PROGRAM TYPES

CONNECT WITH US

Youth For Understanding (YFU) Header Image Youth For Understanding (YFU) Header Image

Study Abroad in Japan

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Academics

    8

  • Living Situation

    8

  • Cultural Immersion

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Social Life

    10

A Life Changing Summer

I've wanted to study abroad for as long as I can remember, but I had also decided it was completely impossible because of how expensive it is. The best discovery of my life was YFU's scholarships. Thanks to the Japan-America Friendship Scholarship, I was able to spend a month and a half in Japan for only $3000, including airfare, when it would have $12,000 without the scholarship. Some of the other, though harder to win, scholarships made the trip completely free and even gave the students other gifts like tickets to Tokyo Disney. The application fee to apply in the first place was a little expensive, but it ended up being completely worth it. Since YFU gives out a LOT of scholarships, it seems as though most people that apply end up winning.
Host families are all over the country and are picked according to matching interests. Be careful when you discuss your interests, because this is how families are matched, so if you aren't truthful, you won't end up with a good fit for you. Be honest, and you will find a family for life.
Before going to Japan, there is an orientation in California. Sadly, my scholarship's funding got cut a little bit this year, so the other scholarships had a three day long orientation and mine was only one day. Still, they covered all the important parts, and really only had to cut out the games that the longer orientations played.
I was placed on the border of Osaka and Nara. At first, this frightened me because I had heard that Osaka had a difficult dialect. However, I quickly realized that this was hardly an issue. I absolutely loved my location, as I was smack in the middle of some of the best cities in the country. Nara is famous for its docile deer that you can simply walk up to and pet. Kyoto, which was a half hour train ride from my house, is one of the most beautiful places in the country. If you ever see a picture of a beautiful temple or shrine in Japan, there's a decent chance it was taken in Kyoto. Osaka itself is a bustling city full of awesome places to shop, and houses Universal Studios.
The amount of time you attend school depends on your host school. Some of my fellow exchange students were attending school the entire time they were there. For me, I was only in school for about 9 days. I was assigned two buddies who were especially good at English to help me get around, and for one period every day all of the exchange students (three year long students from Estonia, the US, and Hungary, and two summer students, me and one other American girl) got together to help each other. On my last day, my classmates threw me a small surprise party. Though it was a little sad to only see class 2-9 for such a short time, it gave me more time to explore the country, and I still got to play with the tennis team so I still got time to hang out with my schoolmates.
One issue I had, which was out of YFU's control, was my host family. They were, sadly, one of the few host families who had hosted without realizing that they were ill equipped to host. It was only a dad and a daughter. The daughter completely ignored me (she later blamed it on shyness) and the host dad worked all the time, though he did try his best to be a good host parent. I have talked to many other exchange students, and this is a very uncommon issue. However, this did expose one of YFU's best qualities, which is their support system. My local area rep was more than happy to meet up with me several times and talk with me when I was having issues. My host family never took me out anywhere, so my area rep took me to see some very cool things on his own expense. I had the chance to move families, but decided not to take it since I decided that it would be too much drama in such a short time period. As a silver lining, I did develop a great deal of independence and was able to see a lot of Japan on my own or with other exchange students.
All in all, I would absolutely recommend this with all of my heart. Like all exchanges, there will be hard times and nobody will be happy with every part of their exchange. However, this is an amazing chance to grow as a person, live in another culture, and have what will easily be the most life changing summer of your life. If you are even considering applying for a scholarship, do it. You'll never know where you might end up.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Academics

    8

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Cultural Immersion

    9

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Social Life

    10

My Experience with YFU

As a 17 year old in the suburbs of the Midwest, studying abroad seemed such a faraway and untouchable concept. It seemed that only adolescents in movies and TV shows went on exchanges. It wasn’t until my junior year in high school that the topic of exchange was broached. My friends were looking into different study abroad programs for the summer. When I became more interested in going abroad, I had missed the deadline of the program all of my friends were applying to, so I went in search for another program. That is when I discovered the Youth for Understanding program. At first glance, the price tag for exchange seemed particularly steep and was admittedly discouraging, but upon closer inspection, I found numerous scholarships that I could apply for to cut the cost substantially.

The application process was very straightforward and the questions were thought-provoking. As I moved on to the interview portion, I was ecstatic to find that it was more lax and non-pressuring than I was used to. This was foreign to me because many interviews that I’ve had before made sure that I knew it was a competition. Of course, in this circumstance, I was essentially competing with other students interested in going abroad, as well as the students hoping to receive a scholarship. However, my interview with a YFU volunteer was more of a conversation that gauged my possible success abroad.

Through the period between my acceptance and getting on the plane, YFU guided me and my family through the preparation. I enjoyed the sectional orientation held by volunteers to help students going abroad in my area. I had the opportunity to meet several students whom were traveling to the same country as I and I learned some great skills to be successful abroad.

I also participated in the pre-departure orientation in Berkeley, California at the University of California-Berkeley. Unfortunately, for my group, we rushed to learn for a day and a half instead of a 3-day orientation. During the orientation, we met fantastic volunteers who were in our places a year or even ten years ago. We learned about some aspects of the culture we were going into. We also learned tips and phrases that would show respect, kindness, and gratitude to our host families during our first few days abroad.

I can honestly say that YFU fit me with the best family that I could have been placed with. Your host family is there to care for you and provide for all of your basic needs. Your placement can make or break your experience. As an only child, I worried about how I would be able to connect with my host siblings. I worried if I would like my host family and if they would like me. During my exchange, I learned that my worries were irrational. From day one, they made sure that I knew that I was welcome in their home. My host parent even reminded me of my natural parents, which kept me from feeling too homesick.

So, why YFU? Personally, I describe my exchange as my true transition from childhood to adulthood. Abroad, I was more independent in the way that I made most of my own decisions. However, YFU always made sure that I always had resources to assist me. Exchange really makes you aware of how big the world truly is. I’ve learned so much about a culture different from my own. These experiences that I have had, thanks to the YFU program, are sure to stay with me throughout my lifetime.

Overall Rating

10/ 10

  • Academics

    8

  • Living Situation

    10

  • Cultural Immersion

    10

  • Health and Safety

    10

  • Program Administration

    10

  • Social Life

    10

Once in a Lifetime Experience

Going on an intercultural exchange is a once in a lifetime opportunity, so you have to make sure you do it right. YFU is the best option. While I did have many exciting, educational, and emotional experiences abroad, my father had his doubts at first. After conducting thorough research, we concluded that YFU was the safest program around with their intricate layers of support for both the student and natural family. During my exchange, YFU ensured that I was safe, comfortable, and ready to learn. They mapped out each part of the exchange to avoid mishaps, accidents, and disturbances (even at the airport which was miraculous). Great experiences can be had anywhere, but safe and educational experiences are YFU's specialty in my opinion. I encourage any parents of prospective students to research YFU's support system, and I bet you will come to the same conclusion that my father and I did: YFU is the best option.

Before my trip, I had a three day orientation in California. There were plenty of other nervous exchange students there too. At the orientation, they taught us all the basic phrases and words we would need to know to survive in Japan. They also gave us a brief overview of Japanese culture along with some tips and tricks to make the best out of our exchanges. By the time we were on the plane, no one was nervous anymore. We were all excited and prepared for our exchange.

Every YFU student will tell you that their host family is the greatest, but mine truly was the best. They welcomed me into their home, and soon I felt like family. The house I lived in was very comfortable and nice; it felt like home within a week. My host parents made sure that I was transitioning well, and they took initiative in teaching me some more Japanese. My host brothers worked, so I didn't see them much. However, when I did see them, we always had a fun time together. Before I knew it, they called me their brother. When it became time for me to leave, we were so close that it was unbearable to leave.

I was most concerned about school, but I realized that I had nothing to worry about. YFU ensured that I was placed in a caring school that wanted to have an exchange student. Every teacher took measures to make sure I was understanding the material. Plus, for the first time, I was the top of my English class! My peers were very understanding too. They helped me get through the day in one piece by translating literature, taking notes, and assisting me whenever I need it. Time began to fly in school because I was enjoying myself. One of my favorite memories is going to the grocery store with my friends to buy ingredients for our home economics project. We make octopus balls, and they was delicious.I even make some great friends who I still keep in touch with to this day. It was hard to leave them.