KCP alumnus Hector Santiago describes how his desire to learn more about the culture and language of Japan led him to join the KCP program and later, achieve his goal of working in Japan.
By the end of my second year in college, after having been involved in my school’s Asian culture club on campus and learning about different Asian cultures, I had decided that I wanted to study abroad. Of all the countries I had learned about, I was most enamored of Japan. I knew this was where I wanted to go. I felt a connection to the culture that I couldn’t explain. I started studying the language and even began practicing karate. My hunger for knowledge and experience pertaining to Japan led me to KCP, which had a great reputation as a school using the direct method of language learning while offering total immersion into the culture as well.
When I arrived at KCP on the first day of class, I’m happy to say I was well prepared, as I had taken 2 semesters of Japanese in anticipation of going to Japan. The classes are intense, but I learned a lot, so long as I applied myself and kept trying. During my time at KCP, I was given the opportunities to hone my language skills by attending English support sessions, class trips, and joint events with Hosei University students, like cooking classes and parties. Also, I decided to live with a host family during my stay, which gave me opportunities to practice and learn Japanese daily. That experience has not only enabled me to become more confident in learning and speaking Japanese, but I also developed a lifelong relationship with my host family.
Since my time at KCP, I have gone on to graduate from my university in the U.S. and have started a new life living and working in Japan with the JET Program. The possibilities are endless for you if you pursue your goals and dreams with passion.
KCP is not just any language school. It is a first home for many who want to explore the world outside of their homes. It is a place where people from all over the world can come together and grow with respect for each other’s cultures. KCP is the epitome of an international education.
KCP alumna Gwen Taylor describes how studying at KCP and experiencing Japan have touched her life. She also offers valuable insights about the program. Thanks, Gwen!
I had always felt held back by the speed of language courses at my university. And I thought Japanese culture was something easily understood through textbooks. I wanted to learn so much and was so motivated, but there was often nothing for me to do. In my second year studying Japanese, I got the opportunity to spend three months at KCP. It was everything I dreamed of and more.
Not only are the courses magnificently challenging and the staff extremely supportive, but the school is in the heart of Tokyo. I have never been in a place where there was so much to explore, so much to do. One afternoon, I decided to go to the trendy shopping district of Harajuku, and after a great day shopping in a huge population center, I discovered a temple almost totally hidden by a forest. The ease of train travel meant I could go anywhere, from peaceful rural farms to historical monuments, castles, and hot spring resorts; from frantic urban centers to glorious beaches in a single day. It is true that you are only young once, and I believe every young person should get to spend time in Tokyo.
The culture classes taught me more than I ever learned in university. Every class was devoted to exploring some aspect of Japanese culture that had never occurred to me. Because the teachers were Japanese living in Japan, their perspective was totally new to me and opened my eyes in so many ways. The tours we had of Ginza and the Edo-Tokyo Museum will remain in my memory forever. Our teachers were not only knowledgeable but also seemed to genuinely share in our wonder and joy at discovering so many new things. One of the best experiences was seeing Kabuki, Noh, and Bunraku performances, which should not be missed even by those who don’t know what they are.
We were also obliged to participate in a sports day event. As an American, I found this incomprehensible at first, since even elementary schools in America do not have a culture of students putting on events. But like everything else at KCP, the idea was immersion. I suggest embracing everything that seems weird, including strange community events. Although I dragged my feet at the beginning, by the end of that effort I enjoyed a sense of community and family that I have never felt in an academic environment. I also highly recommend trying extracurricular activities such as the Anime Club, through which I was able to visit the magical Ghibli Museum. Every child should get to go there.
One of my most memorable experiences was our day trip to Aizu near the end of our term. By that time, I thought I was getting a good idea what Japanese life was like. How wrong I was. We stopped at several historical sites, at each place seeing beautiful clothing, rooms, and structures plucked from periods in Japanese history. Because Aizu is somewhat colder and we started our day so early, each place we visited had an air of stillness, a slight hint of fog tipping from the mountains as we drove further into them. Our final destination was Tsuruga Castle, from whose top tower we could see what felt like all of Northern Japan. As snow started falling in big flakes, we visited a rural village that, even though it had people living in it normally, really felt like stepping back in time. The blissful feelings carried us all the way home through winding mountain roads and Japanese children’s songs.
Even if there were no language classes at all, KCP would be a worthwhile experience for anyone. But on top of this wealth of cultural experiences, every day is dedicated to learning Japanese. It feels like a heavy load at first, but after a couple of weeks it becomes thrilling to get to learn so much every day. Each level and class had three different teachers, each one fascinating, kind, and funny, and always willing to help with any problem or answer any question. Because most of the students’ native languages were other than English, there is little temptation for switching to one’s native tongue during classes. Soon, without really realizing it, speaking Japanese every day becomes natural.
The system of levels and the way the school is designed seem perfect for language learning. No matter what one’s Japanese proficiency is at the start, there is a class ideally suited to helping each student learn as much as they can. Because KCP has so much experience teaching Japanese, they understood my own psychology and ability even better than I did. As each hurdle approached, my teachers helped me to overcome it. I have never had a learning experience like it, and I wish it for anyone.
KCP students at dinner during an overnight trip. | KCP Flickr
Each of my classmates experienced KCP differently. Some were old hat at this and simply concentrated on studying; others took every opportunity to make new friends in the strangest places. For some, it was their first time in Japan and first time ever learning Japanese. I would have worried about them, but the staff was so supportive and friendships so strong, none of my friends ever complained about feeling left behind or lost. I have never felt so close to other human beings as I did to those I met during my time at KCP.
In summary, even for a total novice in Japanese language and culture, KCP is a perfect experience. Everyone deserves the accelerated learning and day-to-day experience of Japanese life, and no human being should go without spending some time in Tokyo. Even years later, I think often of my time there and wish to return. There is no need to hesitate. Japan is waiting for you.
With all the study abroad programs that offer Japanese language courses, you might wonder what sets KCP apart from the rest. In this informative post, KCP student Colette Kinder answers the question, “Why KCP?”
Often I get asked why I chose to attend KCP rather than a Japanese university, or another language school somewhere else in the country. There was a handful of study abroad options for going to Japan offered at my university, all of them great programs. However, what set KCP apart from the rest of the study abroad options is its direct-method approach and the intensity of the program. When people ask how difficult KCP is, I have a hard time giving an answer because it depends on a variety of factors, including one’s study habits, what level they are placed in, and how adaptable they are to a new environment. Although the program is rather difficult and may appear overwhelming, I believe it is the best way to improve one’s Japanese quickly and efficiently.
KCP classes (excluding the American program cultural class) are taught in 99.9% Japanese. The .1% missing there is on the first day, when you are taught basic Japanese greetings, and translations in everyone’s native tongue are provided. After this day, you will no longer receive in-class instruction in English. Using this method, one associates Japanese with the ideas rather than the English, giving them the ability to understand Japanese rather than translate it. In other words, when learning vocabulary and grammar, if you see a picture then hear the Japanese, your brain will start to associate that picture with the Japanese. If you learn the English, then the Japanese, your brain will have to think from English and change into Japanese, which makes for poor, slow conversation and writing skills. By learning Japanese using Japanese, you train your brain to think directly in the language, eliminating need for translation.
I took Japanese for three quarters at my university. I had a very knowledgeable, helpful teacher who taught to the best of his ability. While I am very grateful for his instruction and help, taking Japanese class at an American university is nothing compared to taking it at KCP. About halfway through level one (one quarter) at KCP, I learned more Japanese and improved my skill significantly more than I learned in level one (three quarters) at my university. My results are not particularly amazing or special; everyone who tries their hardest at KCP will improve immensely. With a highly-dedicated staff and teachers, they make sure no hardworking student is ever left behind.
The reason I chose KCP rather than any other school, including Japanese universities, is that I wanted to focus on improving my language skills quickly and efficiently. KCP is not for people who do not like hard work, or for people who are simply trying to fulfil their study abroad requirement for their major. KCP requires a lot of dedication, time, and patience, and I do not believe it should be taken lightly. I have met American students at KCP who struggled because they were not prepared for how difficult it would be. I do not want to discourage anyone who wants to improve, however, from applying. I don’t want to scare anyone off. You get out of life what you put in, so if you’re ready to work hard, step out of your comfort zone, and give it your all, I believe KCP is right for you.
Before leaving for your study abroad adventure in Japan, keep in mind that there are policies when it comes to bringing in medication. Steven Trapani, a Fall 2014 KCP student, discusses in detail how to apply for a Yakkan Shoumei (import certificate) and provides excellent tips on how to make it a smooth process. Thanks for sharing, Steven!
Studying abroad really takes a lot of planning. After a lot of research on what happens when I arrive in Tokyo, I discovered that with prescription medications, you are only allowed to bring in one month’s supply. I am unfortunately on some medications due to allergy issues. I will be in Japan for a total of 80 days so I would like to have the full supply of medication that I need.
I found that I need to apply for a Yakkan Shoumei Certificate. This goes for anything that you will be bringing into Japan that requires more than a month’s supply. Even over-the-counter medications like Tylenol or eye drops.
1. Please read this entire site: http://www.uctsc.org/YakkanShomei.html. KCP students meet at Narita airport so that is the link you click on. They have PDF/Word documents and sample forms as well. You can print them all out.
2. Go to your doctor and ask for prescriptions. I was able to get 3 months’ supply with my insurance. Before you get your prescription filled, make a copy of it.
3. Once you get your medication filled, you will see a sheet with details such as manufacturer, side effects, and appearance. Hold onto that sheet.
Note: When you apply for the Yakkan Shoumei, you will need to have your flight arranged already.
4. Scan your air flight itinerary into a PDF file. (I booked my flight early due to the Yakkan Shoumei.)
5. Prepare a letter explaining why you are requesting the certificate, what medications you will be bringing in, and where you are studying and for how long. Save this along with your flight details. Make sure the letter contains your email address. Also make sure to state in the letter that the medications are for your own personal use.
6. Next, scan in your first prescription. On the script, put your email address. Make sure the script has everything filled out on it: Name, address, birth date.
7. The next step is to fill out your first sheet IMPORT REPORT OF MEDICATION. For every script you have, you need to fill out one of these sheets. If you have 5 scripts, then you need 5 sheets. On the top right, put year-month-date. Make sure on the top (in parentheses) you write the word “medication.” Next, write your name in print, and include signature, address, phone number, and email. Make sure you write “U.S.A” by the address. Next box down is name and size of import products. This means your medication and the milligrams. To the right of that box is the quantity (for me it’s 90#). Next box down circle “FOR PERSONAL USE.” (I also wrote for personal use next to it.)Next is Name of Manufacturer and Country of Origin for which my medication was IVAX PHARM USA . You can find the manufacturer on the paper that came with your medication or on the bottle. Underneath is the date that you will arrive. Next box to the right is Flight. (Mine is : “UNITED AIRLINE FLIGHT 79- 1:55 p.m.” Next box to the right is arrival place, TOKYO NARITA AIRPORT. Once you’re done filling out this paper, scan it into your PDF file.
8. The next sheet says EXPLANATION OF PRODUCTS and the first box is name of product (mine is Famotidine.) Next box is name of manufacturer (mine is IVAX PHARM USA.) Next box down is chemical name. I called my pharmacy who told me that the chemical name for Famotidine is “Famotidine.” I wrote that in. (It’s not always the case that the product name and chemical name are the same.) Next is ingredients and quantity. For me it was 40mg and 90#. Next box is Efficacy, For mine, I wrote: Treat and prevent ulcers, treat and prevent heart burn. Next box is specifications. I wrote, “Take one tablet at bedtime. Pill is in bottle with label.” When you’re done filling out that sheet of paper, scan it into a PDF file.
9. Next, scan your pharmacy medication info sheet. My sheet says CVS CAREMARK MEDICATION INFO FOR STEVEN TRAPANI. If your medication happens to be generic, please also write that in so they know it is generic. Or if it states that it is generic, on your info sheet highlight it.
To recap, what you need:
A. Flight Itinerary
B. Letter explaining what you are asking for and why. Include all the necessary information: Email, name, where you are studying, medications you are bringing in, date of arrival and departure.
D. Sheet that says: Import Report of Medication.
E. Sheet that says: Explanation of Products.
F. Medication information sheet.
Keep in mind: with every prescription you have you need to fill out the two forms. So you may need to make copies of them before you start filling them out.
I take several medications, so I had a large PDF file. What I did was scan everything and separated them into several emails. When emailing Japan, there is a limit on file size, so it is in your best interest to break it down. I had 3 separate emails. I asked for a read receipt. I also flagged my email as high priority. My email subject was Yakkan Shoumei number 1 of 3, next email subject was Yakkan Shoumei number 2 of 3 … you get the picture.
Here is the good news. They DO accept everything through email, despite what it states on the web site. Once they received my emails and checked everything out, I received my certificates in about a week.
You will receive your copy of the certificate, stamped of every prescription that you applied for. So if you applied for 5 , you will receive 5 that are stamped.
Whatever you scanned in, hold onto it and staple it together because you will need to bring it to the airport along with your certificates. Keep everything together.
Add their email address (see above) to your email contacts so the certificates they send you do not end up in your spam or junk folder.
Very important: once you get your certificate, you will need to use the pill bottles that you referred to for your trip to Japan. The reason for this is because whatever you wrote down on the papers is what you need to bring in. Sometimes manufacturers change. You want to bring in exactly what you applied for.
If you need to bring more than the restricted quantity of medication into Japan for personal use, and you plan to arrive at one of the following airports, please contact the following Regional Bureau of Health and Welfare during business hours.
( Monday to Friday, 09 : 30 to 17: 45 ) :
Tokyo (Narita) International Airport (Kantou-Shinetsu office)
Phone : +81-48-740-0800
This is the info for Narita airport. I did call them with some questions, and they were very helpful.
Apply for your certificate early. I am glad I have mine already; it’s one less thing to do. Put all your paperwork together for all your medications. A folder or gallon size zip-lock bag would be good. Best to keep it with your medication in your carry-on or backpack. It all stays with you on your flight.
Remember, there are certain medications that they DO NOT allow in Japan.
Good luck! I hope I will meet many of you if you are attending KCP Fall of 2014 on our study abroad experience!
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.