I first heard of the Yamasa Institute back in 2006 when I tried to pick up where I left off in high school in my Japanese studies. Ever since graduating in 2004, I stopped studying Japanese, was not enrolled in college, and I was trying to gain information on colleges that offer degree programs in Japanese language. That was when I stumbled upon Yamasa's website while searching the internet. After sifting through the plethora of information available on their site and reading various student blogs, I knew that I wanted to be a Yamasa student. However, at the time I was a poor projectionist for AMC Theatres who was barely scraping by, so studying in Japan for any length of time was out of my reach.
I never did go to college, study at Yamasa, or even continue my Japanese studies, and in 2008 I reached a point in my life where I needed a career change so that I could make enough money to stop living the paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. So, I joined the US Navy on July 21, 2008, endured a year at Nuclear Power School in Charleston, SC and 6 months at Prototype in Saratoga Springs, NY, and eventually became a nuclear Machinist's Mate serving onboard USS George H W Bush. In hindsight, it is probably good that I did not go to college for Japanese at the time, since a degree in Japanese is pretty much worthless by itself.
This seems to be turning into more of an autobiography, but I promise I'm getting back to Yamasa. A few months before we left for deployment in 2011, I got bit by the Japanese bug again, but this time I was not going to lose my determination to learn this language. So, I dusted off my old high school dictionary and kanji dictionary, bought the Minna no Nihongo textbooks and workbooks off of Amazon, and started collecting information about Yamasa's summer programs for a study trip in the future. Starting on Day One of deployment (May 11, 2011), I studied Japanese for at least an hour or more every day without fail, and quickly surpassed the level that I was at in high school.
At first I was interested in the Sapporo/Okazaki summer program, however towards the end of deployment the ship's scheduled shifted to the right, delaying our shipyard availability until July and adding sea time every month up until shipyard. I started looking into the SILAC program, since I would be able to start any week and Yamasa was flexible enough to defer my application if need be. So, on my first day home from deployment on December 12, 2011, I formally applied for The Yamasa Institute 4-week SILAC program commencing June 28, 2012 and paid the 25,000¥ deposit. After spending some hard-earned leave time in Dallas, I decided that I would take Erica with me to give her that special trip that I wish I had when I was 17, because I know that the opportunity to travel to Japan for the summer would mean something to her, and in February 2012, she had applied and I paid the 25000¥ deposit for her. (The application for SILAC can be found here.) For various reasons (i.e. the Navy's ever-changing schedules), we had to defer out start date to July 19, though.
In order to formally be accepted into the program (assuming you will be studying for less than 90 days on a tourist visa), you must fully pay at least 2 weeks worth of tuition (87,500¥). It is cheaper to pay in full prior to leaving for Japan, though, since you must pay an additional 29,600¥ to extend your stay while at Yamasa. Furthermore, if you pay 3 months in advance you can knock 5% off of your tuition, and you get a 10% discount for paying tuition 4 months early. Keep in mind you will probably have to pay a $20-$30 fee for an international wire transfer, as well. That 25,000¥ deposit that you paid goes towards your tuition, though, so you can subtract that from your total. Basically, pay your tuition first and pay early, you can worry about housing and your flight later.
|Yamasa Letter of Acceptance|
Since Erica is only 17, there were special procedures that she had to do in order to be accepted, as well. As a minimum, Yamasa requires all applicants to have completed at least through 11th grade of high school and meet the minimum age of 18, however the age requirement can be waived on a case by case basis. Yamasa does not accept very many students under the age of 20, so I highly doubt Erica would have been accepted had she not been going with me. If you are 17 and have the means and motivation to apply for Yamasa, you will have to contact Yamasa Admissions, as well as provide handwritten recommendations from 2 teachers (preferably a Japanese teacher if possible, but Erica has never taken Japanese), a handwritten letter from a parent or legal guardian, and your up-to-date high school transcripts.
Anyways, once you pay, you will get your Letter of Acceptance (shown on the right) in the mail. It will come in a folder with your class schedule and arrival instructions. Make sure you don't lose it, as you will need to show it to Immigrations officials upon entry to Japan.
Next, you need to look at housing. I think a homestay would be a great option for a short term stay, but I did not look into it because it is a little bit more expensive and it is harder to place two students together. Yamasa has a lot of accommodation options, and I put as my first choice Villa 1 since you get a small discount when you have 2 students entering and leaving together (otherwise, Yamasa would pair you with a roommate). There are single apartments available, too, if you do not want to share living space, and renting your own place is always an option as well. You are required to pay at least 2 weeks worth of accommodation prior to arriving if you are staying at Yamasa, as well, and this can be extended on a 2-week basis. You can also rent or buy a futon for your room at pretty affordable rates. For both me and Erica combined, our accommodation costs for 1 month (including futon rental) came out to be 88,000¥, and our villa includes water, electricity, internet, and has a kitchen and a bathroom.
Enroll in a frequent flyer program. If you are going to spend thousands of dollars on a plane ticket, you might as well get rewarded for it. I actually received enough miles from these flights alone to allow myself a free domestic flight with some miles to spare.
Also, the flight across the Pacific is a long one, so go to Seatguru to find yourself a comfortable seat near an electrical outlet. Your laptop or portable entertainment will surely go a long way to keeping you occupied on the long journey to Japan.
Finally, make sure your passport is current, and apply for one early if you have not already. The earlier you apply for a passport the less stressful it will be, and the less money you will need to fork over getting things like birth certificates and the passport itself rushed. We have less than 2 weeks to go before departure, and Erica is still trying to work things out with the Department of State. That is cutting it a little bit too close for comfort.
If you are interested in attending Yamasa, this is the basic process that I followed. I know it is a long post, but kudos to you if you read this far! If you are wondering how much money you will need, Yamasa has a tuition/accommodation cost calculator on their website. The total costs of tuition and accommodation for both me and Erica came out to be 345,640¥ (about $4,326), and our airline tickets cost $4,811 for a total of about $9,137 for the two of us. Divide that in half and leave room for spending money and that is about how much you need to save to study at Yamasa for 4 weeks. Compared to other international summer language study programs, that is actually not so bad.
Yamasa is also pretty good about getting back to you if have any questions or need to make any changes to your study program or accommodations (hell, I had to defer my application 3 times). They do take a while to respond, though, but I have usually received a reply within a week. Some of the AIJP folks who need student visas have talked about getting jittery about hearing back about their acceptance letters (which is needed to get the student visa), but Yamasa always seems to pull through. All in all, Yamasa seems like an outstanding program and I have high expectations and great excitement for this trip.
I have been writing for entirely too long, so I am just going to stop now. Thank you for reading, and I hope you will enjoy my entries from Japan.