AFS Year and Semester High School Abroad in Japan

Video and Photos

Mito High School Class 1-E
Summer Camp
Exploring Kyoto!
A traditional temple we went to go see with my host family.
A day in Tenjin with one of the other exchange students, Luisa, who I became close friends with.
The view from the top of the mountain overlooking Fukuoka city with my host sister Akane.


In Japan, ancient gods and centuries-old customs meet cutting-edge modern life and an innovative society. From the ritual tea ceremonies, graceful gardens, and sacred shrines to the world's first high-speed train, Shibuya crossing, and sparkling cityscapes, Japan has a wide range of timeless and timely experiences to explore.

Immerse yourself and develop fluency in Japanese language and culture by living with a host family and studying at a local high school. While culture shock is real, it won't take long before you feel at home with your host family and can navigate your new life with ease. In time, you’ll become a cultural insider.

Although the academics are challenging, and social harmony is a cultural priority, the Japanese aren’t quite the perfectionists they’re made out to be – wabi-sabi, for example, is a zen aesthetic and idea roughly translated as an acceptance of life’s imperfections. Still, Japan is a perfect place to expand your horizons and language skills.

Summer language: This four-week program is designed to provide an intensive Japanese language learning experience through both formal study and first-hand cultural experience through living with a Japanese host family. Throughout the course of the program you will receive 80 hours of Japanese language classes at a professional language school. Food is art in Japan, and your host family will most likely prepare some amazing meals. The Japanese diet consists largely of rice, noodles, fresh vegetables, fruit, meat (mostly pork and chicken) and seafood. Many meals are eaten with chopsticks. The program includes 80 hours of Japanese language classes, host family immersion experience, participation in cultural activities, and travel opportunities to historic and cultural sites. You will attend language class with fellow AFSers from several countries across Europe. Classes will be offered at a professional language school and will have 5-12 students per class.

  • Immerse yourself in Japanese language - the best way to become fluent.
  • Live with a host family to deepen your immersion and connection to Japanese culture. If you’re like most AFSers, you won’t want to leave this second family and home.
  • Explore Japan’s stunning landscapes, cityscapes, arts, and more. Savor sushi and umami flavors like ramen.
  • Make connections and memories you'll never forget with other AFS exchange students from all over the world.
  • Become a global citizen. Gain intercultural communication skills. Build your college and career resume. Help create a more peaceful, understanding world.


AFS-USA Scholarships
AFS-USA Grants & Scholarships

The opportunity to study abroad should be available to everyone, regardless of their financial means. Annually, we award scholarships to about half of our study abroad students.

$1,000 - $5,000

Questions & Answers

Current high school students are eligible! Specific age requirements may apply, so we encourage you to please contact AFS ( for more details. Students must also be in good academic standing (recommended GPA of 2.5 or above). Basic Chinese language skills are preferred, but not required. For more information, you can also visit the program page:


based on 18 reviews
  • Growth 9.6
  • Support 7.5
  • Fun 9
  • Housing 8.1
  • Safety 9.6
Showing 1 - 15 of 18
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Yes, I recommend this program

Japan Exchange Review

Hello, my name is Angel Reyes and I was part of the 2016-17 Study Abroad program in Japan and may I say it was absolutely amazing! First off, everything was so carefully planned out and the staff was so nice and caring. All the time I was with them I always felt secure and happy as if I was at home, it was only until I had settled in my japanese parents’ house that it actually hit me that I was in Japan(yes I call them my parents)! Everything was so cool and amazing but there was some things that were kind of off. For example, there would be these reunions with all the AFS people and students and they were cool and all but the activities that were held there were not good. It was kind of boring but it was fun to see everyone! That is actually about it everything else was perfect! If you do read this I want to ask this favor, can you communicate with Mana Hashimoto and the people from San Antonio, Marc Patsnier are the best, nicest, awesomest people ever! Without them, my experience in Japan wouldn’t have happened or been as awesome as it was! Thank you so much!

What would you improve about this program?
Is it possible to make the reunions while abroad a more interactive thing with many different cool activities? Thank you!!
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Yes, I recommend this program

Best year ever

I had a great year abroad with AFS Japan. I was in the Tokyo-Chuo chapter which gave me an extremely nice host family and placed me in an amazing private school. I was able to travel around Japan with my host family and school. My schoolmates were super kind and I still like to exchange letters with them. This program cemented my love for Japan and I can't wait until I am able to return to Japan.
This was a truly wonderful experience and I strongly believe that this program hugely helped me when it was time to apply for colleges.

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Yes, I recommend this program

AFS Japan

Let me start with this: in the US, AFS was pretty organized in my opinion, they were easy to get a hold of, had meetings for information, and made me overall excited for my study abroad. AFS Japan on the other hand, a whole nother story. Well, I guess it largely depends on what chapter you get put into. I heard the Tokyo and Kyoto chapters were good.
Now that we have that out of the way, let me say that studying in Japan was a great experience. I definitely broadened my horizons, and learned a lot of Japanese, which was expected haha. My host families were perfect, my school amazing, it was just fun. However, the chapter for where I lived, and where my other friends lived, not as great. A big problem that was evident is the lack of freedom and choice AFS Japan gives you, and the obvious favorism towards the host families rather than the actual students. Your liasion is the main branch of communication with afs, however some don’t do their jobs too well. I barely communicated with my liaison at all, and was kind of forced to go to some events that I didn’t want to go to. Just hope that you get a good chapter and a slightly bigger one. There are some events that only the bigger chapters are able to take part in.
Apart from the bad communication between liaisons and their students, life was pretty fun in Japan. Let me give you a big tip though. If you don’t like your chapter, you are able to move to another one! You just have to know the president or liaison of a neighboring chapter and hope they understand what you’re going through.
One last thing, AFS Japan will treat you like a clueless kindergartener instead of a learning teenager. They probably will have set up childish games and parties for you. Have fun.

What would you improve about this program?
Better communication with the host student and liasion is a must. There are too many incidents I know where the liasion just ignored the host students concerns and sides with the host family. Too many incidents where the liaisons straight up dislike their students and say it to their face. Perhaps liaisons need to be younger in order to empathize with the students, instead of being old and close minded.
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Yes, I recommend this program


I studied abroad for an year as an exchange student. I stayed San Diego, which is amazing place. My host family and school are very nice to stay and study. Also lieson of AFS in my area helped me a lot. This experience was so worth it for me. At highschool, I took subjects which I can't learn in Japan at school, such as film making and dance class. There was a Japanese class in my highschool, so when I had difficulties I was able to ask Japanese teacher. Actually whether this program will succeed or not depends on the area, I think. Because some area of AFS lieson won't help me and I've heard lots of troubles between host families and exchange students. So I recommend this program people who are able to try to fit in different cultures and circumstances.

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Yes, I recommend this program

A Memorable Summer in Japan

I was a student living in Fukuoka on the AFS Summer Intensive Language program, and looking back on my month there I can confidently say that it was the best month of my life so far. The support I recieved during the program was phenomenal. The Afs staff and volunteers were all so friendly and approachable and my host family were made up of some of the kindest, most hospitable people I have ever met. I went into the program knowing very little Japanese, as well as not being the most confident, outgoing person ever. I wouldn't say that this program totally allowed me transform me a totally new, extroverted person, but it did teach me to not to be afraid of trying new things and to not be afraid of making mistakes (because you will make them. A LOT of them). Considering I was only there for 5 weeks, I am pleased with how my Japanese progressed, as by the end of the program I was able to pretty solidly hold a basic conversation with a native speaker.

Probably one of the highlights for me on this trip was not only experiencing so many different aspects of Japanese culture, but meeting so many people from around the world. I couldn't tell you how many nationalities were represented on this program as there were so many. It was truly amazing that we were all able to become so close with each other, and as time went on I began to see them less and less as being Italian or French or Australian or Malaysian or American, but as simply being my friends. You WILL meet a lot of nationalities on this program, which I thought was one of the rewarding aspects of it. You not only get to learn about Japanese culture, but you get to learn about everyone else's cultures as well, even your own.

Finally, the biggest piece of advice I have for you is one that you might hear a lot, and it's SAY YES TO EVERYTHING. As cliché as it might sound, it's true. Some of the best times I had was by doing everything I could possibly do, even if at first it didn't sound fun or if I was tired. I made so many memories by doing things such as simply going to the grocery store with my host mom; you never know what you could end up experiencing.

Although I do recognize that studying abroad isn't for everyone, if you are on the fence about going I urge you to do it. Some days will be hard and sometimes you will feel disheartened, sorrowful, or even scared, but that's how you grow. You will learn so much, try so many new things, meet so many new people, eat so many types of new food you thought never existed, and ultimately come away with a greater understanding and a new perspective of the world around you. Although I was only there for a month, AFS definitely changed my life. I hope that it will change yours too.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Awesome Experience

My host family had a total of five kids. I enjoyed the hospitality of my host family when I went to Japan. They had a yoga teacher and they decided to sign me up for a few classes. She spoke English, so asking her questions about how to say something made it a little easier. After getting a close relationship with her, she decided to take me on vacation with her to another island with a few friends of hers. After driving two hours and getting on a boat for half an hour, we arrived at a destination that was just beautiful. When we arrived we got treated to delicious food. We went on the beach very often during the trip which was very fun. Also, we decided to go for a swim at the beach. Additionally, we popped fireworks out on the beach having a great time. We also began to hike up in the mountains and saw a various amount of shooting stars. We were able to get a hold of many stars that night, so we decided to get a blanket and lay down on the floor to find more. It was an experience I will never forget.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Tough but rewarding

I had a difficult semester abroad, like the exchange equivalent of Murphy's law! If I were to simply list all of the negatives it might sound like I'm disparaging the program or scare away people and I don't want to do that. Unfortunately I had a first time host family and I don't think they were prepared for me any more than I was prepared for them. Despite the challenges i came home with new passions and a newfound awareness that there will be things in life that are overwhelming that feel insurmountable but I know I can get through it. May stumble blindly through it but we can't always get through life with perfect grace and dignity!

I recommend AFS. My LP took great care of me and I was able to experience so much and meet amazing people from all over the world. I would happily choose them again

What would you improve about this program?
I wish that my host family was given more information about what to do as a host family. I had read so much about culture to prepare but it seemed like my host family didn't know how to deal with someone of a different culture living with them, not just visiting. I got along great with my host mom after I moved out but we couldn't make it work while I lived there. Later they hosted again and it worked better so I really think they were inadequately prepared
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Yes, I recommend this program

AFS Japan Year Program

We always hear the basics of these programs: I had fun, it was safe, it changed my life, it was amazing. Here's a quick story to give you more insight into the kinds of experiences you can expect, beyond the basic ratings.

I was sixteen and didn’t know how to find my way home. That might be because I was in Japan, with little knowledge of Japanese, and lesser knowledge of the bus system. So what was I supposed to do when five buses arrived at the station at the same time?

At the sight of the many buses I gathered my wits and walked up to a student wearing my school's uniform.

“This bus. It goes to Sanchu?”

She only stared at me, eventually giving me a slow nod. I wasn't sure she had understood my bad accent, but on the bus I went. I'm not sure what I was doing for ten whole minutes, but when I finally looked out the window I saw beautiful, vast farming fields.

Red Alert: There were no green fields near my house.

I turned my phrasebook to the travel section, walked up to the driver, and said, “I am lost.”

There's a prophecy of all exchange students coming back as independent and enlightened citizens of the world. For the most part, it was true -- but the prophecy was a little off. There I was, in a new country, a foreign student always supposed to be curious and asking questions like it was nobody’s business. And I lived up to my role, constantly bombarding my host family with questions. Just this once, though, I wanted to do something for myself.

That morning I hadn’t wanted to ask my host parents for the name of my bus. I wanted to figure it out on my own. Instead, I ended up on the wrong bus, asking even more questions to get myself back.

My year abroad hadn’t made the mythical independent individual out of me that everyone had talked about. Instead I learned to better gauge how much (in)dependence to use. It turns out it varies from situation to situation, and learning which one to use is what really brings you one step closer towards Enlightened Citizen status.

My time with AFS Japan taught me the value of asking for help. Let's not forget the people that made it all happen: a welcoming host family, supportive school, and an amazing AFS chapter that worked to make sure their students learned.

There were many stories like these in which each of these groups did their best promote my learning. My year abroad was challenging at times, but I had the support I needed to make it through. There were cultural trips, language lessons, and chances to meet up with other students and swap trips with stories. At the same time, none of it was too overbearing. They left you on your own just long enough to get a little lost and learn a lesson or two, before they picked you right back up again.

Go abroad! Go for a year. Get lost on a bus or two, and come back with some cool stories.

Yes, I recommend this program

Keep Calm and Carry On!

Japan was hard. There were much more awful days than there were good days, and even the good days were very bittersweet. I don't regret going though, I'm very glad I went; I grew so much, and learned so much about myself and others and how to carry on even when you feel like you can't possibly do it. It will be hard, but you can do it, I promise.

Below is an excerpt from my journal, what I think was my most special and happy day, when everything was worth it. I was living with my 4th and final host family, and we were staying in the countryside of Hiroshima over the holidays with my grandparents.

It was the day after New Year’s; my host dad and I had circled the mountain and were coming back through the snowy fields on the high road. The whole morning we’d been joking about Hiroshima’s elusive wild boars, how they were hiding in the forest, waiting to come out and get us. We hadn’t seen any - yet. But there now, in the middle of the road was the darkest, scariest, grove of bamboo I had ever seen. “Should we go around?” Tousan suggested. I pulled a branch up from the ditch and brandished it, “No way! We’re not afraid of any pigs!” But actually, it was very scary. Halfway through the grove, me clutching my branch, and Tousan very silent, there was suddenly a huge crash in the bamboo beside us and we jumped about a foot in the air yelling, standing close together, waiting for an attack. And then Tousan started laughing. “It’s just the snow! The snow fell from the bamboo!” I looked at him with the most surprised expression - then we both started cracking up, we couldn’t stop; the sun was bright and glittering, and we smiled until our faces hurt.

Later, by the river, Tousan showed me the tiny hard flower buds on the sakura trees. “Will I get to see them?” I asked, and Tousan said no, I’d be home by then.
It was first time I realized.
This was my home now.

What would you improve about this program?
If I would change one thing about the AFS Japan program, it would be for the leaders and liaisons to be more communicative with students. I know Japan is a very, "imply don't say" culture, but most foreign students can only understand and benefit from direct communication. If we are doing something wrong, we want to know! Ignoring or sidestepping the issue only makes things worse in the long run.
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Yes, I recommend this program

My summer experience in Japan

Hello! My most memorable story from when I was in Japan was whenever we went to my host mother's mother's house for a family reunion they were having. At first, it was a little awkward because I didn't know what to say to everyone after the greetings were done. And I think these were one of the experiences that in a way made me feel closer to my host parents. They knew it was a little awkward for me meeting all these people at once, and I felt that they really did begin to treat me as a part of their family from that moment on because they sheltered me and protected me as if I was a daughter of theirs and tried to make me feel a little at home just by being around them. My host father bragged about me to his father in law about me being bilingual already and how I was trying very hard to learn Japanese and was doing well in his opinion. And my host mother introduced me to her nephew who was closest to my age ( I was 17 and he was 19) and we went out to the garden her mom kept and all three of us looked at the different vegetables and flowers she grew and my host mother's nephew (keita) and I caught a few grasshoppers for fun. They both had their own way of making me feel comfortable and relaxed and I enjoyed the time we spent there. Once we got back home, their daughters Midori (14) and Akane(16) invited me to go to their rooms and we looked at the posters of anime they had and of Jpop stars they liked. On that day, I felt that the family began to open up to me. And I think a reason that also contributed to this was the fact that I always tried to spend time with them and talk with everyone. Even though I was no where near fluent, I didn't let that stop me from trying to make a connection with them. From them seeing this, it made it quicker for them to be able to open up to me and treat me as one of their own instead of just a guest everyone had to walk on eggshells around. That's what I believe is the key to getting a full experience, giving it your all no matter how frustrating the language learning process can get and actually caring about your host family because they aren't opening up a hotel for you, they're opening up their home to you.

Yes, I recommend this program

Be Prepared

I was in Japan for a full year, and it was the hardest and most fulfilling experience, even now, that I have ever done. I had studied Japanese for a year and a half before leaving, and had extensive classes on culture and more cultural aspects of the language. Even so, when I arrived I still had considerable trouble with the language and culture. Fortunately, my first meeting with my family was with my host sister, who spoke a fair amount of English. That lasted for one day, before we went to Tokyo and she left me with my host parents, who spoke no English. We met in Tokyo, but lived on the west coast in a small fishing village. No one there spoke English, but my host family was amazing and we'd always have a dictionary on the table, so as we struggled to speak one of us would use the dictionary to look up a word, and doing that everyday helped me learn really quickly. School was definitely the hardest part of my year abroad. I had been placed in an honours courses at my high school, so all the other students were very focused on studies and I didn't make any friends in my course. I was also expected to participate in all school work, and I was graded on my math, chemistry and biology classes, and also helped teach the English classes. My host school was very supporting and wonderful, but the classes and work was overwhelming at times, and it was also expected of me to participate in clubs. This program is not for people who don't like challenges. I was very fortunate in my placement, both with school and family, and even so life was very difficult. I loved being there, travelling, meeting new people and getting to learn the language and culture, but it left very little time to relax. I would recommend this program to everyone who is looking for a true challenge and a wonderful experience that will make you truly grow.

What would you improve about this program?
The only recommendation I could say is to better review families. I was in a wonderful space, but I heard many stories of students who weren't as fortunate. The program is challenging, but if you have a good space to return, it makes it no problem to handle everything.
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Yes, I recommend this program

An American In Japan - AFS

I personally had a great experience. My host family was fantastic. I also got to hang out with other foreign exchange students in my local chapter in Japan and explore the large cities.

One of my favorite places in Nagoya is a small part of the city called Osu, a shopping district. There was a small desert restaurant with little paper slips all over the walls and ceiling. They gave us these slips, encouraged us to draw and them and leave them there as well. I had never seen that before.

AFS is great if you have good volunteers in your area. I highly recommend it.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Tough but Rewarding

Personally, I had a lot of issues before starting the program. I had undiagnosed mild depression and social anxiety. Nevertheless I would do it over if I had the chance. I cried a LOT honestly, and I had fights with my host family who said I was ungrateful(they wouldn't really explain I couldn't fix it...). Also they were the head of that area's AFS committee. I could not ask for help with the problem because the members only spoke Japanese and my contact for these matters was my host mom's best friend. At least at school there was another exchange student who was with the Rotary Club and her guide/teacher took me under her wing.
School itself was more of a self studying period, where I sat in classes but did my own thing. I admit I was lazy and studied only a little. I got along with my classmates, though I was a bit quiet. I made some friends and I went out with them on weekends to eat and visit other cities like Osaka,Kyoto, and Nara. The train system is amazing!
During the summer it was so humid I thought I was melting but during the winter it snowed(WE HAD TO WEAR OUR SKIRT UNIFORMS). I am not used to the cold at all! LA weather forever!
And don't get me started on riding a bicycle through the wind and rain with that skirt that flew in my face all the time. I fell a lot haha.
And being shoved into a train full of people(I got someone's head hair in my mouth one time)(I was also next to a really cute guy once though heh).
I have a lot of fond memories, now that I've distanced myself from the experience. During this time I was constantly anxious, but I kept on keepin' on somehow.
I really grew as a person. I'm more empathetic and open to trying new things and taking chances. Also I know so much more about Japan and the language, which will be good once I become an English teacher there. My host mom was an English teacher in fact, so she allowed me to practice(or used me lol) with her students. She even offered me an online teaching job once I returned home but...
Unfortunately when I returned to the U.S. and went back into the normal school routine I realized how bad my depression had become. It was only once I became suicidal that I sought help, and now, about a year later, I am finally getting better through medication(which I wish I had years ago!)
So I think it's challenging if you have a mental illness but it's possible! Another girl in the program had bipolar and social anxiety. We aren't alone at all.

I rambled more than I thought I would.
It's cliche but it was the best and worst of my life so far. Honestly the program is alright but your experience will probably be completely different based on where you are placed(which is random). Also the effort you put into learning the language and participating will define your success.

I only spent half a year in Japan, which was enough for me, but not enough to become completely fluent(for most people at least). And I didn't get to experience spring and golden week :( such a bummer.

Overall if you know you can do it, go for it! But try to get a scholarship(it's expensive enough buying food, clothes, and the occasional souvenir) or try the Rotary Club(they're free).

What would you improve about this program?
In perfect world could this be free? ;)
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Yes, I recommend this program

AFS USA Japan Review

As I stepped off the plane, my world would shift upside down. What was there to expect from a region on the opposite side of the world? Growing up beside the Mexican border, my culture was the antithesis of Asian customs. I felt the hot heavy air hold down my body as I started my Japanese life in Tokyo.

Although breaking the language barrier was difficult, assimilating to the culture was quite feasible. The Mexican-American way of life, I thought, was correct in all senses. This naïveté, however, allowed me to assimilate at a faster pace as the feeling of incomplete knowledge compelled me to absorb every little detail included in Japanese culture. I had to know everything!

The Japanese pride themselves on respect. I admire their quaint humble personality, so a result, I tried to improve my ways. For example, I felt that I had not been doing enough to help my community because I was so busy with my studies, so I decided to help out people who had been victim to the Tsunami in 2011. One characteristic that I found fascinating about the Japanese people was their willingness to put someone else before themselves.

Compared to Japan, my hometown is dangerous. Since the rise of drug trafficking has risen, the rise of danger has directly correlated along with it, leaving the citizens of my community in constant fear. Japan, with its low crime rate, is a safe haven. The people make any individual feel like family, mutual respect is attainable, and virtually no danger exists! I felt I had been living a lie, but I was experiencing something new.

Besides Japanese customs, I was fortunate enough to assimilate to a plethora of cultures from other exchange students. Most differed from Mexican culture in the way that they treat their respective people with less respect than the Japanese. All of the ethnicities from over thirty countries and I unanimously agreed that we should mold our ways similar to those of the Japanese by treating everyone and ourselves fairly, respectfully, and with dignity. Our respective schools called for demanding grades, so we all studied very hard for numerous exams, which ultimately increased our study habits tenfold. With competition, we made each other better students and learned to work individually and cooperatively efficiently.

With time, I began to act exactly like what I had been experiencing. The culture and customs were now embedded in my genetic code. I was motivated to use the proper etiquette which I learned through my yearlong exchange. People’s wants now came before my own, and love and compassion now meant something completely different to me. The end of my stay in Japan was equivalent to a blindfold coming off. Exposing myself to every single culture I crossed, my new eyes saw the world as it was, with light glistening like the dancing rays of the rising sun.

What would you improve about this program?
If there is one thing I would change it would be the cooperation between liaisons and students. There was not really a close connection between anyone and their liaisons.
Yes, I recommend this program


I grew up in a small rural town in Vermont, with a population of under 2,000. The program I was accepted into, AFS Summer Language Intensive, assigned me to study abroad in Tokyo. When I arrived in Tokyo, I felt a certain sort of disbelief that so many people could coexist in the same place. The city was an unceasing bustle around me that excited me.
My host mother had come to pick me up, and it was a little awkward at first. I didn't speak much Japanese, and her English was limited. I had taken two years of Japanese in high school, but that really didn't amount to much when I was confronted with having to speak entirely in another language to get my point across.
The program that I attended was entirely based around improving language skills, and they did a spectacular job. By the end of it, I could speak confidently with my host family, ask directions, and make small talk. I did run into the issue of accidentally using masculine words that set my host family off in fits of laughter, but it was a part of the learning experience.
My host family made the experience of being abroad absolutely wonderful. Before this program, I hadn't known that you could become so close to strangers within such a short time. It was honestly like I gained a second family through this program, one that I will remain in contact with throughout my life.
I would recommend this program to anyone who wishes to better their Japanese and broaden their cultural understanding.

What would you improve about this program?
I would have a little more in depth analysis of language understanding prior to arrival at the language institution. Some students in my program had to review a lot of information before they were able to learn new things.