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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My Program

As the time approaches, I realize I've not really mentioned what exactly I'll be doing/what my program is. Seeing as how this blog is for people thinking about studying abroad as well as updating friends and family, I'm sure it might be helpful to know ;)

I decided on a bit more complicated of a process due to the program I chose: It's through a program provider called CCIS (http://www.ccisabroad.org/) who will pretty much be in charge of the program details. I'm able to do it through my university and get credit, but they're more of an intermediary in the process, really only serving the convenience of ease of program billing and application of financial aid. I had to submit my app directly to CCIS who then processed and forwarded it to the school in Japan, and through CCIS I will being going through an affiliate university to transfer back credit. Whew! It sounds more complicated than it really is, though.

Going through CCIS requires an extra step or two compared to just an exchange program hosted by my university, but I chose CCIS because it offered the only program centered in Tokyo. There were plenty of other options, but in the end I decided I wanted to experience Tokyo and survey all the spiffy things it has to offer (though I'm sure I'll be overwhelmed). The host university/school in Japan is called KCP International (http://www.kcpinternational.com/) and I've heard some good stuff about it. It has small class sizes of ~20 students, but each class seems to get about 3 teachers on average that run it at varying time, meaning more instruction and people to talk to if I have questions. Choosing this program in particular was slightly more expensive than a few other of the programs KSU offers, but I really liked the description and location in particular for KCP. I have the opportunity to stay in a 寮 (ryou: dormitory) with some international students and local Japanese students, which seems like a fantastic avenue to make Japanese friends roughly my age =D

I did strongly consider doing a homestay while there, but decided against it for a few reasons (aside from the horror stories that circulate :P). I'm going to have a curfew at the dorm--it can't be avoided--but any regulations placed upon me would like be tougher simply because I'm a woman. The society isn't as strongly sexist as it used to be, but women are still seen to need more attention/care and such. Also, given the fact I'll be taking a huge courseload of Japanese studies alone, having time to properly integrate myself into a host family's life and become part of the household might be difficult. I'll likely not have quite enough time to do chores/help around the house, study, and be able to do a bit of exploring on my own. I want the little bit of extra freedom that being in a dorm will allow me, and I'll be able to have downtime alone to decompress instead of constantly being stresses and anxious as I would be in a homestay. That's not to say homestay's don't have their merit, I just simply don't find it to be quite what I want for my trip. I want the ability to interact more with people my own age. I'm sure anyone who chooses a homestay will get a lot out of the experience.

KCP offers a decent spectrum of study opportunities like summer and short programs, as well as full semesters. I decided to do the fall 2010 (October 7th - December 23rd) and the winter 2011 (January 8th - March 26th) which coincide nicely with American semesters (though slightly shorter, it seems). Hopefully everything should transfer back properly and then I'll graduate in May after I return. Hopefully. Somethings may not transfer back exactly, or come back instead as generic credits. I may end up needing one or two classes when it's all said and done, which isn't really that difficult to manage; I can do it over the summer when I get back if I have to. That being said, I'd much rather have it done by May, heh.

The program itself consists of 12 credit hours per semester of Japanese language studies (did I mention this is supposed to be an intensive language program? No? Well, it is) and then 2 credit hours of a culture class that I take my first semester. I'm under the impression that this program is not for the faint of heart, but is a really good way to hammer in some Japanese skills. Not to mention opportunities abound for using the classroom language in real life out and about in Tokyo if I want to wander around/shop etc.

There's the program in a nutshell. It really offered what I wanted (totally not a shameless plug for KCP International, hehe) and I look forward to attending!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Getting closer!

The time is slowly approaching. Sometime next month I will get the results back from Japanese Immigration about my Certificate of Eligibility, and then I'll take that and mail it with my passport to the Japanese Consulate in Chicago and get my Visa! I'll buy my currency next month towards the end (because it'll take about a month for my bank to get it once ordered)

In anticipation of good results from Immigration, I've been slowly looking around about flight prices and the time frames for it etc. I've found a few good sites that compile lots of info and provide student discounts:

www.studentuniverse.com
www.statravel.com
www.bookingbuddy.com

If you're looking for for price info for flights, I recommend these sites. The first two give flight prices for students, so there are actually some good deals because of student discounts. The last one is kind of a catch-all that takes lots of different flight searching sites and lets you see lots of different options and prices. In general, a flight to Japan is sort of pricey--not too surprising. I've seen ranges of $1100-1500, so you have to do a bit of searching to find yourself a good deal. Start looking early enough so that you don't pay last-minute fees, but don't book so far out from your travel date because sometimes they'll fine you for booking too early, as well.