First things first, this is probably the best experience I’ve ever had in my life. I learned so much about Japan (it was my first time there) and learned how to be more independent and do all sorts of things that I couldn’t do at home (San Francisco).
I signed up for the program 2019, which was the youth immersive program with a home stay. My favorite part about this whole trip was my host family. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous to meet them at first, but all things went well! We had emailed a few times before I went over to Japan, and I had read up on the profiles that Langubridge had provided me with.
They were so caring, kind, and always made me feel so happy! They took me to several places, like Tokyo Disneyland and Shin-Oktoberfest (Tokyo’s Koreatown). My host mother cooked the best food and my host father was such a comedian! I had a host sister (21) and a brother (18). I was 16, so I was a bit worried that I wouldn’t be mature enough for them, but I felt like I just fit right in. I hope sometime in the future I’ll be able to come back and visit them.
I didn’t mind that the commute to the building where the classes were held took an hour and thirty minutes every morning because I cherished every part of it. Even the times where I couldn’t figure out the way and accidentally went to Yokohama instead of Chiba (I came back home late after notifying my host mother, but she was completely fine with it and was just hoping I was safe). A few of the times the signs are confusing, but if you need help, there’s always a worker nearby that could help. Even if you can’t speak any Japanese, you can show them the name of the place and they’ll lead you there with no problem. Sure, it’s often very crowded and there’s many line switches, but it’s all part of the experience. My favorite part about the trains were the funny commercials they had above the doors.
The classes were held in Shinjuku, next to the red light district that was completely off-limits to us students. Classes started at 9 (I think..?) and ended at 3 (I can’t remember that well...). We’d have some breaks in between, and lunch would be for an hour. We’d also have a different curriculum in the morning compared to the one in the afternoon. Classes were also separated into Beginner and Intermediate (on the first day of school, you take a placement test to see where you fit in). This was a bit of a con for me, because if you weren’t in the same class, there wasn’t much interacting with other students. Other students got closer in classes (since we spent 75%) of the time there, and only interacted sometimes at field trips. But nonetheless, we were all friends, just a few closer than others.
On field trips, we usually split into two groups and go to different places. On the first day, you decide which place you want to go to (one of my choices were between Harajuku and Akihabara). You can also hangout with friends after classes, although there isn’t much time because of long commuting times and getting back home in time for curfew. But to be honest, my curfew wasn’t that bad and I always got back home an hour early or so (except for the time I got lost). Another con was the constant permission slips we had to get signed to hangout after classes or with friends on the weekends. On the slip we had to write the names of the people we were going with, the decided curfew, the place we were going, and a signature from our family.
Overall, this trip is the best experience I’ve ever had. I met a lot of great people and went to so many different places to try new things. I went out of my comfort zone but it was all worth it. I wish I could’ve had more time to stay with my host family and new friends, since that was the only time we would be all together (other students were either from France, Luxembourg, Australia).
The ending ceremony, of course, was the saddest part of it. Some of us had the opportunity to go on stage and talk about our experiences. We took last-minute pictures with friends and host families, and waved goodbye to them as our charter bus left the parking lot. By the time we were all in the bus, all of us were bawling our eyes out (no joke, I have a picture of all of us being so sad, lol).
I recommend this program to anybody who’s interested in doing a home stay and learning Japanese. You’re deeply immersed in the culture that you end up speaking Japanese before you know it. My advice is that you should spend as much time as you can with your host family AND your friends. Talk to everybody and tell your host family all the places you want to go, because they usually have a schedule when you first arrive at their home. If you do end up choosing this program and get accepted, I hope you have a lot of fun and I wish you lots of luck! Eat at the convenience stores and do as much as you can within the short three weeks!