I came into the course having studied only one year of beginner's Japanese. The first day you begin, you take a CET evaluation exam (note: not practice JLPT; that comes later). I want to note for future students that it is very important that you emphasis to the academic advisor what level you want. Originally I was placed into the level 1 course, but after talking with the academic advisor I was placed into the level 2 intermediate class. Level 1 was a bit ridiculous since I know for certain I scored quite well on the initial evaluation which was why on the second day when it came down to taking the Practice JLPT (which is CET created and only an hour), I was offered to take the N4 practice with the level 2 and not the N5 with the level 1.
Maybe it was due to our program only having 8 people total, my class only consisted of myself and one other person. Other classes were also similar: the most people in a class was the level 3 with 3 ppl and the fewest was with the level 1, only 1. Class schedule was usually 2 hours a day with a 3 hour day and then a 1 on 1 once per week. I studied from Genki II and we usually finished one chapter a week. For those interested in the textbook used for level 3 and 4, level 3 used Tobira, and level 4 I have no clue although I heard they did use a lot of raw text.
You also have to do a poster presentation: honestly not even that bad, just really annoying. But I will say presenting in a different language to the president of the school really puts into perspective a knew meaning of confidence. I had some friends who absolutely hated the poster presentation, to me I will admit I kind of liked it.
Language Pledge: 6/10
I think one of the biggest reasons people choose CET Japan is mainly for its language pledge. While no doubt the language pledge was one of the reasons why I chose CET, it did become a little ridiculous. Little background of myself: I'd done a language intensive program with a language pledge before in Beijing with Duke in Beijing the summer before so I think I am a little bit qualified to give my opinion about this matter.
Although staff did uphold the language pledge to a very strict standard, I felt it was sometimes too strict. Maybe because our program consisted of only 8 people, in order for any of to really be able to interact with each other, it sometimes became necessary to use English. I think the biggest challenge was especially talking to the level 1 students. Because they had never studied Japanese before (including Hiragana and Katakana) if we wanted to talk to them, English became necessary. Also, since I'd only studied Japanese for one year before coming, I also rarely spoke with the higher level students, and they with me. But since the program was so small I ended up speaking some English just to feel somewhat sane. I'm not sure what the program can do on their part, maybe by increasing the number of people (but that is beyond their control) or maybe even eliminating the level 1 class entirely? I know in my Duke in Beijing program, they did not have any level 1 class just to avoid this problem entirely.
I think for all of us, the biggest strife was with the housing. CET used two buildings during my stay: Lavianne and Arabesque. Lavianne is more of an apartment setting, meaning you literally leave with your Japanese roommate. There is a bathroom, washing machine, kitchen, and a tatami room. It is also about 2 train stations away from the school. Arabesque is more of a share house meaning you kind of have your own bed and tiny stove/sink with (depending on the room) a curtain separating you and your Japanese roommate. You can walk to school from Arabesque
I lived in Lavianne, and the main problem was that it was very old and very tiny. The bathroom sink constantly leaked and the toilet barely flushed. Also, the ventilation in the bathroom was very poor. When it comes down to bedding, I slept in the tatami room in a futon literally 6 inches away from my Japanese roommate's futon. Sometimes I thought that the room was really only for one person, and that the program only chose that apartment to save money. I've included some pictures below.
Arabesque, I think it can be fair to say that everyone living in Lavianne was always immensely jealous of the people living in Arabesque. The rooms were more private and more modern. However, Arabesque had their own problems. I had one friend come down with a quite serious illness due to molding in the AC unit that had failed to be cleaned for years. In the words of the AC unit cleaner according to my friend, he had never seen an AC unit that dirty in his line of work before. Also, the program provides a 5000 yen stipend each month for each individual roommate in Arabesque (it was 7500 for each roommate pair in Lavianne). Somehow, every individual in Arabesque manage to exceed this stipend in quite large excess (this was never the case for us in Lavianne and in the end I heard that a lot of the excess Lavianne stipend was used to cover the Arabesque people). I had a friend who swore this was due to the inefficiency of the heating unit and after he stopped using the heat entirely in the whole month of November, was he finally able to go below the stipend. He was the only one I know who managed to do it in Arabesque. However, since I did not live in Arabesque, I don't think I can judge too much since I wasn't there.
So, as a preface, Japanese people generally do not live with roommates. As I previously mentioned in Housing, people in Lavianne lived with their Japanese roommates as opposed to Arabesque where some people had their own rooms, and some people had one huge room separated by a curtain. To tell you the truth, I think the people in Lavianne had better relationships with their Japanese roommates than the Arabesque people. Maybe it is because you are literally so close to your roommate, you and him/her are forced to kind of work it out together. However, on the Arabesque side, I heard that often times roommates would really ignore the students and kind of do their own things. This became kind of a problem because you are paying for your roommates rent (they get "free housing" through you) and when your roommate who is supposed to help you get better at Japanese is not there, it becomes an unequal trade off.
To put it quite bluntly, I think this roommate problem is partly due to the ranking of the school. I had a friend search up the rank of Osaka Gakuin University OGU (the college affiliated with CET) and it ranked something like in the 500s in Japan. Thus, the Japanese students there were not really of a high studious caliber to put it bluntly. Just to put some perspective on the roommate situation in Arabesque, we had one Japanese roommate kicked out 3 months into the program due to excessive partying in the house, and another who was seemed way more interested in his Korean studies and took to speaking and interacting more with the Korean international students (CET is just one of the international programs at OGU, there is another exchange program happening at the same time) and in short neglecting his responsibilities to his American counterpart.
However, I will say that if you have a good roommate, it can really be the difference in improving your Japanese. My roommate and I always got along well, and we often spoke. He was studying English and was pretty good at it, probably the best amongst all the Japanese roommates. Thus, if I ever had a question, I could ask him anytime and he could respond in English if I did not understand. I know that some other roommates literally knew zero English and I wonder if that was a criteria CET wanted when considering Japanese roommate applications. This is where I mean that the Language pledge being not helpful: sometimes it really is necessary to use English to explain some more complex Japanese material. Also, CET's has a policy of resolving roommate conflicts by allowing roommates to resolve problems within themselves with CET acting as an intermediary. Whilst I won't say this is a bad system, it does certainly elevate the status of the roommate above us when we also consider the Language pledge in effect. For us American students, if we had a problem we will generally avoid dealing with it until when it really got bad because 1. we don't want to offend our roommate by saying something mistakingly with our bad Japanese and stressing an already tense relationship with them (remember, they have never had a roommate experience before!), and 2. even if it got really bad to the point where we have to confront our roommates, we would still be unable to say anything since our roommate did not understand English!
To be quite honest, I believe CET should be looking for more higher English ability roommates. I know it sounds counterintuitive to the Language Pledge, but I think it is a necessary evil and something that is like one step back, two steps forward: whilst it goes against the pledge, on the other hand it allows roommates to become closer and then through that allow for more interaction and then more Japanese. I think I am a clear example of this benefit: of all the students there I believe I improved the most-- and this is not just my opinion but on my final practice JLPT test score as well-- and that was because I actually interacted with my Japanese roommate.
Hearing all this, you might think, why do I give it 9/10 if I have so many opinions on the matter? Well at the end of the day this is my experience, and my experience was quite good. Sadly, I believe my roommate is a little busy next semester so he is not doing it to the best of my knowledge, but big shout out to Yukihiro!
Honestly, I think Japan is probably the safest country in the world and I would often even leave my door unlocked at night because of how safe it is. However, the reason why I did not give it a 10 is because I did have female friends who were harassed by Japanese men randomly on the streets. However, I don't have much to say about it since I believe the program did everything they could to protect us and sometimes things are just out of your control. I will say however that at night people do walk alone by themselves and you will often see grade schoolers (1st graders) go to and from school by themselves. Take it as you will, but I still think that for a girl, Japan is still probably the safest country in the world.
I think a lot of people go into the program thinking that there will be a lot of work (I did!). But really, homework is really manageable, maybe 2 hours a day. However, I know that the 3rd year and 4th year classes had pretty decent chunks of homework, how much I do not know. The program does have an overnight trip and a few scattered one day weekend trips and about once a month your class will go on a field trip for some hands-on experience. Also, Kyoto is literally 20 miles away or like 30 minutes by train so I suppose you can go have fun every weekend if you want. However, for me, I just thought Osaka was a little bit boring and Kyoto, whilst interesting, got boring after a while too. Personally, I went to Tokyo for a three day weekend, and if I were to chose again between a program in Osaka and Tokyo, I would have chosen Tokyo.
Found it a little too late that I am not that big of a Japanese cuisine kind of guy. I don't cook so this was obviously a problem. However, I will say that I did eat Indian Curry almost every day in Osaka, for those interested it is called "Seema Curry" located in Ibaraki, near Lavianne. I kind of do want to flex a little and say that I became a regular there and I would often get free ice cream or nan or soup if I so desired (I was that good!). Otherwise I picked up my meals at the Aeon Mall (two minutes from Lavianne); there is a KFC and a McDonalds but I would say the KFC is really meh whilst the Mc D is awesome. Also, there is a fourth floor of restaurants on Aeon Mall which you should look into, and a supermarket for all those Gordon Ramsays out there.
For all you trying to get swole, you're in luck. You can use the school gym for free and it is actually quite impressive. However, why I did not give it a 10/10 is because you will need to buy new shoes specifically for indoor use only. Also, you may at times have to fight over equipment with the high schoolers who are always either there in packs, or not there at all. However, I would really stay away from the trainers, I don't think they know what they are talking about, but that is my opinion only.
Also, if you live near Lavianne, if you run around the entire Reitsumeken University Campus behind Aoen mall, 1 lap= 1.1 miles exactly. So that's pretty convenient.
Bottom Line: 7/10
If you asked me "would I do this again", probably not. The housing was just way to substandard, and the overall cost of the program a little bit too expensive for me to afford it again. However, if you ask me "would I recommend this program", then yes, I would. I think at the end of the day, an experience is what you make out of it, and for me I think for those who are really interested in studying Japanese would really serve to benefit out of it. Furthermore, there is really something spectacular about studying in Japan, specifically in the suburbs of Osaka. You will use Japanese constantly because most people in that area do not speak very good English.