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Tag Archive: KCP student Hector Santiago

KCP and Beyond by Hector Santiago

  • Posted by:
  • November 26, 2014

hector9KCP 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.

In cooking class. | KCP Flickr

hector1When 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.

Hector with a taiko drum. | KCP Flickr


Read other posts by Hector here.

You can also visit Hector’s online travel journal to read about his other study abroad experiences. If you have a question for Hector about his language learning tips, please ask him.

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Japan Survival Guide 4: Studying, Making Friends, and Balancing That, by Hector Santiago

  • Posted by:
  • February 15, 2013

In this 4-part series, former KCP Fall 2012 student Hector Santiago shares tips learned during his time at KCP. In this final installment , Hector offers tips on making friends and studying. 

Tip 8—Make Friends Before you Come to Japan

This is not only a great way to prepare for the trip and learn about the culture, but it’s a great way to make a pen-pal, practice your speaking skills, and learn to live as a local. There are sites, like Japan-guide.com, where you can look for language exchange partners in Japan. You have the ability to look for people in certain regions as well. So if you know you’re going to be in Tokyo, you can look for people in Tokyo. This is a great tool—once you develop a relationship with these pen-pals, they will likely help you adjust to life in Japan when you get here.  Besides being able to read, write, and speak the language fluently, they know the best spots, they know how to save money, and they‘ll help you adapt in any way they can. If a goal is to make connections around the world, this is a great place to start.

Tip 9—Make Studying your First Priority


 KCP class. | KCP Flickr

As a student, you’re going to want to go out and see the city, hang out with friends, and so on. However, don’t forget the reason you’re here in the first place. You’re here to learn. You are a student and your schoolwork should come second to nothing while you’re abroad.

While abroad, you are a representative of your country. Don’t be that guy/girl who always wants to party and get wasted, never comes to class on time, and treats the experience like a vacation. You will not make friends this way, at least not with the right people. I’m not saying you have to spend 6 hours a night studying (though some KCP teachers might recommend it). But you know yourself well enough to know how much time and effort you need to put into your studies. Do it. By spending more time studying, not only are you setting yourself up for success in the school, but you’re also spending less time clubbing, shopping, eating, and wasting money. Make this time abroad count. It can open doors for you that would not be available otherwise.

Coming to Japan has been the greatest experience of my life so far. I am happy to have been able to share my experience and these money-saving tips with you. I am on my own journey, heading towards new horizons in international education. I wish the best to all students in their future endeavors. I wish success to those who work hard for it. I wish discipline and motivation to those who lack them. I wish goals for those who have not yet started the mission. And last but not least, I wish happiness and peace to all. Maybe one day, our paths will meet and we can learn from each other.

Until then, Sayonara.


Related posts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

You can also visit his online travel journal to read about his other study abroad experiences. If you have a question for Hector about his saving suggestions, please ask him.

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Japan Survival Guide 3: Staying Connected, by Hector Santiago

  • Posted by:
  • February 12, 2013

In this 4-part series, KCP Fall 2012 student Hector Santiago shares budget tips learned during his time at KCP. In this third installment, Hector offers suggestions on socializing and staying connected.

Tip 6—Get Involved in School Activities

Over my KCP semester, I attended a few cooking classes. They are a way to  (1) help students meet and socialize with Japanese students from local universities, and (2) teach students (specifically the long-term students) how to cook so they can save money on food. It’s a fine opportunity to learn how to make great-tasting food and save money at the same time. The classes usually cost a few hundred Yen to attend, for the ingredients you’ll be using. And it’s a small price to pay. After all, you’re learning something invaluable. You’re learning to live on your own. Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish and he can eat for a lifetime.


Okonomiyaki. | KCP Flickr

Tip 7—Try Data Only

Everyone has and/or needs a cell phone nowadays, myself included. But what price are you willing to pay? In Japan, the prepaid cell phones available to foreigners who will be in the country for a while are not really that expensive. However, you can’t make calls to the U.S. without a hefty fee, and how many people do you really know in Japan just yet? I’m not saying a cell phone is a bad option; it’s just not the only option.

However, you cannot just buy a prepaid sim card from a Japanese carrier and stick it in your phone. These do exist in Japan, but not many people know about them. If you have a smart phone and can get it unlocked by your service provider before you come to Japan, that may be your best option. The service provider is called B-Mobile. They offer sim cards that give access to Japanese mobile networks, but you can access data only. This is not a major issue if you are handy with finding cool apps for your phone. Using WiFi or data, you can make calls to the U.S. for free using apps like Talkatone, which sends calls through Google Voice.

There are texting apps too. I use Heywire, Line, and Skype, all free. Within Japan, you can make cheap calls through Skype. If you have friends who have some of the same apps as you (Heywire or Line, for instance), you can call and  text for free. I highly recommend this. Of course, many of these apps require registration on the phone, so install them before you leave the States; you won’t be able to install them when you’re here. Using the B-Mobile sim card, you will be given a Japanese phone number for the purpose of identifying and connecting your phone to the data network, but it cannot make or receive calls or texts. The card costs about 9,500 Yen (about $115) and is initially valid for up to 4 months. They start you with 1GB of data. Use this data sparingly and it will last you the entire term.

Use WiFi whenever possible. I advise against streaming videos while using data as they will eat your data alive. If you run out within the 4 months, you can recharge for about $40, which also extends the validity term of the sim itself. If you have questions about this seemingly complex process, feel free to email me.


Stay tuned for more invaluable tips from Hector!

Related posts: Part 1, Part 2

You can also visit his online travel journal to read about his other study abroad experiences. If you have a question for Hector about his saving suggestions, please ask him.

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Japan Survival Guide 1: Stretching your Yen, by Hector Santiago

  • Posted by:
  • February 5, 2013

In this 4-part series, KCP Fall 2012 student Hector Santiago shares budget tips learned during his time at KCP. In this first installment, Hector offers tips on how to save on food expenses and ways to explore the country.

I’ve received countless requests from people asking me to write a blog on my experience with making a very small amount of money go a very long way. It is possible, even in an expensive country like Japan. It’s not always easy, but if you follow this guide, it will enhance your experience *and* keep more money in your pocket for things you REALLY want to do.

Tip 1—Brown Bag It!

I love Japanese food. When I first came to Japan, I wanted to eat at every restaurant I saw. This is obviously not a good idea. The average food-stand lunch meal in Japan is anywhere from about 500 to 900 Yen.


Advertisement outside a food establishment. | KCP Flickr

“Well, what does that mean to me?” you might ask. Well, do the math. I’ll even be nice and stay on the cheap end of this one for you. Let’s say 500 Yen for lunch per day, and we’ll assume just weekdays. That’s 5 x 500 = 2,500 Yen per week. A term at KCP is roughly 12 weeks. 2,500 x 12 = 30,000 Yen. “English please?” That’s about $360 over 12 weeks just for lunch. Once again, I was nice in assuming you would go for the 500 Yen lunch every day. But life doesn’t work like that. Sometimes, you’re going to want the 900 Yen lunch just because it looks, tastes, and or smells better, which quickly depletes your funds. Trust me, I know. I did this for the first 3 weeks. That is, until I learned the tricks.

Living with a Japanese family, I learned a lot that most students don’t, because they live in dorms. So, here’s the secret. Japanese people are very conservative of resources. One phrase that you will learn and appreciate when you come to Japan is “Mottainai”—wasteful. It implies a sense of regret for wasting food. Because of this outlook on conserving resources like food, every night about 30 minutes before any local grocery store or convenience store closes, all of the prepared food goes half-price. It’s called “Han-gaku.” These terms will come in handy when you get here.

Portions are also usually very generous if you get to an eating place early enough. On average, I spend about 150–200 Yen a day on lunch. This is a considerable savings. Invest in a bento (lunch) box from the Hyaku-Yen (pronounced En) store, basically a dollar store, and you’ve just cut your food expense in half over the course of your term. Congratulations!

Tip 2—Become an Explorer

Who said you need money to have fun? If you have an adventurous spirit, take a hike, literally. Japan is huge if you’re traveling on foot. It may take some motivation, but pick a direction and just walk for a few hours. You will see places and things in Japan most foreigners will never see. To be frank, most students stay within the city and don’t care to venture into the unknown, unless it’s accessible by train. If they get lost, it’s easy to get back. The train–subway system is the most efficient in the world.


Ameya yokocho. | KCP Flickr

Getting lost in mainstream areas of the country is really tough. But take a trip to a city only locals have heard of; not only will you impress them by having gone to such an unusual (for tourists) place, but you will find things that may interest you more than the city’s tourist attractions—public bath houses, car and motorcycle showrooms, really great food, and so on. I usually saved these trips for the weekends when I had lots of free time.

Becoming one with your surroundings is the name of the game. In Japan, it doesn’t matter if you speak great Japanese. If you try hard to blend in and act as the Japanese act, you will be much more accepted by the Japanese.


Stay tuned for more invaluable tips from Hector!

You can also visit his online travel journal to read about his other study abroad experiences. If you have a question for Hector about his saving suggestions, please ask him.


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