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.