Guide to Studying Abroad in Japan and Cornell Resources

Quick Index


If you wish to study in Japan, speaking Japanese is NOT a requirement. There are many programs out there for people who know little or no Japanese. Especially for Engineers! Engineers can get internships in Japan via the internet or the Cornell CO-OP program.

As for other people, its good to have a minimum of 1 year. Preferably 2 years of Japanese before going to Japan. Just remember, Cornell is the TOP school for learning Japanese. In all my years in Japan, our students always rank high compared to other students with an equivalent time of study. One year of Japanese in Cornell should be enough to survive in Japan. But most programs recommend two years. After 2 years of Cornell Japanese, you will have no difficulty in Japan.

Inside Cornell

Traditional Language Classes

Japanese language classes are the basic way to learn Japanese.
These classes are now offered in three speeds. Slow (101,102,201...), regular, and (fast)FALCON (161..).
Classes emphasize speaking over reading for the first 2 years, and thereafter reading and writing are emphasized more.

Fees: Regular Cornell tuition fees.
Time frame: Offered for Fall, Spring and Summer sessions.
Required Japanese: None.
Contact Information: Morrill Hall, 4th floor office.

Other types of Japanese language study

Unusual methods for learning Japanese are:
  • Use the LEP language exchange program. In this program, a coordinator gets you a language partner. You and the language partner meet and develop your own methods of learning each others language. Usually you meet 2 hours a week. One in your language and one in theirs.
    Fees: None.
    Time frame: Year round.
    Required Japanese: None.
    Contact Information: 200 Barnes Hall or LEP homepage.

  • Paying to study with the Ithaca Japanese Society. (probably good for non-Cornell students).

  • Getting a head start by being a guinea pig for the Japanese teachers training workshop in the summer. This could give you a head start before taking first year. Unfortunately it requires that you have no previous Japanese experience. Fees: None.
    Time frame: Summer only.
    Required Japanese: Must have no prior Japanese experience at all!
    Contact Information: Posters in Morrill Hall in late Spring and Summer.


    Falcon is an intensive program for learning Japanese quickly. It is extremely difficult because all you do is Japanese day in-day out for the summer or the whole year. Personally I think it is too intensive, and causes emotional and mental damage to many people who are not prepared for the experience. But if your desperate, contact Robert Sukle in Morrill Hall (4th floor) for more information.



    Morrill Hall Intensive English Program

    Language House

    Study Abroad Office

    Its in 300 Caldwell Hall and has tons of information, and a Cornell Abroad web page.

    Bulliten Boards

    Always check out the 4th floor of Morrill Hall by the Japanese Office next to the water fountain. They have new and old programs all the time.

    Afew Japan-Study Abroad Programs



    A joint program between Rose-Hulman University and Kanazawa Institute of Technology (KIT). The student gets to experience college life in KIT in a dorm. It is a great way to relax and get to see Kanazawa while building friendships. A short 3 day homestay occurs as part of the program. It is now available in the summer or during the academic year. You can get credit for Japanese language and culture classes. The summer program lasts about 2 months. Scott Clark who also runs the EAGLE program teaches the anthropology class.
    Fees: ~$3000
    Time frame: June and July (for summer)
    Required Japanese: 1 or 2 years.
    Contact Information: Same as EAGLE.


    This is a summer Japanese program for Engineers that is absolutely fabulous. EAGLE usually takes place in HIF or SCJS (the two previous programs) and in addition usually has a second part where the student studies what life is like in the city of Niihama in southern Japan. Niihama is the home city for Sumitomo one of the big Japanese companies or Zaibatsu. The EAGLE student gets a homestay in Niihama and 4 days of a internship like experience in 2 random workplaces in Niihama. Chances are at least 2 days will be in A Sumitomo subsidiary. The Niihama trip is only 2 weeks long, but the friendship with you host family will probably be life long.
    Richard Lance in Bard Hall was the EAGLE contact 2 years ago. He can help you find out information also.

    Fees: $1500
    Time frame: June and July (for summer)
    Required Japanese: 1 or 2 years.
    Contact Information:
    Scott Clark
    Associate Professor of Anthropology
    Director, International Programs & Global Studies
    Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
    5500 Wabash Avenue
    Terre Haute, IN 47803
    Tel: 812-877-8377
    FAX: 812-877-3198

    The Eagle Participants (1996)


    A consortium full year experience in Japan program. You get full credit at Cornell. It varies drastically from year to year, but is always excellent. It runs from August to April and can be easily extended to run from, August to August. In this program you have the option of living in a homestay or experiencing life on your own. You also get to experience the city of Kyoto. Since it is a year program, more information is included in my experiences section. Otherwise visit one of the websites below:


    This is the sister program to KCJS also in Kyoto. Since Cornell does not sponsor it I know little about it. Ivy League students tend to attend KCJS, and liberal arts college students go to Doshisha. KCJS associates more with Kyodai (Kyoto University). And Doshisha is based at Doshisha university. Also I think Doshisha exchange students all have homestays, and don't get first dibs on English teaching part time work.


    A intensive Japanese language program based in Tokyo called SCJL. It costs about the same as HIF, and lasts about 2 months in the summer. I know little else.
    Time frame: July-Late August.
    Required Japanese: 1 year of Japanese minimum
    Contact Information:
    International Christian University
    10-2, Osawa 3-chome
    Mitaka-shi, Tokyo 181 Japan

    Japan-America Student Conference


    This program allows you to work in Japan after finishing college probably teaching English to students in the Japanese school system.
    Fees: You get paid, but need a Bachelors degree.
    Time frame: Year round
    Required Japanese: None
    Contact Information: Posters around Campus.

    Once you are graduating and want to work in Japan. Go to the
  • Disco Career Web and sign up. Disco has a few job fairs every year for English/Japanese bilinguals. I have had more success from this one fair than all my other job searching combined. This year there was one fair in Boston, San Francisco and Tokyo each.

    Other Japan Programs

    My experiences

    As for me I had 4 years of Japanese before I went to Kyoto. But the first time I went to Japan (Hokkaido) I had only 2 years of Japanese and was more prepared than almost anyone else. They places me in the 4th year class and that's when things took off for me.

    Staying in Japan for a year will put you probably 1 year or two ahead in Japanese, and after that any Japanese class you take will be simple. That's what my 2nd year Japanese class lecturer told me.

    Right now I am interviewing for a job in Japan. They are almost all in Tokyo. None in Kyoto. If you don't study abroad in Kyoto now, you may never get to see it again except on vacations.

    If you can get into language house its a great place to learn Japanese. It would probably be ideal to be a second or third year language student while living in language house. I took 2nd year Japanese in the summer (FALCON) in order to be accepted to language house back when there were stricter requirements for admittance.

    This is what I did. I took Japanese 101-102. Then I took Summer Falcon 203-204 in order to get into language house. I only got a B- in Falcon so they made me repeat 2nd year again in the fall. So I took 201-202-203-204 again Sophomore year while living in language house.

    As for FALCON. It will drive you insane in some manner. The effect will wear off if you only take summer FALCON. But I know no student who has taken Full-year FALCON and not suffered some (sometimes only small) psychological damage. Unless you are very good at languages, or desperate to learn Japanese quickly, don't do FALCON. 2nd year summer FALCON is rough, but you learn Japanese fast and its a good experience.

    The next summer I traveled to Hokkaido to do the HIF language program, since I thought that because I was an engineer I might not get another chance. The next year I continued living in language house and took 301-302. And the year after I skipped 401 and went right on to 402. That summer I went back to Japan to study engineering at Kanazawa and the Business culture in Niihama on a program called EAGLE for engineers. I continued over the next year in Kyoto in KCJS.

    There are 100s of other ways to learn Japanese. Mine was haphazard and nothing like I had planned. I've never heard of a bad program in Japan yet from any of my friends.

    For KCJS, the Tamaki foundation gave me about 18,000 dollars and The Japan foundation gave me 3000 dollars. The rest I got through loans, and Cornell grants. EAGLE was a scholarship program, and I had left over money from that as well. The rest same from part time work before and during my trip to Japan. KCJS costs LESS this year than in previous years (like mine). And the Tamaki and Japan Foundation money is waiting for people like you to use it.

    My other programs (HIF and EAGLE) were primarily language course with a culture course and fun activities. KCJS is school. But it has all the components that made HIF and EAGLE fun also. In all these programs there are fun field trips, parties, homestays, make your own Okonomiyaki/Curry Rice/ Sushi parties, etc.

    Every city has their "famous" Masturis (festivals) which you will go to. Every city has some historical sites, shrines and temples to learn about. They are all different and all part of the CHANGING culture of Japan. The Japan you see next year or the year after will be subtly different from the Japan you saw in Kyoto. And utterly different from Japan 5 years ago. When I first went to Japan in 1994, Convenience stores were rare oddities, but now they are so important, they are printed on maps! They are a integral part of Japanese life. Be prepared in Japan for the unexpected.

    Everyone should experience Japan as it suits them best.


    LIVE IN THE LANGUAGE HOUSE. IT is THE BEST WAY to learn Japanese before you go to Japan. Living there enabled me to eat, sleep and dream in Japanese. It was great.

    If you can't do the semester study abroad thing, remember that summers are always free.

    Carefully choose your major and classes to best accommodate studying Japanese. One reason I am an AEP major and not CHEME, or some other type of engineer is that AEP has a very compatible schedule with Japanese language.

    If you have time, there are ways outside language house to supplement your Japanese courses: Cornell Japanese Anime Society (Sat 8:00-), JUSA language tables (None right now), JUSA parties, JUSA meetings (WED 5:00), LEP program, Language house dinners.

    Most importantly, take ANTHRO 345 before going to Japan or if you are wary of as 300 level class take ASIAN 211. Its important to begin to really understand Japanese culture to adapt to it.

    Women are treated differently in Japan. They are sometimes discriminated against as well, but it is very important to be able to see the difference between DISCRIMINATION and just DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY. Sometimes, women are not being discriminated against and to the foreign eye it looks like discrimination. Its not a fine line. Be careful about this. Women are harassed in Japan, but being married, being an OL, pouring coffee in an office, raising children, and walking behind men is not discrimination all the time. These are set things in Japanese culture, but may change in the future. Discrimination does exist. One of the worst forms of discrimination is men touching women in yucky ways on crowded subway trains (Chikan). Finally one of these Chikan cases has made it to court, and maybe the practice will one day stop. Ask any Japanese female for the details, and their point of view. Everyone sees things a little differently.

    In Kyoto, there are a TREMENDOUS range of opportunities open to you not available anywhere else. Tea ceremony, Noh, Karate, Wood-block printing, Buddhism, Japanese architecture, Japanese gardens, Japanese college student life, Nature vs Urban and any other topic can be studied at its very heart. While Tokyo has the majority of people in Japan. And other places have beauty. I think the cities of Osaka and Kyoto are really the heart and soul of Japan. At least from the HISTORICAL perspective.

    For modern inventions and industry, go to Tokyo.

    Hope this helps answer your questions a little..

    For more Study Abroad info, visit, the Cornell Study Abroad office, or the Cornell Abroad Home page.
    ( )

    Contact me by e-mail at: (Paul Lester)