When I told classmates that I was studying in Japan through the CET study abroad program, the sort of remarks I received were “I heard that program’s tough” and “I had a friend who did that, and he had the worst time”, and of course I cannot forget the several good lucks that were filled with concern. During the past year before coming to Japan, I became constantly worried about whether or not I made a mistake in choosing this program, and I have learned that this is not the case.
First off, if one of your major reasons to study abroad is not to study a language, do not apply for a CET program. While I am enjoying my time abroad, it is certainly time consuming and academically challenging. A regular day includes having a 2-3 hour class session, and afterwards there is homework that tends to take another 2-3 hours. In addition to daily studying, Japan’s CET program also includes conversation practices, individual lessons, and an interview/survey project that is worked on throughout the semester. A language pledge is also made at the beginning of the program, and it’s a pretty strict one at that. With the exception of emergencies, or if I am in a private space, English is not allowed. If you are not prepared to put in the effort to completely immerse yourself in the language, or studying is not your main goal in studying abroad, then I would suggest looking into another program.
However, if you want a complete immersion experience, and you really want to get better at the language you’re studying, then CET is a great match!
Academic courses are only a portion of what Japan’s CET program has to offer. One of my favorite aspects of CET (to which I have found is quite rare in other programs) is the Japanese students who you get to meet and live with. In addition to having a Japanese roommate, the opportunity is always there to make friends with as many Japanese students in the program as you like! Even if you’re understanding of Japanese is small, they will converse with you and have fun with you (and in a short amount of time, your Japanese is sure to improve!). A lot of us make plans on the weekends to hang out together, and a lot of the time no groups are the same. It’s very easy to talk to everyone, and while we help each other study we also have a lot of fun. Compared to other programs where students are surrounded by non-Japanese students or staying with host families, CET’s Japanese student partnership allows me to engage myself with Japanese students around my age and learn so much from them.
Another aspect of Japan’s CET program that I think many people forget to mention are the field trips. Japan’s CET program is great in that they plan many trips for you and your study abroad friends, so while you’re studying and working hard, you can look forward to having a special trip organized for you. A few weeks ago, the program had a special overnight trip where we traveled to Gifu prefecture, where we ate traditional Japanese meals, stayed overnight at a cozy Japanese inn (with an onsen, or bath house, included!), visited Hida-Takayama city, and participated in an indigo dying workshop! There are also trips specific to which class you are in, and instead of class, you will travel with your classmates and teacher.
I feel as though I have only made a dent into what I’d like to say about Japan’s CET program and the positives that come along with it. However, for now, I’d like to make it clear that Japan’s CET program is not as scary as many have made it out to be. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.