AFS High School Study Abroad Program in Japan
91% Rating
(14 Reviews)

AFS High School Study Abroad Program in Japan

Year & Semester: Japan offers an unparalleled opportunity to dive into Japanese culture and live with a host family, while attending high school in your local community. You’ll likely find the academics to be rigorous, given Japan’s emphasis on education. Teenagers in Japan devote themselves almost entirely to schoolwork and extracurricular clubs that fall into two general categories: sports (baseball, soccer, judo, kendo, track, tennis, swimming, softball, volleyball, rugby, etc.) and culture (English, broadcasting, calligraphy, science, mathematics, yearbook planning, etc.). Clubs meet nearly every day for about two hours. Most public schools have classes five days a week. Schools start 8:30am and end at 3-3:30pm. Each class averages 35-45 students. Some private schools also have classes on Saturday mornings. Schools have mid-term and final exams.

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.

Locations
Asia » Japan
Length
3-6 Months
6-12 Months
Timeframe
Academic Year
Fall
Accommodation
Host Family
Language
Japanese
Starting Price
$10,000.00
Currency
USD

Questions & Answers

It largely depends on what host school you get assigned as well as which country you go to. I studied in Japan where there was a variety of after school clubs but there wasn't a dance clubs specifically.
I personally did not change families however a few of my friends told me their experiences. Changing host families is thought of within AFS as a last resort. Foreign Exchange has a lot of highs and lows so they don't want students to just change families because there was an argument or something. So understandably AFS discourages this and tries to have a mediator (your Liaison) work out what ever...

Program Reviews

  • Growth
    95%
  • Support
    71%
  • Fun
    89%
  • Housing
    76%
  • Safety
    94%

Program Reviews (14)

Default avatar
Lola
Female
17 years old
Portland, OR

A Memorable Summer in Japan

10/10

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.

Default avatar
Sandra
Female
22 years old
Colorado
Other

Awesome Experience

10/10

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.

Default avatar
Ashley
Other
29 years old
Arlington TX
Other

Tough but rewarding

7/10

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

How can this program be improved?

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

Default avatar
Rya
Female
26 years old

AFS Japan Year Program

10/10

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.

Sasha
Female
20 years old
Orange, California
Other

Keep Calm and Carry On!

10/10

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.

How can this program be improved?

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.

Default avatar
Aileen
Female
19 years old
Springdale, Arkansas
Other

My summer experience in Japan

9/10

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.

Maxfield
Male
23 years old
Burlington, VT
University of Vermont

Be Prepared

10/10

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.

How can this program be improved?

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.

Default avatar
Michael
Male
23 years old
Bozeman, Montana
Montana State- Bozeman

An American In Japan - AFS

10/10

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.

Default avatar
Jennifer
Other
Santa Monica College

Tough but Rewarding

7/10

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 how...so 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).

How can this program be improved?

In perfect world could this be free? ;)

Default avatar
Christian
Other
Baylor University

AFS USA Japan Review

10/10

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.

How can this program be improved?

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.

Bridget
Female
21 years old
Huntingdon, PA
Juniata College

Foreign

10/10

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.

How can this program be improved?

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.

Default avatar
Sophia
Female
19 years old
Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Japan for 11 months

8/10

I went to Japan for 11 months through AFS, and it was a wonderful experience, and I truly believe that I am a better person from doing it. It was extremely difficult to adapt to the culture and the language, and I don't believe that it is for everyone. I had no trouble with my host family, but some things that were done in their house shocked me, like the extreme gender stereotyping going on. Also, the school I went to was wonderful, but as an all-girls private school, it was difficult for me to adapt. On the whole, I think my view of the world has changed through my experience and I have friends in Japan that I would like to keep close to me. I think that everyone should have a chance to go to a foreign country and learn about the different cultures because more understanding leads to more peace.

How can this program be improved?

I would put more emphasis on culture shock, and I mean REAL culture shock, not just that the Japanese take showers before bathing.

Default avatar
Jacob
Male
19 years old
Salinas, California

Lemons and Lemonade

7/10

I think about the experiences I had during my time and how they changed me and changed my views on life. I experienced things during my stay both good and bad that affected me deeply. Between the numerous bad times and occasional depression some would ask if it was worth it. But I would say it was absolutely worth it. I never had more fun, learned more things, or grown more as a person than I did during my year in Japan. I think the experiences that feel the hardest at the time can become the most defining aspects of our character. And I am only a stronger person for having gone through it. I think, in a way, that everyone finds something that benefits them from going abroad. Whether it be the relationships we forge, the knowledge we attain, or the lessons we learn, it is something that stays with us for life and something grander than ourselves that we are forever a part of.

Default avatar
Sasha
Female
19 years old
Southern California

Tough year, but worth the struggle

10/10

Studying abroad in Japan is not for the faint hearted; the culture shock is very difficult, even if you are prepared for it. Every last person in my chapter switched families at least once, and we were often exhausted and homesick. That being said, and despite me feeling that 90% of my days in Japan weren't so great, the 10% of days that turned out well were worth it. I felt alive, like I'd conquered the world, I felt what true happiness really is like. I learned to open my heart up everyday and try again, and I learned how to love people even if they couldn't love me back. You can survive, you will grow so much, and learn, and become stronger. It's worth it.

How can this program be improved?

Support for students on the Japanese side of the program could be a lot better. My liaison stopped communicating with me only 3 months after I got there and I had trouble finding someone to talk to.

About The Provider

Thumbnail

AFS-USA (formerly the American Field Service), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is a leader in intercultural learning and offers international exchange programs in more than 40 countries around the world through independent, nonprofit AFS Organizations, each with a network of volunteers, a professionally staffed office, and

Read more...