I'll be co-opting the format used by Oliver for my review, because his seems quite well organized, and because he and I spent about 85% of our time in Osaka together, so our reviews will probably be rather similar.
It's fairly obvious from the get-go that CET is a very academic-oriented program, which takes itself very seriously. About 3 hours of class per day, with 1 one-on-one class per week, and the option to take elective courses with the rest of the international program at the school provides a really great environment for academic growth. I came into the program with a pretty solid foundation in Japanese, and was placed into the level 3 class with two others, making us the largest class in the program, with the level 1 class having a single person, the level 2 class having 2, and the level 4 class having 2 people. This is actually where I found my only issue with the academic portion of the program: level 3 seemed to be a catch-all for people that weren't novices, but also weren't nearly fluent. I was the top of my class by a good margin, while there was one person in my class that probably shouldn't have been, and noticeably slowed us down. However, I was clearly not good enough for the level 4 class, while this other person was clearly above the level of the level 2 class, which made for a rather awkward class environment for us in level 3, because we were all at pretty distinct levels. That aside, the academics were very good. The academic director of the program even offered us a kanji workshop twice a week for those of us who wanted to get ahead in our writing, though I was the only person that took her up on the offer. Still, it was one more great academic resource that I was very happy to make use of. And the electives we were able to take, while outside of CET jurisdiction and thus not really a reflection on them rather on the school, were also outstanding. My religion elective class went on a number of trips to important religious historical sites in and around the region, allowing for even more growth.
Language Pledge: 7/10
You'll find that I have a similar opinion to other reviewers in this regard. CET is very strict about the language pledge, which while good academically, is not so good for the people in the lower levels in about every other situation. The level 4s could basically only hold real, in-depth conversations with eachother, the program workers, actual Japanese people, and sometimes me or one other lower-level student, if the topic was something relatively common. The level 1 student could express themself only through one or two-word sentences. Essentially, while I like the pledge for what it is and for the growth I was able to obtain through it, I think it could maybe have been a little more lenient on the lower-level people, who often felt very isolated when we went out as groups, because they couldn't really participate in the dialogue.
The housing wasn't great. I lived in Lavianne, an apartment complex in Ibaraki, which is two stops away from Kishibe where the school is. That's actually not a detriment, I thought the location of my housing was really good. Sure, sometimes it got annoying that half the program could literally walk to the college, while we had to make a 30-40 minute commute by train, but we lucked out in having a great mall nearby, and a great running path. The real issue I had with the housing was that it was a tiny old apartment being shared by two people. When we arrived, my roommate and I found both of our chairs broken and had to wait for them to be repaired. We slept on futons 3 inches away from one another. The bathroom was a plastic room in the corner with no ventilation, and the shower leaked for the first 3 months. All in all, it was a generally uncomfortable living situation, though luckily the program keeps us so occupied, and there's so much to do in Osaka, that we never had to spend overmuch time in the rooms.
I was very lucky in that my roommate and I got on like brothers from the get-go. We didn't argue a single time, we had set times when we both had to be in the room no matter what, to go over schoolwork and so I could ask any questions I had, we had set nights a week when we ate dinner together no matter what. Even when he got a job and became much more busy, he always made sure he was there for our arranged times. We even got into the habit of watching Japanese reality TV together once or twice a week. I only give this a 9 because some weekends he wouldn't come home until the next afternoon, which was kinda scary, and because I know that not all roommate pairs were as close as we were.
Japan is weirdly safe. We often passed elementary school aged children walking to school alone in the mornings, something which would never fly in the US, especially in such a large city as Osaka. I spent a semester in Bilbao, Spain, and the difference was night and day. Even though nothing ever happened to me in Spain, a number of people in my group were assaulted or robbed, and I never felt quite safe walking alone at night. In Japan, though, I could walk through the seediest part of Shinsaibashi or Nanba, the nightlife districts of Osaka, alone and at night, and never feel unsafe. Sure part of that is that I'm a 6'2" man, so I'd probably feel safer than most regardless of where I am, but the fact remains that it always felt safe. Even with all that inherent safety, though, CET went above and beyond in their preparing us for the city. We had a number of safety orientations at the beginning to tell us exactly how to get by and how to be safe in Japan, and I always felt that the coordinators and program leaders would answer the phone if I felt unsafe for any reason. I really can find no fault with the program as far as safety. If you need proof that Japan is safe, my friends and I missed the last train in Shinsaibashi one night, and instead of hanging out and waiting till morning for the first train, we just walked home. We walked 14 miles home, through 3 or 4 smaller "cities", started at midnight and arrived home at about 6am, and not once did any of us feel unsafe.
Not much to say in this regard. It's an intensive academic program in a foreign country. You'll have your fair share of work, but also an even greater opportunity to explore and experience new things. The program hosts a number of amazing trips, the trains connect virtually the entire country, and the nightlife in Osaka is great. There's always something to do, for those willing to search for it. Plus, all students at Osaka Gakuin University get free access to the school gym, which is a great gym that's often not too busy. Sometimes it'll be filled with like 30 high schoolers just sitting on the machines, but for the most part it's essentially empty.
If you like Japanese food, you're in luck, because this program does, in fact, take place in ?Japan. There's easy access to literally any food you want, and if you can't find something, there are grocery stores in most areas. There's even McDonald's, Taco Bell, and other American bad food restaurants that are easily locateable if you get homesick for horrible food, like my friend did.
All said and done, it's a really great program and I'd recommend it to anybody who wants to immerse themselves in Japanese language and culture and come out far more knowledgeable than they went in.