My name is Daniel and last summer (2011) I went to Japan, joining the WCI program. It was the first time for me in Japan and it couldn't have been any better!
I'm currently a Japanese major student in the Netherlands. Before last summer I had never been to Japan and I felt that in order to get extra motivated to study the Japanese language and culture, I figured going to Japan would be a good way to achieve this. I didn't feel like traveling around on my own, since this required a certain level of proficiency in the Japanese language, which at that time I certainly did not have. When the WCI CEO came to the Netherlands to give a presentation about WCI, I decided to drop by and the concept of the program immediately piqued my interest; it promised to let the participants experience Japan from within, rather than as a tourist. The idea of a homestay program also appealed to me, as I wanted to improve my language skills.
Anyway, enough about my motives for joining the program, on with the review. I made a mistake when I booked my ticket, so I informed the WCI staff that I would arrive at the airport a few hours late. The WCI staff advised me to get on a bus and upon arriving at some bus stop, my host family would pick me up. I was rather stressed out because I had hardly any idea of how the bus ticket system works in Japan. At the point I started being desperate because I couldn't read more than 5% of the kanji that were displayed on the bus ticket dispenser, a staff member of WCI patted me on the back and told me they came to pick me up, which was quite a relief. This one of many examples of care, combined with all the memorable activities that the WCI staff managed to plan and the inspiring personalities that these staff members have, create a perfect base for an amazing program.
There are a few things that make the WCI program so memorable, it's uniqueness, it's focus on cultural diversity and the overall sense of opennness. Especially the latter two are the aspects of the program that left quite an impact on my life. The program attracts people from all around the world, who are all interested in exploring Japan. While exploring, I was in contact with all these different people's cultures as well. I learned a lot about the countries that my fellow participants came from and also about their cultures, ideals and thoughts. This made me more open and understanding towards other people, which I really treasure as an attained skill. It's also the openness of the people in and around the program that struck me in a positive way. People want to know about you, people want to tell you their stories and everyone is accepted as a part of the group. After a some days pass, the feeling of a family is really there. The day I left Japan, I felt like I was leaving friends that I had known for years, even though it had been just over a month. I could talk to some of these people about personal matters and they gave me more confidence. The encounters with these people made me change the way I think about some aspects of my life; I am convinced that I should take any opportunity that crosses my path and to step out of my comfort-zone, even when this doesn't appeal to be enjoyable. I also gained a lot more confidence to do this, but also in other aspects of my life.
Furthermore, I would like to express the program's uniqueness when it comes to the activities that were organised. As I stated above, this is also one of the aspects that made WCI so memorable. Due to contacts with local communities, WCI is able to give the participants access to various organisations such as schools, universities, elderly homes, hospitals, companies, dojos, temples, etc. These kinds of access also include many rare opportunities such as being able to interview city mayors, company CEOs or even an atomic bomb survivor. There's also the opportunity to help farmers in their rice fields, to give elderly or handicapped people a fun day, or to hang out with Japanese university students and have a drink with them. When going to more regular touristic spots such as temples and castles, there is often someone (a monk, a CEO, university students, etc.) that gives us a special tour or the opportunity to ask questions and get answers directly rather than from a pamphlet.
Because this is starting to look like an advert rather than a review, I suppose I should mention the bad points of the program. To be honest I have a hard time thinking of any, but if I had to name one, it would be that the program is mainly in English. Unless one makes a great effort to talk Japanese with one's host families, I think it is hard to improve Japanese conversational skills. On the other hand I really did notice a difference in my comprehension of the Japanese language and my grades at the university have only been rising since I left Japan, so I can say that one's overall proficiency is still likely to increase.
To conclude I can only emphasize how big of an impact this program had on me and how much I recommend everyone to join this program. There is so much more that defines World Campus International's amazingness that I have not been able to mention in this review, but I can assure everyone that everything I've experienced has been worth every single penny/cent/yen that I've spent on the program. The fact that I will be joining WCI again this summer, should at least prove I'm positive about the program, to say the least. Don't miss this opportunity, JOIN WCI!
Life-changing. Great people. Friendships. Beatiful and fun Japan. Amazing opportunities. Huge impact. Unique program. Multicultural. Learn. JOIN WCI!