TL;DR: I probably would not come back. If you want an intensive Japanese language experience, I would encourage you to look into other schools before signing up for GenkiJACS. If you want to have an easy study abroad experience, then this is the perfect place.
The courses and curriculum. Definitely my least favorite part of the trip. I chose GenkiJACS because I thought it was going to be a really intense language school, which is what I wanted. My language skills did improve a lot, however the course style itself was painfully slow. At the beginning, I was told we would go through one chapter of the Genki textbook a week. That was not true. We crawled through material, going through about half a chapter a week. I did tell them that the class was too easy for me, so they assigned me extra homework – but it wasn’t the material that was the issue. It was the pace. Japanese is one of the most difficult languages in the world to learn so I do understand the need to take it slow… But then don’t advertise as an intensive language school. It’s not intense. At least not in my opinion, and I have experience studying other languages. (I also am fluent in Mandarin and have spent six years learning Chinese) I think over the course of 4 weeks, I felt challenged only once or twice.
The other thing that really, really bothers me was the class size. GenkiJACs advertises the ‘max of 8 students’ everywhere – it’s their selling point. However, my class has 9 people the first week. Was the extra person a problem in terms of learning material? Of course not! However, the classrooms were too small to handle an extra person, and we were crammed for space.
My real issue with having the extra person is that it demonstrates a lack of integrity on the school’s part. Do not advertise a maximum of 8 students when that is not true. The fact that it was a lie and nobody even acknowledged or apologized for it troubled me on a few levels – one, it is morally unacceptable. False advertising really gets on my nerves. Two, I paid more for GenkiJACS for a class size of 8. I got a class size of 9. It’s not what I paid for. If the maximum of 8 students per class was truly as important as the school claims it to be, then they would have split the class up. They didn’t.
Of course, when it comes to the school’s best interest, they are willing to be flexible. At one point, we only had two people in our class, so because it was their policy to have a reduced amount of hours for a ‘semi-private’ class, they cut classes on one day. If policy is so important to you, why did you allow 9 people to be in our class when the max was 8?
Pre-arrival support and school support once there is AMAZING. Demi (pre-arrival support) is amazing, responsive, and so very nice. Even though I asked a 100 questions, and had changed my courses a few times, he was patient and understanding. He’s a gem. Eri, the receptionist at the Tokyo school, was also very kind and responsive.
The true treasure of GenkiJACS is the teaching staff. Every single one of them is amazing and competent. I have so many faves, but I do have to give a shout-out to Hideo sensei. I love his teaching style and he makes the class fun. Well, all of them make the class fun. I don’t think there’s a single “bad egg” in the teaching staff. (Maybe there was one I wasn't too fond of, but that's okay) While the classes were very slow, at least the teachers were amazing.
Also, I'm not a fan of the flexible schedule.
The highlight of my trip. On a scale of 1 to 10, this is easily a 100. I did a homestay program and it was INCREDIBLE. Everything about it was amazing. The best meals I had in Japan were made by my host mother. Some of the best experiences I had were memories I made with my host family (i.e. going to an onsen together). If you are reading this review and are on the fence about doing a homestay, let this review assure you – JUST DO IT. Just accept that you will make mistakes and it’s okay that you do. Yes, you will somehow offend your host family by accidentally eating rice with a fork (as I did), or by asking a good-intentioned but nosy question (like I did). It’s okay. You’re learning, and the family is understanding that you don’t know all the customs and what to/what to not ask. You won’t be their first nor last (likely) host student, so they are used to this. I learned so much from my host family – the culture, the language, everything. Not to mention I got to practice what I learned in class with them. Also, the fact that I got to represent America was pretty damn cool. I loved being a mini diplomat 😊
The location of the homestay itself was also amazing. It wasn’t far from school, the town was beautiful, and I really got a “feel” for Japanese life. I cannot say enough positive things about my homestay experience. I was only here for 4 weeks, but I bonded with my host family to the point that I was so sad to leave them. Do yourself a favor and DO THE HOMESTAY. You will grow so much as a person. You will learn so much about the country, the people, and rapidly learn the language if that’s what you’re after. Of course, if you’re not a serious student and are prone to going to bars every night… then maybe this isn’t for you. Still, at least consider it.