new things because this is a once in a life time experience! If you hold yourself back, you will most likely be regretting it afterwards. It's always better to think "WOW! I can't believe I did that!" than "Ugh! Why didn't I do that!". Try your best to learn Japanese while you're there because that's just going to bring you so much closer to people around you! Finally, don't think that you're special and should be treated otherwise because you're a foreigner. This makes your distance with people enlarge and some might even not like you because of your attitude.
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