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Inter-University Center for Japanese Studies 10-month program thoughts?


jetting

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Just wanted to see if anyone had experience/thoughts about the IUC 10-month program. Right now I am debating between this and the JET program. 

 

(For background info, currently I am undergraduate senior who has just been accepted into both the IUC program and the JET program as an ALT. I will graduate in May with a major in Asian Studies and a minor in Japanese language and literature. My primary interest is in Japanese media and I have intentions of attending graduate school.) 

 

 

 

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I went to IUC 2010-2011, and I can't recommend the program enough. It's an incredibly intense language program, and great preparation for you to utilize your Japanese in graduate school or in jobs that require Japanese. The first two quarters are all based around intense language classes based on your incoming level (classes switch around a bit based on your level from quarter to quarter). Third quarter you get some electives around your interests (for example, I was in a History class), and for the final semester you have several options include a research project or prep for the JLPT. (Many students choose to take JLPT N1 after the program; honestly the best prep you can get.) 

 

If you're planning on attending graduate school, then I would go for the program. Many graduate programs will want you to go to IUC at some point during your graduate career. In my program in Premodern Japanese History, all but one of our students went either before or during their PhDs, with the exception of the student who came in with Japanese fluency. There will also be many other students at IUC who are in graduate school or planning to apply. My year there were ten or so of us who applied for grad school while we were at IUC, and I know that having the program on the CV helped with my MA admits. 

 

I never participated in JET, but I have many friends who did it and loved it. However, if you're planning on using it for language training, don't count on it. Since you'll be working as an English teaching assistant, you aren't encouraged to use Japanese language. It's a great experience, but IUC will prep you more for graduate work in the long run.

 

If you have any other specific questions about the program, let me know! 

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Thanks so much for responding! 

 

I'm seriously leaning toward attending IUC, the only thing that is worrying me is funding. I'm not affiliated with any graduate program now. Right now I'm trying to figure out how to cover tuition/living expenses. In your earlier posts, I think you wrote that they gave you funding later on? 

 

Thanks again! 

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As someone who did JET but not IUC, I'd like to give the opposite opinion: JET is one of the absolute best ways to not only learn the language, but become linguistically and culturally fluent. I spent multiple years speaking and living my life almost exclusively in Japanese. I spoke English in my classes and to two of my English teachers, but that was it when it came to work. The beauty of the program is that it makes you responsible to yourself: Do you want to live a life in English in Japan? You can do that and be supported. Do you want to live your life in Japanese? You can do that, too. Or you can mix and match to fit with your own wants. On top of all of that, you get paid well. I paid off 100% of my students loans and still had money to travel to 40 prefectures in my time in Japan. I spent most nights in the bars, or at indie shows, or going to onsen--not doing homework--and doing all of it with my friends that didn't speak (and didn't expect me to speak) any English. That experience was invaluable.

 

One of the major problems with IUC is that it is still a classroom. You won't have the same ability to spend your days living "real life." Your academic vocabulary might be strong, but you won't have the deep, meaningful cultural background that comes from sharing the same everyday grind that everyone else lives. JET gave me the ability to hold long conversations with people of all ages and a variety of cultural backgrounds. I don't mean I have perfect vocabulary or grammar. I mean I can joke, make references, shift perspectives to keep a native-level flow of conversation. I can make fun of the right people at the right time with the right tone of voice. I know how to start, lead, and end a conversation with a teenager, or the woman working at the city office, or the vice principal of a high school, or a 90-year old woman that only speaks Tohoku-ben. Most importantly, I can apply all of this experience to what I read in my seminars. My classmates that did IUC (some did both a summer and a year) just don't have that same kind of breadth and depth. They "learned" all of these things, whereas I had to live them.

 

I guess the main difference I see is this--and I absolutely don't intend this to be a dig at you, Kyjin, I just want to use this quote to illustrate my own perspective/experience: 

 

 

If you're planning on attending graduate school, then I would go for the program. Many graduate programs will want you to go to IUC at some point during your graduate career. In my program in Premodern Japanese History, all but one of our students went either before or during their PhDs, with the exception of the student who came in with Japanese fluency. 

 

All of the programs that accepted me this round told me straight up that a big reason that they selected me was because I wouldn't have to go to IUC. JET (and the private teaching job I got because of JET) let me live in Japan until the exact moment that I knew I was ready for graduate studies. Spending a few years to build that fundamental cultural and linguistic base had two major benefits for me: I never feel overwhelmed by the language, assigned readings, or research and I got to choose to apply for grad school at the time that worked best for me, rather than having that decision made for me because of a specific program length.

 

Obviously, I'm biased, but I found JET to be the absolute best prep for graduate school outside of getting an actual graduate degree in Japanese from a top Japanese university--I met some grad students that did that and the difference is like night + day. Anyway, that's my take, feel free to take it with all of the grains of salt that you need.

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Thanks yytk for the in-depth response! 

 

I guess right now I have two things pulling at me: funding and the Critical Language Scholarship for Japanese. 

 

With JET, I will not be able to do the CLS program, which is the equivalent of one year of language learning fully funded by the State Department. The JET program has firmly told me that I would not be able to attend the CLS should I pick JET since the dates overlap. 

 

On the other hand, I do have a small bit of student loans left and the JET salary does seem appealing. (Especially in the face of the IUC tuition....) 

 

Thank you both for your replies. They have been enlightening and helpful. 

 

Though, I would be interested in Kyjin's response to yytk. 

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I can't speak to IUC, but I can speak to JET, as I did it for three years. At the very least, I can tell you many of us have been admitted to or gone on to master's programs, albeit most not in fields related to Japan or Asian studies, and I do know of a few people who had done JET before beginning their PhDs.

 

With JET you have the option of staying in the country, while being paid a generous amount, for a lot longer than 10 months, and you'll have a lot of breaks during the academic year during which you can go to take intensive Japanese language courses around the country that are not that expensive (particularly in March and August). There are some really great ones out there, and AJET actually publishes a list of some of them. Many offer discounts to JET participants. I did this once, but I have a friend who did it almost every August, and his Japanese level is amazing. He came in with a low-level of Japanese, but he had stayed the full five years. That being said, I went to the country knowing no Japanese, but I studied quite a bit in my free time. It was very difficult to actually get sufficient practice and study in. You are working full time, and while most ALTs don't work much overtime, I did a lot, so my free time was largely spent at work where I wasn't using Japanese at all. Even if you don't work overtime, you want to see your friends after work and on weekends, which cuts in to your study time. It's hard, even in an urban area, to find language classes that are at your level, and when you do find them, they can be pretty far away by train travel. You can self-study with or without a tutor, but it's not the same experience as classroom learning. There are some great night or weekend courses out there if you're in the right area, but they do not compare to long-term intensive language study.

 

I don't know if you'd do JET for only a year or for more, but, while many schools won't admit it, it's also bad for the schools when an ALT only stays for one year, and you honestly won't feel comfortable or competent at your job until at least six months in (in all likelihood- I know a few ALTs who had so little expected of them, and therefore had no problem with their work), and by then you're already thinking about and planning for returning home. You can become a great ALT, but you won't come in one, even if you were a teacher in your home country.

 

If your focus is to improve your Japanese as well, I don't think you will improve it in the way you want to in just a year (if you only intend on a year with JET), since that's not your main goal there. Everyone improves their language ability at least somewhat while there on JET, but it truly is different being there to work versus being there to study. Even the most diligent student doesn't improve their language skills as much as they would if they were only studying. You just don't have the time to do so, and after work, even if you might want to study, the pull of meeting your friends for karaoke can be stronger. Admittedly, karaoke or bar time can be turned in to study time, which I did a lot. :P I do think if you come in with a higher level of Japanese, it's somewhat easier to improve your language ability compared to someone (like me) who comes in with nothing or a very low level. People with higher levels can learn by experience and learn in Japanese and that can supplement their study, and it took me some time of night-class and diligent, time-consuming, independent study before I was able to just go out and use my Japanese, learn by experience, and learn in Japanese. This was true for many of my friends who came with little. Of course you're learning by virtue of being there and being receptive of what's around, but I had to get the basics down before things really started clicking for me, and that took time.

 

This is anecdotal and my memory isn't perfect, but to use the JLPT as a gauge, I had a friend who came in at just below N3 (had barely failed it), and still hadn't made it to N2 after three years, but stopped studying for it. Another friend passed N3 the December after his arrival, and after three years, recently passed N2, and he was very good at studying. Another friend came in at N4, and she had been diligently studying for nearly four years, and never passed N3, and failed N2. One JET came in with N2, and passed N1 the next July with near perfect marks, but was an exceptional student. One friend came in with a Japanese major, and failed N1 the first two times he took it. After... I think it was three years on JET he finally passed. Another friend, also Japanese major and very exceptional in her level, failed N1, having taken it 3 years after beginning work in Japan, but she took it the following December and passed. A final friend who also came in with a major in Japanese and only after three and a half years felt comfortable enough to take N1, but she passed it on the first go. Not that the JLPT is a true measure of your ability and it requires certain knowledge and effort to pass, and this is only anecdotal, but it might be helpful. Intensive studying can get you up to a desired JLPT level faster than studying while on JET can. But studying while on JET, your conversational ability explodes. You'll learn different things, perhaps, and I guess it depends on which is more important to you. 

 

You do get to do so many other things on JET too. You have the time and money to travel and see areas of the country that maybe you otherwise couldn't, with friends from around the world you wouldn't otherwise meet. I got to travel around the country so much in three years, but there's still more I want to see, and I've been to some places twice or more, because there's always more to see. With JET, you have the time and money to do this. Between happy Mondays and the other frequent breaks, you will have ample time to get out and travel, and it's easy to leave work behind for that time. Even the little things, like having time and money to go to museums, exhibits, festivals, concerts, movies, restaurants, shopping, etc. These are all ways to further your appreciation and understanding of the culture, and by being out more, it improves your language. My focus was purely on conversational fluency, since I never intended to use Japanese for academics or a job, and having the time and money to spend in bars even was amazing for this.

 

Also, the students. I don't know if many ALTs feel as strongly as I do about their students, but my students made my time in Japan, which is why I gave them so much of it. I loved my students, and they were able to teach me so much about schools there, their culture, and I was able to give them something they just couldn't get elsewhere: totally free, no strings attached English conversation and cultural exchange. I got to see how my presence affected them as students and affected their ambitions and goals for the future. I still text and skype some of my former students, am facebook friends with many (obviously they're older students and out of high school now), and a few are planning on visiting in the near future. Having students of English is an amazing experience, and you learn so much from them. Being a teacher in their school and in their classroom teaches and shows you things you just don't get elsewhere.

 

Placement affects your experience a lot. I was in a very urban placement, which actually made it far more difficult to find people to speak Japanese with, because everyone wanted to speak English. I've heard being in the inaka is a big help for your Japanese, since far fewer people can speak it or want to. Cost of living is much cheaper there too. Plus, as you know, Japanese people work a ridiculous amount of hours, so it can actually be hard to make Japanese friends with whom to speak Japanese, since they're working all the freaking time. :P My friend and I were so fed up at knowing no one to speak with that we'd meet for dinner twice a week and speak Japanese to each other at restaurants which was really confusing to the staff. Many people in my area who had Japanese friends had met those friends while doing study abroad programs during undergrad. Obviously we made Japanese friends, but it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. Truly, my biggest problem was finding Japanese people to speak Japanese with outside of the bar. I tended to acquiesce pretty easily to my friends wanting to use English though, because when we became friends, their English was better than my Japanese and they were so eager to use English. Then we just fell in to that routine, and it was hard to get out. This is just anecdotal, but it was also... harder as a female foreigner to find people who wanted to speak Japanese. It does seem like it was much easier as a man to find people to speak Japanese with. Again, this is my experience, and I think my female friends felt the same. YMMV

 

Being in a high school versus elementary school is different as well, since, at least in my prefecture, you basically had to use some Japanese in elementary schools. I worked in a high school, and I only ever used Japanese with the staff who weren't English teachers, when we worked up the courage to talk to each other. I never used it with students (although I learned by listening to them talk to each other), and I never used it with my JTEs.

 

Assuming you haven't accepted the JET program's offer, the nice thing is you can apply again in a future year, and it could be a nice back-up plan in case you don't get accepted to a graduate program.

 

If you do end up with JET, I think if you go in with the intention of staying one year, you probably won't. You'll be loving the experience you're having so much that you won't want to leave, and you won't have to. The longer you can do JET as well, the better your Japanese will become, and the more you can experience. And you will be making a great salary for someone right out of undergrad, so you will have money to pay off loans and travel and do whatever you want to make your stay in the country amazing. JET really is what you make of it, and some factors are out of your hands, but it's not an experience many people regret. Everyone does have a different experience, so my experience won't match another former JETs and probably won't match yours much if you go that route. Still, I wouldn't change it one bit.

 

The biggest caveat though: Man, did my English get crappy while living there.

 

Edit to add:

 

My classmates that did IUC (some did both a summer and a year) just don't have that same kind of breadth and depth. They "learned" all of these things, whereas I had to live them.

 

I think this is a very, very important difference between the two. And like I said, the longer you're on JET, the better you will get at these things yytk mentioned. I am not fluent at all in Japanese, and my experience will be different from yours since you're coming in with some Japanese. But after two years, even I could hold a conversation in Japanese far better than my friend who studied and majored in it at university, but never went to Japan. (I came back and we did some kaiwa at the uni, but man... I felt bad for her.) But if you are only thinking of JET for a year, and your goal is language improvement, I don't know that JET is the best option for that in just a year. But if you're not intending on just a year, I think you can get a lot more out of JET.

Edited by MangoSmoothie
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Wowza, thank you MangoSmoothie!!

 

Since language learning is a major reason I considered JET....will think hard now. Thank you everyone with your responses! 

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 But if you are only thinking of JET for a year, and your goal is language improvement, I don't know that JET is the best option for that in just a year. But if you're not intending on just a year, I think you can get a lot more out of JET.

 

 

Absolutely this. Thanks for making the distinction, MangoSmoothie. If you feel like you have the time (and the will) to spend 3-5 years teaching English, JET offers so much more. It's a way to make Japan a permanent and essential part of your identity, in addition to a rank on the JLPT. Maybe that's the reason why MangoSmoothie and I feel so strongly about the program. It's like I'm defending a part of myself from being weighed against IUC, hahaha!

 

Because "every situation is different" on JET, I will say that I had one of the most inaka placements that exists on the program. I lived in a mountain village of about 2,000 people that had four buses daily to make the two hour trip to the nearest "major" (HA!) city. English just plain wasn't an option for me. And I couldn't have asked for anything better.

 

If you decide to do JET, IUC will still be there during your grad studies and you will probably get funding from your department to go. I'm sure that I could spend this summer, or an academic year later on, at IUC brushing up on my writing (the one skill that immersion might not teach you if you are not vigilant in your use of the language). I know a few people that have finished an MA and spent some time off on JET (as both CIRs and ALTs), but I also get the impression that they are leaving academia and JET is their transition job. Generally, grad school-->JET is rarer (but certainly not impossible).

 

Lastly, you will get to see what life without school is like. I don't know your exact situation, so you could very well be coming back to undergrad after working or being in the military, but it was very important for me to experience a steady job for a few years before figuring out that yes, I really did want to go back to school.

 

Having said all of that, IUC is without question the best language school that you could attend in order to prep for graduate school. It will give you its own set of unique experiences and contacts. It's a hard decision to make, jetting, but luckily you don't have any bad choices. Good luck!

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Just to counter the comment about IUC being a classroom and not giving you the "cultural" experience: this is not a classroom in the US. You are living in Yokohama, usually in an apartment away from other English speakers. While my classmates and I would joke about the "eigo button" in the elevator since we weren't allowed to speak English when we were in the Pacifico-Yokohama building, the fact is you won't be using English for daily life. Students were involved in the local community and events, and learn tons of "non-academic" Japanese. And personally, as I was prepping for an academic career, IUC was perfect for me. I would not have been able to handle the academic level of Japanese necessary for my MA and PhD coursework without out. Apologies if my original response seemed to dismiss JET- it's a fantastic program and I know tons of people who really enjoyed their time there. Just in my experience in academia, IUC was the better option.

 

As for your question on funding, yes, funding came later. I found a scholarship from my undergraduate that helped for my living expenses, but I wasn't sure what I was going to do to fund tuition. When I was first accepted, there was no funding at all. Between my acceptance and my arrival in Japan, I gradually received funding, till by the time I arrived in Japan, my tuition was fully covered. A friend the year after me had a similar experience, though in her case she received a bit for living expenses as well. A classmate of mine who was just accepted for the year is hoping for the same thing; no funding yet, but her acceptance letter said that IUC is still waiting to figure out how much scholarship they can give out this year. 

 

Edit: I should also mention that I wasn't affiliated with a graduate program either. :) Like you, I went in straight after undergrad. Those already in PhDs and MAs tend to have better luck with outside funding. 

Edited by kyjin
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Thanks again to everyone for their thorough response! Also, kyjin, you've been such a relief since funding is my number one concern.

 

Do you think it would be helpful to inform IUC about about my funding concerns or would it be better left to wait and see?

 

While my family is not hurting per se, and we were able to cover undergrad education with a mix of scholarship, workstudy and savings, there is always a the fear that my father is going to lose his job (photojournalism/newspaper industry is tough right now...) and my mom can't work due to medical reasons. I do have a little bit of savings from various jobs I've done at school and internships, but it isn't really enough to cover tuition. My parents have been very supportive nonetheless and do want me to go to IUC (though I don't want to cause them further financial trouble...)

 

Sorry to bring up so much personal stuff. Right now I have a draft of an email that discusses my family's financial situation more in depth, but I'm deciding if it would hurt more to sent it than to not. (Plus I feel like such a dork still so being depedant on my parents....).

 

Also, I'm sorry to keep asking questions! Regarding the community invovlement you did while at IUC, did you find it was easy/encouraged to become involved in the local community?

 

Thanks again everyone!

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@kyjin

 

When you were doing IUC, were you supported by family memebers? Or did you support yourself? This is mostly in reference to the COE form that we have to fill out for the visa. It seems that in the form we have to show bank statemenst that show we have all the money to support the year. But, how can you do that without knowing your scholarships? What happens if you just don't have the moeny right then for the COE?

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@kyjin

 

When you were doing IUC, were you supported by family memebers? Or did you support yourself? This is mostly in reference to the COE form that we have to fill out for the visa. It seems that in the form we have to show bank statemenst that show we have all the money to support the year. But, how can you do that without knowing your scholarships? What happens if you just don't have the moeny right then for the COE?

I supported myself, but for the COE form my parents used their bank statements to show support, in addition to my own. For the sake of the COE form, use whatever you can to show support. I would email IUC if you have concerns about not showing enough support right now since you're waiting for scholarships; they'll have more up-to-date info on what you should do to make sure you get approved for the visa.

 

 

 

Do you think it would be helpful to inform IUC about about my funding concerns or would it be better left to wait and see?

 

I don't think it would hurt to let them know. From what I've heard from my two friends who have been accepted, no funding info from IUC itself is out yet (Blakemore and other outside fellowships, however, are another matter). So again, I wouldn't stress too much. I think I sent a letter explaining my financial situation my year after I didn't receive any aid (I can't quite remember though). Wouldn't hurt to ask!

 

Also, I'm sorry to keep asking questions! Regarding the community invovlement you did while at IUC, did you find it was easy/encouraged to become involved in the local community?

IUC sponsored a number of events in the community that you could join in. :) As for your local neighborhood, that's another matter. As I mentioned before, students live all over the place, and you might not be near any other IUC students. In that case, it's really up to you to explore the local community and get to know people. For example, one of my friends joined a local kendo gym. One option if you really want to be involved community-wise is to sign up to live in the International Dorm. Not sure how many IUC students they take now, but my year they allowed two IUC students to live there. It's the cheapest living option, but in exchange, you're expected to be involved in the events put on in the dorm and involve yourself in the local community. One of my best friends lived there and he loved it. :D (And he dragged me along to a holiday cultural event too; I got to meet a ton of people not only in Yokohama, but from all over the world!)

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Also, as another resource for anyone interested in IUC/deciding to attend, the blog "Shinpai Deshou" has a whole series of posts about the program, including a run-down of how the year works, info about housing, where students are now, and scholarship info:

https://shinpaideshou.wordpress.com/tag/inter-university-center-for-japanese-language-studies/

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 3 weeks later...

Any updates?

 

I have submitted for the MEXT in the hopes of getting funding for research following the Aug/Sept 2016 completion of my History MA in Canada.  This would allow me both language and research training (expanding my thesis with Japanese perspectives/sources) before I apply for PhD programmes.  If this doesn't work out, I would like to do the 10-month programme at IUC or something similar to both improve my Japanese in an immersive/professional classroom setting, and improve my PhD application more generally.  I have experience taking Japanese classes, in Japanese, at a Japanese university for three semesters in the past and know it to be an environment I accel in.

 

Anyway, this thread has been immeasurably helpful as I consider applying for the IUC 10month programme (either next year, as a backup, or during a PhD - which I will almost definitely do).  Questions: did anyone here apply through the Nippon Foundation Fellows Program?

 

@jetting - Please let us know about the funding, and what replies you might have received via email from IUC after voicing your concern about funding.  The IUC website is reassuring, stating "Admission to the IUC is based entirely on the student's academic qualifications and professional goals and is entirely independent of financial considerations, so no student should hesitate to apply to the Center because of concern over costs."  I like this, but am of course curious as to what this means for real applicants such as yourself.

 

Goodluck on your endeavours - I am sure that living in Japan will be rewarding for you (though maybe how you expect it to be - that is part of the experience, though, isn't it? :) )

I know that I wouldn't trade my near-20 months living in Kyushu from 2010 for anything in the world - in fact, much of my time since returning and pursuing higher studies in history has been spent finding another way to live there for an extended period.

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