My Experience At An Intensive Language School In Asia
There were two things I knew for sure when I began to plan my study abroad. One, I wanted to focus my studies on learning Japanese. Two, I wanted my destination to be Tokyo. After doing a ton of research, reading what felt like thousands of reviews, and getting in contact with past students, I chose my school; An intensive, full immersion, all Japanese instructed language school in the heart of Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo. Even though I prepared plenty for my new city lifestyle, I was not prepared to study my ass off for the next six months.
The school’s population was made up of about 90% Asian students who planned to go on to higher education in Japan. In my class, I was one of 3 English speakers (yikes!), making our only common language Japanese. Starting at a beginner level made communicating rather difficult and therefore, making friends was frustrating. Luckily, my school did hold activities that allowed American students to socialize, but only once a semester to mingle with other Asian students. Besides school related activities, it was up to me to make friends.
Academics at school were rough but rewarding. When I say rough I mean that my life consisted of school, school, and more school. Even though class ran Monday through Friday for three hours a day, a ton of my free time was spent studying for the countless tests that were given. When I moved from level 1 to level 2, the curriculum, tests, and subject matter changed. At one point students go from learning basics out of a textbook to reading current news articles less than a year later.
Even though being instructed in only Japanese was difficult and the workload was overwhelming at times, I slowly mastered it. The English support classes offered three times a week helped keep me sane and left nothing lost in my own translation. Eventually, learning and absorbing material became second nature, but that didn’t mean that I stopped studying. Oh no, I studied…a lot.
So you might be thinking, “Oh my god, did you even get to do anything else besides study?!”, and the answer to that is “Yes!”. I had a week vacation mid term during my summer semester and about 10 days between semesters. It was during those breaks I went all in planning trips and knocking things off my bucket list. Besides the lengthy vacations, I squeezed in day or weekend trips whenever I felt I could.
So what did I learn after all of this? Besides learning how to adapt to a new culture and other related things associated with being abroad, my studying skills went through the roof. I no longer feel panicked right before a test or when I have to remember something quickly, and having a ton of assignments doesn’t seem so stressful. Participating in a rigorous Asian schooling system made appreciate the flexibility of my university at home where the answers do not always feel so black and white.
Between having breakthroughs in my conversation skills to feeling trapped in what felt like a language cram school, my school did not always feel like the right fit. Of course, looking back, there are things I wish I had tried harder, too. Through all the times I felt that school was taking over my life, I left Japan feeling satisfied. I studied my ass off, got the grades to prove it, and still was able live in Japan. Success.