Summer alumnus Ean Smith reminisces about his time at KCP and with his host family. Thanks for sharing, Ean!
In the summer of 2013 I had the incredible opportunity to study abroad in Japan at KCP International. With my love for the Japanese culture and a desire to learn the language, it would have been foolish for me to not be a part of this program. From the get go, the KCP staff in both the United States and Japan were incredibly helpful, answering all of my questions in a timely fashion. If learning the Japanese language is something you aspire to do, I cannot recommend the KCP immersion program enough. Though it was frustrating at times, I felt that this was the best way for me to learn a language, and many of the friends I met overseas will agree with me.
I chose to live with a host family during my time as a student at KCP. I wanted to experience first-hand what it would be like living with a Japanese family and see how their daily routine differed from that of mine. When I got the email saying that I would be living with a host family that spoke no English whatsoever, my stomach turned and I went into panic modeinstantly. What if I couldn’t understand anything? What if they didn’t like me? I would be lying if I said there wasn’t an immediate language barrier when I arrived, but throughout the program, I found communication easier as the days went on.
On one occasion there was a cultural difference that caused my host mom to call KCP to have them explain to me what was going on. My host mom was not okay with me doing laundry once a week. Being a 23-year-old guy living on his own in the States, that was pretty typical for me. My host mom wanted me to give her my laundry to do every day. Not that I’m complaining, but because where I lived didn’t have a dryer, when I gave her a week’s worth of clothes, it took a bit of time to dry because she air-dried my clothes. It was also wonderful to have breakfast and dinner cooked for me, EVERY DAY! I think the bond between my host mom, host dad, and I helped push me to become a better student to eliminate that language barrier. I still talk to both of them on a monthly basis. I am a little homesick for my host mom’s homemade tonkatsu from time to time.
I found the Japanese nightlife to be incomparable to anything in the United States. Since Japan doesn’t partake in daylight savings time, it gets dark fairly early every day, so the nightlife gets going pretty quickly. My friends and I had plenty to do in Shinkjuku–from game centers, to the movie theatres, to frequenting izakayas, to venturing out to new restaurants, there is no shortage of entertainment in Japan. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, there are plenty of historical monuments to visit. Attempting to explain all of this in a brief blog will do it no justice, so you’re just going to have to experience this for yourself.
I can’t recommend this program enough. An immersion program is the best way to learn a language. The staff at KCP is so dedicated in helping students learn and master the Japanese language. I’ve made lifelong friends and have a second family because of this program, and that’s invaluable to me.
Ean Smith in front of Matsumoto Castle. | KCP Flickr
If you have a question for Ean about his KCP experiences, please ask him.
In August, we hosted another dinner where more former students offered their insights to those who are venturing into the program. And we got it all on video again. Have a look!
Another Dinner with KCP, Part 1
Another Dinner with KCP, Part 2
KCP-USA office plans to host a dinner each year for some students who live near their office north of Seattle, Wash. We also plan to invite newly signed up students who can ask questions of former students.
Stay tuned for more in the coming months!
Visit our KCP channel in YouTube for more KCP-related videos.
KCP summer-short-term alumnus Steven Brucato shares with us several valuable insights and photos taken during his time at KCP. Thanks, Steven!
This past summer, I had the opportunity to study abroad in Tokyo. My school’s study abroad department recommended KCP International Japanese Language School. I had always wanted to travel to Japan, experience the culture, and learn the language. When I arrived at KCP, I was a true beginner at Japanese. My goal was to provide myself with a strong foundation in the language. After 8 weeks in the program, I left confident in what I had learned, my expectations had been exceeded, and I was ready to further my studies in the language.
Studying at KCP in Tokyo was a defining experience in my life. I had never been outside of the United States and hadn’t had exposure to a country not my own. However, adjusting to life in Tokyo was not difficult, and I did not experience culture shock. I loved being in the city every day and in fact did not miss home once.
I chose to stay in a dorm. I felt this was the best choice for me because I like having my own space, and it was also a chance for me to be truly independent. I highly recommend KCP’s dormitory housing. The dorm managers were extremely helpful, and while they did not speak English, they made every effort to provide me with everything I needed for a comfortable stay, and were very engaged with the students they hosted.
At school, I made a lot of friends with other Americans, Koreans, Chinese, and Vietnamese. At KCP you will truly be among international students, the majority of whom do not speak English. However, the thing that connects you all together is Japanese, so using it becomes a lot of fun. While attending KCP involves a lot of work and studying, there is still a lot of time to go out, which you will need because there is so much to do in Tokyo. Almost every day after school, a group of us would go out and explore the city, and I still haven’t seen it all.
Of all the things I did last summer, the festivals were the most memorable. There are countless festivals in the summer season, and by going to them you will experience a true part of Japanese culture. Going to the heart of the city, like Shibuya, especially at night, is a great experience. You may find that you need to stay out all night on multiple occasions because the trains stop running at twelve, but you won’t find a safer city to be out all night in.
Walking, bikes, and the train are the ways to get around in Tokyo. One of the most interesting aspects of Tokyo is the almost complete lack of car traffic. On the surface, it may seem like the city is not that busy, but once you get onto the train for the morning commute or on the weekends during festivals, you see just how busy and packed everything can be. Visiting Tokyo Disneyland and the temples were definite highlights as well. KCP makes sure to show more traditional sides of Japan. They take you on cultural excursions to ancient temples and samurai castles. Travel outside of Tokyo is up to you. There is time for it; a few of my classmates climbed Mount Fuji and visited both Kyoto and Yokohama.
KCP is a great program. It is centered on learning Japanese, and this, in my opinion, is what sets it apart from attending a Japanese university. KCP also makes more sense economically to attend than a Japanese university. There is only one class, and it is language instruction. There is also optional English support and a Saturday culture class for students who stay for an academic semester. In addition to this, there are a lot of clubs that most students join, such as the newspaper and singing club. With relatively small classroom sizes, you will be doing a lot of speaking, a huge benefit in learning a language. In addition, reading, writing, and listening are critical parts to the program. With English used so little, soon enough you will start to think in Japanese.
The instructors at KCP are all professionals; they know how to teach Japanese very well. As with anything, though, it comes down to how much you work at it on your own. There are important differences between American and Japanese classrooms that I became aware of. First, there is a divide between the students and the teacher. While the teachers are very helpful and kind, you generally will not get as close to them as you may with your college professors, although it varies from person to person. It is important to give them your utmost respect at all times. Eating and drinking in the classroom is considered incredibly rude. Remember you are a guest in Japan, and it is important to value the traditions and culture of the Japanese, which are based on politeness and respect.
KCP is a very rewarding program. It’s located in a great area in Shinjuku in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Enrolling in a KCP program is a great way to spend the summer or academic semester. I left KCP with improved Japanese language skills, a newfound appreciation for Japan, valuable international experience, great friends, and some of the best memories of my life.
Are you wondering what it’s like to be in the KCP program? Summer short-term alumnus Donovan R. White shares with us his KCP experiences. He also gives us a glimpse of the warmth and diverse culture of the Japanese. Thanks for sharing, Donovan!
In their college career, almost everyone dreams of studying abroad somewhere. It is one of those college goals that seem intangible for most. When I was a freshman, my friends and I talked about where we would go if we could study anywhere in the world. I said that I would love to go to Japan and study Japanese. At the time, it was a far-fetched idea. I had no means of travel and didn’t know how I would get there.
Needless to say, I managed to make my way to Japan. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I immediately wondered what I had gotten myself into. Japan was so different from home. It was stressful living. However, the moment I found KCP and Tanaka-san said to me “Welcome to KCP,” I knew I would be taken care of.
I originally chose KCP for my study away experience because they offered the best pricing for the longest stay in Japan. Knowing what I know now, I realize they offer something far more precious. KCP provides a family. The staff was always extremely helpful and supportive to any of my needs. Also, they really seemed to understand how I felt being in the foreign country and knowing little Japanese. I think Michiko-san said it best, “You students must feel like you are losing control of your lives.” That summed up my feelings perfectly. The fact that she understood made the transition so much better. The staff at KCP go far out of their way to supply our needs. On the day I got sick, Tanaka-san took me to the hospital and stayed with me for over two hours until I got all my medication, and even helped me pay for it because I had not planned on going to the hospital that day so did not have enough funds.
In my years, I have done a good bit of traveling. I find Japan special because its culture supports its traditions fully along with its modern appeal. Yes, you will see high-tech robots carried by cars through the streets, but you will also find some of the most beautiful works of traditional architecture. The most amazing thing is that these two cultural styles exist right next to each other, yet the other’s presence does not take away from their individual appeal. I traveled to Tokyo, Yokohama, Okinawa, and Kyoto and the amount of creative and beautiful things I saw in Japan has no limits.
Maman, giant spider sculpture at Roppongi Hills. | KCP Flickr
To top it all off, the Japanese people are extremely nice. They are so kind to foreigners that in some cases I was treated better there than I was at home! Whenever I needed directions somewhere, any Japanese person I asked would not rest until I knew the right way to go even if they initially did not know. They would pull out their phones or go find a map and work until they had the answer. One man even left his family so that he could direct me to where I needed to go. When it came to me practicing my Japanese and I was fumbling through words, all the Nihon-jin (Japanese people) were kind enough to help me through my pitfalls.
In this 4-part series, former KCP Fall 2010 student Jessica Funtanilla looks back at her time at KCP. In this last installment , Jessica talks about how to appreciate Japan’s rich culture. She also summarizes her insights about the program.
The KCP English team will take you to several important sites in your culture classes on the weekends. For example, you’ll see the Tokyo-Edo museum, shrines, and even an overnight trip to an onsen (hot spring). There’s something for everyone, but even with all the weekend trips they have planned, it’s good to go out on your own. You’ll get a list of where you’ll go on the weekends with KCP, so you can kind of get a feel for what you’ll look forward to and plan your own adventures around them.
A lot of festivals happen year-round in Japan. Go see what they’re all about–it’s a chance to see a side of Japan you may not have known before KCP. If shopping and fashion interest you, head to Harajuku (hint: aside from really interesting fashion trends, Harajuku also sports a ton of crepe shops and sushi bars. These are worth standing in the lines they generate, and they aren’t that expensive). If you’re into sports, try to get tickets to a sumo match–it’s something you won’t find back home. Did you know that baseball is one of the most popular sports in Japan? Check out a game.
Do a bit of research for prices and travel before you go. Just keep in mind that you might have to pay a bit extra when travelling outside the confines of your metro card. Remember to review your notes and do your homework! Seeing Japan on your own is a great experience, but this is a learning program. KCP already takes you to a lot of different places; you can also plan to arrive before or after the program begins and ends if you want extra time to explore. Just be mindful of the time span when your visa is valid. This is extremely important; ask Mike Anderson or Tanaka-san for more information about this.
How much you get out of the program depends on how you look at it. You will have to study and take tests, but I imagine that learning Japanese is why you chose the program in the first place. Classes are fun, and you get lots of practice inside and outside of class. Even if you’re new to Japanese and are just starting out, or if you want to see more of the world, or if this is something you’re considering for school, KCP is an excellent program. The staff is excellent and will make every effort to make your transition easier; to help you get past culture shock. They even pick you up at the airport and deliver your luggage the next day. Hint: take a carry-on with you so you have pajamas the first night; it’s easier than carrying your big bag and laptop through a brand-new city the first night. You’re about to learn Japanese faster than you have in the past, and this is a good thing. You’ll be able to talk to your neighbor in proper, confident Japanese, get through the airport, and talk to your host family much more comfortably than previously. Study hard, have fun.
Related posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3
If you have a question for Jessica, please ask her.
In this 4-part series, former KCP student Jessica Funtanilla looks back at her time at KCP. In this third installment, Jessica talks about lodging, shopping, and exploring the city.
Let’s talk about where you’ll live. You will live in either a dorm or with a host family. Host families are a great way to really learn what life is like in Japan. Your host parents are there to help you and teach you their culture and language–don’t be afraid of this option. I chose to live in a dorm because I enjoy life in the dormitory, but plenty of my friends did a host stay and loved it. I lived in the Ikebukuro dormitory, and it was great. Some dorms have a meal plan; mine didn’t. Instead, I had my own kitchen, which allowed me to experiment with Japanese cooking and improvise some meals from home. My room was small, but I didn’t spend much time there for the most part, so it wasn’t a bother. Since KCP teaches only in Japanese, it’s best to spend your day thinking in Japanese, too. So, get out of your room, go grocery shopping, try different foods, do some walking. Get out and explore; there’s tons to see and do. I saw Harry Potter in Japanese when it came out in theaters—even ordering a ticket in Japanese is different, but the experience is completely worth it.
Near where I lived was an area called Sunshine City. It was only about a 15-minute walk from my dorm, and it had some really great shops. You could get there from the street and explore the shops outside, or you could use the underground station below to make your way there. I chose the underground to get there, as it was cold in winter semester. Still, there are more than enough shops to visit and restaurants to try out. Even if all you do is window shop, it’s fun to see what the latest trends are. The Ikebukuro station is one of the bigger stations in Tokyo, and it leads to other metro lines. If the big city isn’t your thing, hop on a train and find somewhere more comfortable. Most cities have something interesting to explore like a shrine or temple, or even a local specialty. In a week or two, you’ll know your neighborhood and your friends’ as well as you do your hometown. KCP’s handbook comes with a map of the metro station, so if you get confused, you can always refer to it. It’s easier to figure out once you use it every day during the first week.
Stay tuned for more valuable tips from Jessica! Here’s Part 1 and Part 2.
If you have a question for Jessica, please ask her.
In this 4-part series, former KCP student Jessica Funtanilla looks back at her time at KCP. In this second installment , Jessica talks about classes, clubs, and exams.
While I’ve got your attention on your academics, I can tell you you’ll be in class for at least three hours a day. Classes are small and there is a lot of group work. The best part is that you’ll be in class with students from other countries, including China and Korea. It’s a great way to meet people from other countries and make connections. Since you’re all there to learn Japanese, you become sort of a family, helping each other review kanji and grammar, and exploring Tokyo together.
Before class starts each day, there are a lot of activities available for students: a singing club (they put on a Christmas concert before exams), a speaking club, calligraphy, and even a newspaper. There’s probably a lot more now than when I studied there. Get involved! It’s the fastest way to meet people and learn even more about Japanese culture without sitting in a classroom taking notes. KCP instructors run the clubs, so it’s also a good way to get to know your teachers in an environment outside the classroom. No matter what level you are, you can have fun. My favorite club was Kaiwa, the conversation class. The funny part was making mistakes, because everyone makes mistakes. No matter what your preference, try to get involved in at least one club; get a friend to tag along before class. It’s better than sitting in your room all day and it’s a good way to de-stress before class (unless you have an exam. Then I advise you to study).
I’m not going to avoid the honest truth: you have a midterm and a final exam and you need to study for them just like you would for a test back home. Don’t let this put you off the program just yet—remember you wanted to learn Japanese in the first place. Serious students will flourish at KCP. In the very beginning at your orientation, the staff will mention that students spend just as much time studying at home as they spend in class. This is absolutely true, because you will learn Japanese at a very fast rate. But it’s not too fast if you take some time every day to review your kanji and grammar, and make use of the English sessions outside of class.
KCP provides students with everything they need to succeed—the clubs and the English sessions are all part of that. Take advantage of these opportunities, and you will do well. Remember that this is a serious program for those who have a desire to learn Japanese; studying is part of the program. You will thank yourself for the flashcards, the late night studying, and the English reviews. If you’re planning on studying here for more than one term, you learn the value of hard work in your first term here.
Former KCP student Jessica Funtanilla shares with us a wealth of information through her article, “KCP: A Look Back”, divided into a 4-part series. In this first installment, Jessica gives us a good idea of what to expect, from the acceptance letter to the entrance exam in Japan. Thanks, Jessica!
Congratulations! You’ve been accepted into KCP International’s language program! You’re on your way to speaking Japanese better and faster than you do right now. And the best part? You’re going to Japan! It’s a new and exciting adventure, but when you take a step back, you might still have a few questions. Where will you live, and how will you get there? What if you don’t understand your teachers? How will you make it being, for at least three months, so far from home?
We all go through the normal fears of studying abroad (trust me, I went to Japan twice in addition to Europe), but KCP makes every effort to help you get past these concerns from the moment you’re accepted into the program.
When you get your acceptance letter, you’ll soon after receive KCP’s student handbook. Read it; it answered almost every question I had: how to plan a budget, working your metro card, preparing for your exam, and even making airport arrangements for your return home. For many of your questions, you can ask the program director, Mike Anderson, who runs the KCP office in Washington State. Anything Mike can’t answer (and he is full of helpful advice), you can ask Tanaka-san, the program director at KCP. Tanaka-san can answer any specific questions you have about the program. (For instance, I was concerned about bringing laundry detergent with . It sounds silly at first, but when I realized I wasn’t sure which soap is for washers or what the warnings on the box might say, his advice was extremely helpful.) You can ask Tanaka-san about your living arrangement, host family, travel itinerary, and anything else that might make your preparations a bit easier. Don’t be afraid to send him an email; he’s incredibly helpful and understanding of your concerns. (And don’t worry if you can’t ask him in Japanese just yet–he is the part of the English support team at KCP.)
Speaking of English support, it’s worth mentioning that your classes will all be in Japanese. This might be frightening at first, especially if you aren’t very advanced, but this is an excellent way to learn a language, and help is always available. During the week, there are support sessions where a language advisor will be available to answer any questions you have, in English. It’s a great opportunity to ask questions you might not be sure how to phrase in class, or to get extra practice before tests and exams. It lets you get a feel for what students in higher levels cover, if your intent is to stay with KCP for more than one term. Even if you’re determined not to speak any English during your time in Japan, it’s always nice to know help is available. I usually went before exams, since we all wanted to make sure we mastered the material and had extra practice.
You will take a placement exam when you first arrive. This is to determine which level you will study at KCP. Study hard for this exam—even if you only have a year of Japanese under you, studying hard for this exam will benefit you. KCP has six levels, and for those who wish to place highly, the more you can study before the exam, the higher level you will be placed in. If you fall between two levels, you will have a week to decide whether the higher level is right for you. Do consider staying in there, even if it seems too hard at first; it benefits your language skills to stay there. There is always English support for you if you need it.
Stay tuned for more valuable tips from Jessica.
If you have a question for Jessica, please ask her.
Former student Shenelle King shares with us her fave foods in Japan. Thanks for these succulent selections!
I thought it would be a fun idea to introduce a few of the foods that I have declared as my favorites here in Japan.
Okonomiyaki is a popular Japanese dish, originating in Southern Japan. It is often described as a Japanese pancake, which is kind of accurate. In addition to being made with a special flour, thinly sliced cabbage is also mixed in, and an wide array of ingredients can be added. My favorite style of Okonomiyaki is with added kimchi and pork. The standard way of eating Okonomiyaki is to add the Okonomiyaki sauce, followed by Nori (seaweed flakes), Bonito flakes (fishy thingies), and mayonnaise. I add all but the bonito flakes, and I also add some salt and pepper on top. Not a fan of mayonnaise? Try and give Japanese mayonnaise a shot, the flavor is different and I actually enjoy it! Price: 650yen – 1350yen
Samgyeopsal is actually a Korean dish, but my friends and I go to Korean Town (Shin Ookubo) here a lot, so it has quickly became my favorite food. Thick pieces of pork are grilled, along with kimchi, onions, and as you see in this picture, potatoes and sweet potatoes. Once the meat is thoroughly cooked and cut into small pieces, you can dip the meat in a variety of sauces. You then wrap it, along with kimchi and the other vegetables, with lettuce and shove it all into your mouth. It is a little messy, but delicious.
Price: 2000 yen (This is usually eaten as all you can eat, so you pay once and eat endless amounts for around two hours.)
Yakiniku is similar to Samgyeopsal, but a little different. Yakiniku is typically much thinner than Samgyeopsal. You also don’t eat Yakiniku with lettuce. You just dip it in sauce and eat it with rice, or just pop it straight into your mouth. I really enjoy Yakiniku because I can cook the meat to my liking. For yakiniku, you can get a lot of different cuts of pork and beef. I am not sure about chicken.
Price: 2500-3500yen (This food is also all you can eat, and each restaurant differs in quality, selections, etc.)
Shabu-shabu is another delicious way to eat MEAT. The Japanese really like their meat. For Shabu-shabu, you are given a pot that you put on a burner for the water to boil. The liquid inside can have a variety of flavors. On the left side of the Shabu-shabu photo is Sukiyaki flavoring and on the right is the standard Shabu-shabu sauce. Once the liquid starts to boil, you can add vegetables and meat. The meat, pork, and beef are so thinly sliced they literally take fifteen seconds to cook. With Shabu-shabu, you are given a few different bowls and sauces so you can make anything you like for flavor. Sukiyaki is already a sweet teriyaki soy flavor, so I don’t usually eat it with anything. But the Shabu-shabu sauce has no spices and so I make a spicy concoction with ponzu and rayu.
Price: 2000-3000yen (This food is also all you can eat, and each restaurant differs in quality, selections, etc.)
I hope that you will enjoy my favorites as much as I do!
Want to read more about Shenelle’s faves? Check out her Purikura post.
KCP alumna Shenelle King describes the charm of Purikura and the process of creating fun and funky Japanese photo stickers.
One of the first things I wanted to try when I went to Japan was the cute little photo stickers that all my Japanese friends had on the backs of their phones, on their binders, and pretty much everywhere. Purikura is pretty much American photo booths, but on crack. No exaggeration there. In America, you put in three dollars and you and one friend, maybe two, sit inside the booth and then you take three or four pictures. In a few minutes, you have semi-cute, poor quality, giant strips of pictures.
However, in Japan, Purikura is kind of a mini-fashion shoot. You put in 400 yen and step inside with as many people as you want. I have seen my friend fit up to TWENTY-FIVE people into one of these booths. After everyone enters, you are guided on screen through a process. On the most recent machines, before the photo shoot begins, you can choose if you want your skin tone lighter or darker, and your eyes big or small. With some machines, you can also make your eyelashes appear longer. This can be done afterwards as well.
You take anywhere from 6 to 8 photos— close-ups as well as full-length body shots. In newer machines, the camera also moves higher to give more of a diagonal angle, which is quite flattering for the figure.
Once you are done, the screen will tell you to go to either the right or the left side of the photo booth. (Sometimes they tell you go to the LIME CORNER which you will have to check on the outside to figure out what corner that is). In this area you can GO CRAZY and do what they call “Rakugaki”. You can draw on your photos, write words, change your hair color, add make-up, stamps, and stickers. The options are endless. The most common thing to do with your photos is to write the date in one with some decoration, as well as what you did. And if you aren’t feeling creative, there are preset designs that you can chose from as well.
Things also vary from machine to machine. If you have two people, the machine will analyze this and sometimes you have the option to take single shots with one another.
Some machines are specifically for girls’ day out; other machines are for a boyfriend and a girlfriend. All the machines have a theme, and your options to draw with differ as well. They also play music and you can adjust the volume or change the song. Lately, American music has been popular.
After all is said and done, you can print the photos out for everyone! If you went in with two people, you often get cute strips that have designs on them. Some machines offer this for three people as well. If you have groups bigger than that, then the pictures will print out on a large sheet and you cut them with the scissors provided. If you have a Japanese cellphone, you can also send the pictures to your phone!
Purikura is definitely a popular “activity” in Japan. If you are hanging out with your friends, especially as a foreigner visiting for a certain amount of time, you will almost ALWAYS take purikura to document your day together and the adventure you had!