I'm going to leave a review because reviews for this program were hard to find before I went abroad, and the ones I found were all positive. I went in summer 2018 and while I overall enjoyed it and had a good time, some very concerning things happened while I was abroad and I want everyone to have a realistic review before they commit to this program. This review is for the short term Summer Program, I can't speak for the semester long program as it has a different structure.
It's going by a different name following a rebranding this year, but I attended the Summer Intensive Japanese Study abroad in Osaka in 2018. I'll start this in depth review by saying this program really has the potential to be an amazing, life changing program, but as it is now I cannot in good faith recommend it unless you are already at an extremely high level of Japanese proficiency. The issues I bring up in this review has been brought up in past years, but still have not been addressed. Basically, staff and administration were so focused on only the academic rigor of the program that student concerns and mental health were ignored. The language pledge was focused on to the extent that student well being and communication between student and staff was ignored, and students were left without a good support network in a foreign country. Overall I had an excellent time outside of the classes, but my experience was the exception rather than the norm. For housing, there were issues with the roommates, especially the Japanese male roommates. The Japanese roommates seem to receive little vetting for joining the program.
During my time at the program I recorded any issues the study abroad participants had, and I've summarized them below.
A summary of some of the issues students have encountered during the program:
Sexual harassment. -A student was harassed outside of her dorm in Osaka, and when she called to report it in staff criticized her actions after the event occurred, seemed bothered they'd have to file paperwork over the incident, and never informed other students about the event or to be safe.
When one student was in the hospital over a severe allergic reaction he was encouraged to take the next day off for his health, but informed the missed time wouldn't be excused, despite being in the hospital for three hours
When students tried to explain serious roommate and housing issues staff members informed students they would be reported for breaking the language pledge when they explained their issues in English, despite students being unable to describe their problems in Japanese. Nothing was done about reported issues. Further, many Japanese roommates chosen for the program behaved in an inappropriate way including smoking and sleeping with other people while roommates were around, but staff had little power to address this issue and always sided with Japanese roommates when issues were reported.
A student was not given time off to help with an emergency medical situation at home despite the possibility a family member might be seriously ill. Individual teachers have no power to excuse coursework, senior staff has all the decision power and rarely sides with students. A student's medical information was also discussed by a teacher in front of the rest of the class in a direct violation of her privacy.
Students experiencing mental health issues received little support, and in order for any class time to be excused had to have a note from a professional, none of whom live nearby making students travel to other locations to receive help. Students with issues only have one English speaking staff they can speak to at length, and that person is not certified as a counselor. Further, staff often speaks down to students as if they are children, but then expects them to navigate Japan that first week independently. Reassuring words were often said to students but then nothing was ever done to address issues. There was little support during our arrival to Japan and the first week. When students expressed frustration over policies and events they were often told that was just the way it was, or were quoted policies that were not found in the handbook or on the CET website.
I went during the summer an earthquake occurred in Japan. During the earthquake one of the student housing's doors became jammed, trapping students inside during the time where aftershocks were a risk. As there was only one door and all the windows were covered students had to wait while other students from neighboring housing pried the window coverings off so they could escape. Afterwords when a trapped student talked with CET staff she received verbal confirmation that there is only one escape route for many houses, and in the case it is blocked housing becomes very dangerous. Nothing was ever done about this issue.
During the heavy rainfall and flooding that occurred that summer students were told to come to school for their project presentations despite the risk that trains might stop. We were told we would need to walk thirty minutes to school in flood rain if trains did stop. During the poster presentations an evacuation order for the area was issued which staffed ignored so students could complete their presentations.
A hazing event between Japanese roommates occurred and CET staff dismissed the event after speaking with students involved, since students assured them it was not hazing. After seeing the videos and listening to CET students that lived there it definitely appears to be hazing, and that CET simply doesn't want to have to report and do paperwork on the occurrence. I understand that power dynamics and social stigmas are different between America and Japan, but this program is in partnership with many American Universities and these issues need to be treated seriously and not dismissed as just an aspect of Japanese culture.
On the subject of policies some information was not released to students until the week before the program began, much too late a time to change plans and receive a refund, with little time to plan and prepare. This included the need for $200 in a housing deposit, and the knowledge that we would have four hours of hw a day. ALL information about the program needs to be available up front when students are considering applying.
CET is unsympathetic towards medical issues despite claiming they are there in support. Students that are experiencing a medical issue often have to go through many steps to get any missed time excused (which affects their grade otherwise) and no special concessions are given to students with medical issues that might struggle with extreme temperatures for example.
A student was hospitalized for a week due to a life threatening allergy and had to attend class because he was told it wouldn't be excused otherwise. Staff did not provide ways to relieve students allergy or make accommodations.
CET was aware of the severity of the allergy before the student came to Japan and student was reassured CET was prepared to handle the situation, but staff clearly was not prepared or ready to accommodate the student.
In addition, the student was told to come to class after telling staff he felt was going to suffer an allergy attack because missed class time can't be excused.
Whether students had a good experience during this program seemed to be luck of the draw, as the teachers and roommates often determined whether the experience was good, as well as not experiencing any health issues during the two months. Some teachers were verbally abusive towards students, repeatably, and nothing was done about this. Some Japanese roommates regularly violated CET policies and nothing was done.
There were a lot of negatives during this program, but there were a lot of good experiences and times as well. But ultimately I'll end this review by saying the final night after the exams were over and we were celebrating at the end of the year party many Japanese students came up to me crying because they would miss us so much. They had grown so close to us in the summer, but I felt like I hardly had the chance to get to know them because of the extreme amount of homework and classwork expected of us. I still cherish these bonds, but imagine if we'd had more time to focus on the social and cultural aspects of the program. Instead, I sat in my room doing Japanese homework five days a week. There were days I was so frustrated and stressed I cried and regretted coming to Japan, something I've always wanted to do.
In summary, if you want to go to Japan and only do school work for eight hours a day, don't have any medical issues, and don't mind having no support in a foreign country, this might be the program for you. I do believe this program has excellent bones and can be amazing, but they need to actually stop and listen to students and adjust the program. These complaints I've learned are nothing new yet they are never addressed year to year.