YFU High School Study Abroad Program in Japan

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About

Interested in Japan? Learn Japanese culture directly from your classmates and host family! As you are exposed to native Japanese speakers, your language abilities and connection to the culture will grow. Students on semester and year programs will attend high school, where they will get the full Japanese educational experience. While on program, students will have the opportunity to visit important historic and cultural sites on day trips both with your host family and with YFU Japan.

In addition to year and semester programs, YFU offers a six-week summer program to Japan. As with longer term programs, students live with a carefully selected host family and have the chance to attend school on an audit basis (no credit provided). Tuition and scholarship opportunities are available for Japan summer programs. To learn more about Japan and YFU scholarships, please visit the YFU USA website.

Questions & Answers

Reviews

96%
based on 19 reviews
  • Growth 9.7
  • Support 9.5
  • Fun 9.4
  • Housing 9.7
  • Safety 9.9
Showing 1 - 15 of 19
Leo
8/10

once in a life time experience

I was very fortunate that I was given an opportunity to spend my exchange year and created lifelong friendships. Mostly due to all the supports from many of my friends, I really feel confident about announcing that my exchange year has been tremendously successful regardless of the difficulties and issues that I was confronted with. I cannot express how much this exchange year meant to me. All I can say is that It has definitely given me a new perspective about life itself. Realization of something that is difficult to notice unless u get out of your comfort zone and dive into whole another world. I, also, cannot describe how grateful I am to all my friends, teachers and host families who made this year so amazing and unforgettable. I couldn’t have chosen any other people to spend the best 9 months of my life. My exchange year wouldn’t have been the same without everyone I met.

How can this program be improved?
make sure the host family can provide good enough environment to host students
Yes, I recommend this program
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Aishat
10/10

A Fantastic Experience with YFU

As a 17 year old in the suburbs of the Midwest, studying abroad seemed such a faraway and untouchable concept. It seemed that only adolescents in movies and TV shows went on exchanges. It wasn’t until my junior year in high school that the topic of exchange was broached. My friends were looking into different study abroad programs for the summer. When I became more interested in going abroad, I had missed the deadline of the program all of my friends were applying to, so I went in search for another program. That is when I discovered the Youth for Understanding program. At first glance, the price tag for exchange seemed particularly steep and was admittedly discouraging, but upon closer inspection, I found numerous scholarships that I could apply for to cut the cost substantially.

The application process was very straightforward and the questions were thought provoking. As I moved on to the interview portion, I was ecstatic to find that it was more lax and non-pressuring than I was used to. This was foreign to me because many interviews that I’ve had before made sure that I knew it was a competition. Of course, in this circumstance, I was essentially competing with other students interested in going abroad, as well as the students hoping to receive a scholarship. However, my interview with a YFU volunteer was more of a conversation that gauged my possible success abroad.

Through the period between my acceptance and getting on the plane, YFU guided me and my family through the preparation. I enjoyed the sectional orientation held by volunteers to help students going abroad in my area. I had the opportunity to meet several students whom were traveling to the same country as I and I learned some great skills to be successful abroad.

I also participated in the pre-departure orientation in Berkeley, California at the University of California-Berkeley. Unfortunately, for my group, we rushed to learn for a day and a half instead of a 3-day orientation. During the orientation, we met fantastic volunteers who were in our places a year or even ten years ago. We learned about some aspects of the culture we were going into. We also learned tips and phrases that would show respect, kindness, and gratitude to our host families during our first few days abroad.

I can honestly say that YFU fit me with the best family that I could have been placed with. Your host family is there to care for you and provide for all of your basic needs. Your placement can make or break your experience. As an only child, I worried about how I would be able to connect with my host siblings. I worried if I would like my host family and if they would like me. During my exchange, I learned that my worries were irrational. From day one, they made sure that I knew that I was welcome in their home. My host parent even reminded me of my natural parents, which kept me from feeling too homesick.

So, why YFU? Personally, I describe my exchange as my true transition from childhood to adulthood. Abroad, I was more independent in the way that I made most of my own decisions. However, YFU always made sure that I always had resources to assist me. Exchange really makes you aware of how big the world truly is. I’ve learned so much about a culture different from my own. These experiences that I have had, thanks to the YFU program, are sure to stay with me throughout my lifetime.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Lauren
10/10

A Once in a Life Time Experience

This trip truly changed my life. I got had experiences and met people that have truly helped shape me as a person. I have gained skills that I will take and use for the rest of my life. I can never show how grateful I am for the experiences YFU has given me. I got the opportunity to go to a school, join Kendo club, explore beautiful places, and meet tons of people. This experience truly widened my eyes to the beauty of different cultures.

How can this program be improved?
Longer trips and more group exploration activities.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Mira
10/10

Best Summer Of My Life

YFU honestly gave me the chance to have the best summer of my life!
I had just finished my 3rd year of Japanese study, so I felt it was time to actually test my skills and go to Japan. YFU’s 6-week summer program with a host family was perfect. I was a little wary about going away for so long, but after my return, I wished I could’ve stayed for a whole year.
I felt completely safe the entire time, not just because Japan is one of the safest countries in the world, but also because YFU prepared me well for my time abroad with orientations and information, as well as setting up support systems for me in Japan.
My host family was the best part of my experience by far. I am an only child, so having two older brothers was a brand new and wonderful experience. My mom made amazing food, my brothers and I got along so well, and my dad was always saying “本当の兄妹みたい!” (You really look like siblings!).
I lived in a tiny agricultural town in Yamanashi prefecture, not at all as glamorous as my hometown of Chicago! Despite that, I had a blast, and I never felt like I was jealous of people living in bigger cities or of those who were doing a lot of tourist-y sightseeing. I was in Japan to be truly immersed in the language and culture, and YFU gave me the perfect opportunity for that.
I also went to high school for 5 weeks out of 6, and this allowed me to make lifelong friends and learn the traditional Japanese arts of flower-arrangement (kado) and sword-fighting (kendo).
I wish I could live this summer of my life over and over again, and I’m so excited to go back!

How can this program be improved?
I can't think of anything!
Yes, I recommend this program
Kathleen
10/10

Seeing the World in a New Light

Studying abroad never crossed my mind until I heard and saw videos on Youtube about it. Originally I thought that studying abroad was only something you would see on television, but I was wrong. When I heard of YFU, I knew then that I could make my dream a reality. The application process is fairly simple and requires a application fee. During the process one thing I liked was that YFU was there and were really supportive of me. They made sure I was on time with due dates and such. And really they made sure I was ready for a journey of a life time. One of the biggest issues is about money and how much it was cost. Lucky for me and most of the students we were about to get scholarships. For me the scholarship that I had was the Japan American Friendship Scholarship that covers most of the tuition, leaving us to pay $3,000 of the $12,000.
Once I was abroad in Japan, we all go through this honeymoon phase and after that we notice that exchange isn't all rainbows and unicorns. For me, I went through this rough patch where I wasn't fully able to communicate with my classmates. First of all, I don't know a lot of Japanese and secondly my shyness got in the way. Leading me to another good point of YFU, they did a good job placing me in a school and host family that was so kind and supportive. There was a teacher at my school who really helped my through my predicament and helped me see what I had to do in order to better improve my situation. Also at home, my family was always there to make me laugh and after a rough day they would be there to make me laugh. My host family really made me feel like I was their daughter and sister! I felt like I belonged and they were my home. Once I was able to make friends and connections with my classmates I really felt like I was a part of the Japanese school system. This particular experience really helped me get out of my comfort zone and due to this I was able to be not so shy anymore. Still on the topic about placement, is that you don't learn of where you will be staying and attending school until about a month or so before. The wait is pretty long, it is to insure that you are placed into a home that is best suited to you. Also, I was placed into Yamanashi prefecture, and to most people they probably have never heard of it, but I think that's one of the beauties about YFU you are placed into a area that best suits your taste and your preferences, but its also good to be open minded about it too. For me I really didn't have a preference as to where I'll live while in Japan all I wanted was to experience as many things as possible and I believe being ope minded about the whole experience in general will lead to more opportunities to see the world in a new light.
Overall, I believe that YFU is a good program to consider when finding a study abroad program. You get to become more independent, you get to broaden your horizons, and get to see the world in a new light thus making one world of cultural understanding.

How can this program be improved?
One thing that could be improved upon is transportation especially when going from Japan to America. I remember people had very very different schedules even if they live in the same city, which created a lot of confusion with us. Also, the first group that went before me had a lot more time for orientation about 3 days , while we had about 1 day for orientation. So I believe that if it were sorted equally that would work so much better instead of having to cram so much into so little time.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Ronak
10/10

Once in a Lifetime Opportunity

Going on an intercultural exchange is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so you have to make sure you do it right. YFU is the best option. While I did have many exciting, educational, and emotional experiences abroad, my father had his doubts at first. After conducting thorough research, we concluded that YFU was the safest program around with their intricate layers of support for both the student and natural family. During my exchange, YFU ensured that I was safe, comfortable, and ready to learn. They mapped out each part of the exchange to avoid mishaps, accidents, and distrubances (even at the airport which was miraculous). Great experiences can be had anywhere, but safe and educational experiences are YFU's specialty in my opinion. I encourage any parents of prospective students to research YFU's support system, and I bet you will come to the same conclusion that my father and I did: YFU is the best option.

How can this program be improved?
Frankly, I had a great exchange; I cannot recall any aspects that I would consider changing. It seems YFU has perfected the intercultural exchange for high school students.
Yes, I recommend this program
Caitlyn
7/10

Expectations vs Reality

Going abroad was singlehandedly the scariest and most exciting thing I've ever done in my life. It wasn't my first time away from home, but the first time being so far away and out of reach from my family. But I don't regret it. I did have many struggles while abroad. My host family was the complete opposite of mine and we did struggle to connect. But the friends I've made and the experience I've gotten to know make it worth while. Exchange is different for everyone. How they view can differ from person to person. The biggest advice I can give, especially for an exchange as short as mine, is don't be afraid. I truly look back at it as a life changing experience. There will always be something left to be desired but that just gives me another excuse to go back!

How can this program be improved?
Because my home stay was so short, I who had trouble connecting with my family was left in this state of limbo. While I wanted to leave, I saw no point in it. What definitely kept me smiling were the friends I was fortunate enough to have. I definitely recommend placing students with at least one other so they may not feel alone.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Henry
10/10

It changed my life.

Although I had only embarked on the student exchange trip for a summer, the short time that I stayed in Japan changed my life in a large way. Prior to the experience, I feel as if I understood the perspective of different countries around the world; however, I know now that that is not entirely true. In my textbooks and research online, it is possible for me to accumulate knowledge and information on the different parts of the world. Every day, there is plenty of news that comes out that is not about the US. Through that, my view of the world is limited to only to what I see in the news. In my exchange I not only was able to see the flaws and differences between what I anticipated Japan to be, but I was also able to receive a new family make a ton of new friends. That is a once in a lifetime chance. Following my exchange I have become more aware of some of the distorted views of the world through media and am able to self-assess myself in a better manner. Seriousness aside, this was also one of the best times of my life! Really, in the beginning, I was extremely doubtful of going on this trip, but when I came back, I think it was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. I know it's hard to break out of the comfort zone, and that is exactly what this program is asking of you, but trust me, it is definitely worth it!

How can this program be improved?
A way this program could be improved is to possibly set up a bit more meetings with other exchange students during the exchange trip to converse about their lives as exchange students. There was one meeting during my entire exchange trip, which I suppose is enough, though a higher frequency may be of benefit. Regardless of if extra time with other exchange students is implemented or not, the program is great!
Yes, I recommend this program
Hollie
10/10

Summer in One of the Most Beautiful Places in the World

I've wanted to study abroad for as long as I can remember, but I had also decided it was completely impossible because of how expensive it is. The best discovery of my life was YFU's scholarships. Thanks to the Japan-America Friendship Scholarship, I was able to spend a month and a half in Japan for only $3000, including airfare, when it would have $12,000 without the scholarship. Some of the other, though harder to win, scholarships made the trip completely free and even gave the students other gifts like tickets to Tokyo Disney. The application fee to apply in the first place was a little expensive, but it ended up being completely worth it. Since YFU gives out a LOT of scholarships, it seems as though most people that apply end up winning.
Host families are all over the country and are picked according to matching interests. Be careful when you discuss your interests, because this is how families are matched, so if you aren't truthful, you won't end up with a good fit for you. Be honest, and you will find a family for life.
Before going to Japan, there is an orientation in California. Sadly, my scholarship's funding got cut a little bit this year, so the other scholarships had a three day long orientation and mine was only one day. Still, they covered all the important parts, and really only had to cut out the games that the longer orientations played.
I was placed on the border of Osaka and Nara. At first, this frightened me because I had heard that Osaka had a difficult dialect. However, I quickly realized that this was hardly an issue. I absolutely loved my location, as I was smack in the middle of some of the best cities in the country. Nara is famous for its docile deer that you can simply walk up to and pet. Kyoto, which was a half hour train ride from my house, is one of the most beautiful places in the country. If you ever see a picture of a beautiful temple or shrine in Japan, there's a decent chance it was taken in Kyoto. Osaka itself is a bustling city full of awesome places to shop, and houses Universal Studios.
The amount of time you attend school depends on your host school. Some of my fellow exchange students were attending school the entire time they were there. For me, I was only in school for about 9 days. I was assigned two buddies who were especially good at English to help me get around, and for one period every day all of the exchange students (three year long students from Estonia, the US, and Hungary, and two summer students, me and one other American girl) got together to help each other. On my last day, my classmates threw me a small surprise party. Though it was a little sad to only see class 2-9 for such a short time, it gave me more time to explore the country, and I still got to play with the tennis team so I still got time to hang out with my schoolmates.
One issue I had, which was out of YFU's control, was my host family. They were, sadly, one of the few host families who had hosted without realizing that they were ill equipped to host. It was only a dad and a daughter. The daughter completely ignored me (she later blamed it on shyness) and the host dad worked all the time, though he did try his best to be a good host parent. I have talked to many other exchange students, and this is a very uncommon issue. However, this did expose one of YFU's best qualities, which is their support system. My local area rep was more than happy to meet up with me several times and talk with me when I was having issues. My host family never took me out anywhere, so my area rep took me to see some very cool things on his own expense. I had the chance to move families, but decided not to take it since I decided that it would be too much drama in such a short time period. As a silver lining, I did develop a great deal of independence and was able to see a lot of Japan on my own or with other exchange students.
All in all, I would absolutely recommend this with all of my heart. Like all exchanges, there will be hard times and nobody will be happy with every part of their exchange. However, this is an amazing chance to grow as a person, live in another culture, and have what will easily be the most life changing summer of your life. If you are even considering applying for a scholarship, do it. You'll never know where you might end up.

How can this program be improved?
I would honestly have liked another orientation with everybody together in California again before going home. Returning home is also a difficult transition, and I would have appreciated being able to do this alongside other exchange students. Still, I understand that this would cost more money, and YFU already does a lot of things for free to connect alumni.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Alana
10/10

Jumping the Language Hurdle

I did not realize I would be immersed in a completely different language until I stepped off the plane and couldn't read the signs. My Japanese was next to none, and reading it was simply out of the question. I believed I was going to be completely on my own in Japan, and that no one was going to help me. I was afraid my host parents would not be able to understand me, or that I would get lost a dozen times over.

That could not have been farther from the case. YFU had prepared me to overcome the initial culture shock of language and customs with a pre-departure orientation in Berkeley, California, arming me with the tools and knowledge I needed to get through my first few days in Japan. All other words and customs I soon learned from my host family. YFU does an amazing job finding a host family perfect for you so that you can not only learn from them, but they learn from you.

The initial fear of the language barrier became less of an obstacle, and more of a small hurdle that I was determined to clear. Once I told myself this, communication was easy. I began to socialize more, and I wasn't afraid to speak Japanese (although it was extremely limited).

If it wasn't for YFU, I would not have been able to get out of my comfort zone and made so many great friends.

How can this program be improved?
YFU has little to improve. They were so helpful during the entire application process, and set many of my parents' initial worries aside. Communication is always within 24 hours, and I was never without someone to talk to in case I had concerns.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Lauren
10/10

One of the Best Experiences for a High School Student

Participating in an exchange program was one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had, and also one of the best decisions I've ever made. Not only was it super fun to be able to see another country and the different culture, but being able to interact with others in a language I only partially know was one of the most difficult yet amazing things a high school student can do. This program helped me earn an appreciation for Japanese--and languages in general--and come to a realization that while language barrier is most certainly a difficultly, communication is still more than achievable. My host sister and I had a conversation--though it took us a while to communicate our different points--about Japan's and America's governments. Despite the fact that we both grew up in very different places with very different cultures, we shared many of the same opinions regarding rather controversial topics. That's the moment that I realized we're all rather alike, no matter where we come from. I'm so thankful to YFU for giving the opportunity to have this life-changing experience where I made so many amazing friends and learned more about the world.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Melissa
9/10

An Eye Opening Experience!

I received the Okinawa Peace Scholarship from Youth for Understanding. I thought of declining the scholarship because I was too nervous to spend the summer without my family, but I'm so glad I went. We had an orientation at UC Berkeley, which gave us all an opportunity to meet each other, learn basic Japanese (or advanced depending on your language level) and Japanese culture. Once arriving in Japan I had the opportunity to explore Tokyo and go to the US Embassy before flying to Okinawa. YFU Japan brought us to shrines and the Imperial Palace, but also gave us free time to explore around the city. My host family spoke little English, but we instantly clicked. They couldn't have been more kind and generous. I had 2 grandparents, 2 parents, 2 sisters, 2 brothers, an uncle, a dog and a cat! I spent about 4.5 weeks in school. I thought that school would be boring given my lack of Japanese knowledge, but I couldn't have been more wrong. I was a celebrity at school, and the students loved practicing their (limited) English skills with me. Many of whom had never been close to a not ethnically-Japanese person as the American children on the military bases go to school on base. In school I took calligraphy class, cooking class, taught English and tried out all of the majors offered at my agricultural school. If you are going to a Japanese high school please bring as many photos as you can of your school, friends, life and home. I had no idea that they would be so interested in what my friends and I wore to school everyday(Japanese schools have a strict dress code/uniform) and what my school cafeteria looked like(they eat in their classroom).
Without sounding over dramatic, leaving my host family was one of the hardest things I have had to do. No one in my family has a passport, so I know they can't visit me. I would like to visit again in a few years and maintain contact with my host sister.
YFU allowed me to gain self reliance and confidence in myself. YFU pushed me out of my comfort zone while always making sure I was safe. It was an experience of a lifetime.

How can this program be improved?
There is little that YFU could improve upon. They were very well organized and made sure we were all prepared to study abroad.
One possible thing may be better scheduling the flights/layovers. My flight to Okinawa from Tokyo we had to run through security and had about 5 minutes to spare.
On my flight home I had trouble checking in given that I was under-age, and by the time I checked in the flight had already been boarding for 10 minutes. I had to sprint through security, customs and the massive Tokyo airport to make my flight.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Roksolana
10/10

Youth for Understanding Japan

The summer of 2016, I went on a 7-week study abroad program to Japan. I received the Japan-America Friendship Scholarship from Youth for Understanding which was the only reason I could afford to go to Japan. The experience was absolutely eye-opening. I did not know any prior Japanese, but I quickly learned. My host family and new school were extremely welcoming and very encouraging. My host mom got me many Japanese children's books and would sit with me countless hours helping me read the characters and work on my pronunciation. The students at school would always help me with pronunciation in class and always invited me to hang out with them. My only regret is that I wish I didn't stay longer! I regret not applying for a semester or year-long program! This program not only helped me grow as a person, it helped me decide my future route. YFU reassured me of my future in international affairs. For anyone that is considering going abroad I only have one thing to say - go for it!! Youth for Understanding provides so many amazing programs for everyone. This will surely be a decision you won't regret.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Josephina
10/10

It Helped Me Grow Up

I've learned to be comfortable in my skin by going abroad with YFU. I met new people, made new connections, tried new things, and so much more. The best way to find yourself is to step away from what you know, and that's exactly what YFU let me do. I wouldn't trade the time I spent in Japan for anything in the world. I felt safe going to and from Japan, and connected with a safety net of YFU Representatives and volunteers throughout my entire journey, all while having my own sense of independence.

How can this program be improved?
It would have been nice to seats next to other exchange students on the plane, but that wasn't really in the program's control.
Yes, I recommend this program
Annie
10/10

Okinawa Exchange

My family has a history with Japan. My mother, too, was an exchange student and ended up living there for nearly a decade once she pursued an English teaching career. All around my house we have trinkets, books, and photos that remind of our family's year in Sendai back in 2001. I was just a toddler, so all these things were the only reminder that I was even there.
I've been so used to having this Japanese background that I became unaware of it. It was only when I saw an article in the paper about a girl who went to Japan through her school's FCCLA club. I realized that it was possible to visit Japan again. At school, this girl, Ailee, helped me to apply and I was overjoyed and surprised when I actually got it! The following summer, I had the blessing to live with the Tanas for a month. They were sweet family with their daughter, Maiko, only a couple years younger than me. I'm the youngest in my family and being an onee-san (older sister) was a new and changing experience. I had Japanese language training and help from my mom, but I wasn't fluent. The trip improved my skills better than either of those! I can't pinpoint the exact moment when the Tanas and I just "clicked," all I know was that I expressed my funny and legitimate self and they accepted and loved me as if I was their own. Of course, I enjoyed exploring both Okinawa and Tokyo that summer, but experiencing it with them made it truly special. I never knew I could have two families. We became so close and they welcomed me into every nook and cranny of their lives. I appreciated it all so much. They really cared. We made sure to keep in contact, once I had to leave. There were many tears. The following summer, though, we got to meet again in my hometown where I could return the favor. I know our relationship has not ended there and I know they are forever in my future. It's thanks to YFU, who I barely knew about at the time I was applying, that I was able to have my life changed for the better.

How can this program be improved?
This program could be improved by better organizing regional orientation. Mine did not cover Japan and there were many besides me who were going there and did not get a proper overview of what to expect.
Yes, I recommend this program

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About Youth For Understanding (YFU)

YFU participants gain intercultural understanding, learn mutual respect, and develop a sense of social responsibility. Your experience abroad gives you leadership competencies necessary to meet today’s challenges and benefit from the opportunities of...