The IES Abroad Tokyo Summer program has been one of the greatest privileges of my life, and definitely one of the most memorable experiences of my college career. Through this program, I was able to meet people whom I would have never had contact with, and not just the close Japanese friends whom I’ve made lifelong connections to, but people from all over America from a wide selection of programs and backgrounds. So as such, I have essentially nothing but good things to say about this program, but let’s start from the beginning.
Leaving for Tokyo was the first time I would ever leave the United States and only the second trip I would take by plane. As such, my nerves were through the roof. I was terrified of the TSA and on my flight, I was far too nervous to even ask for water. (Fortunately, the stewardesses were very attentive on Japan Airlines or else I would have been very dehydrated!) Landing in Japan was the most surreal experience I’ve had so far. It didn’t “click” with me that I was in a country on the other side of the world (and that, No, I could not walk home) until that night when many of us looked outside out hotel windows and saw a view of the west side of the Pacific Ocean. Only looking out on both the sea and the city did it fully dawn on me that I wasn’t home anymore.
The morning after, when we all woke up at 5 AM because of jetlag, we took our Japanese placement exams. The placement exam and the following academics of the program work off of the Genki I book for levels 100 and 150 and Genki II for 200 and 250. I was placed in the 200 course as I had completed most of Genki I at my college. Classes were three hours a day from 8:45 AM to 12 PM five days a week. This sounds like quite a bit of class time, which it was, but it gave us the ability to spend most of the day out in Japan and then come back the next day with any questions that may have popped up. Classes were serious but not without fun. Our teacher had a great sense of humor and we all had a blast. We did five chapters of Genki II during our six weeks, which is the same amount that we would work through in a fifteen-week semester at my college, so I would say that this program is intensive. However, I learned so much from it so I definitely think it’s a great program for language learning.
During our stay, IES Abroad planned several outings for us. They ranged from traditional and lavish onsen visits to visits to traditional Japanese Inns. The program’s location in Yoyogi also made it very convenient for us to experience the night-life in Tokyo and visit pubs and clubs and dance the night away with new Japanese friends. These provided a nice break from studies and allowed us to get further insight into Japanese culture and life. Alongside these outings, the program also connected with Kanda University in a E-pal program. This connected us with Japanese students who were studying English and provided me with some of my closest friends from the program. After to our initial meet, a group of us became fast friends and went on many adventures through Harajuku, Yoyogi, and Ueno just to name a few. We still keep in frequent touch with apps like Instagram and Snapchat, but I still feel a twinge of sadness from being so far from them now that I am home.
The program also provided the option for a weekend homestay with a family. Our families were located outside Tokyo, in the Chiba district. It was a more rural/suburban area that gave us a hint of the experience of how life is outside of the big cities in Japan. My weekend was amazing and I became very close with my family and am very grateful to have been matched with them.
Overall, I would highly recommend this program to anyone who wishes to enhance their Japanese skills and learn more about Japanese culture located in the center of Tokyo. This experience was one of the most amazing in my life and I definitely plan on going back to Japan to further my language study and to make more long-term connections. After this program, the possibility of working and living in Japan has gone from an idea that I would have not entertained very long (being so tied to New York after all) to one that I am seriously considering after my college career. This program taught me about myself and others, and for that I give it my warmest regards and thanks.
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Daniel De Boulay
<p>Hello! My name is Daniel and I'm a student at Parsons for Fine Arts with a minor in Art History and a student at Eugene Lang for Global Studies with a minor in Japanese. This blog will study both my experience in Japan as a first generation American who has never left the US, as well as study Japanese art first hand, both historical and contemporary, high and low, and everything I can find inbetween!</p>