Hello from Kyoto!

It’s been such a busy week! On Monday, I moved out of the house I’d been living in for the last three years, put most of my earthly possessions in storage, and got on a red-eye flight bound for Washington D.C. to start my Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) in Advanced Japanese. I was very pleased to arrive to an amazing breakfast and plush accommodations at the Embassy Suites, conveniently located closed to a number of sights in Washington D.C. After a nap, I managed to arrange impromptu get-togethers with Alice, an old friend who interned with me at the Environmental Protection Agency in 2003, and Tessa, a fellow University of Washington Political Science major who is now working as a lawyer in D.C.

Tuesday night and all of Wednesday consisted of an orientation at the American Councils headquarters. Though the State Department provides the funding, American Councils appears to handle the U.S.-side organizational responsibilities for the CLS Program. The staff were all incredibly friendly and helpful, though they were only able to give us a limited amount of information on our program, since this is the first year that CLS has included a Japanese program. Still, we used the time to meet one another–there are 14 students in the Advanced Japanese group, 5 graduate students and 9 undergraduates. Everyone seems remarkably nice and friendly, and some of the participants speak fabulous Japanese–I’m particularly impressed with the undergraduates who haven’t ever been to Japan before and yet seem to have mastered an impressive level of language skill.

At 3:30 am on Friday morning, the 14 of us got on a bus bound for Dulles airport and embarked on a 16-hour plane journal (with a 2-hour stop at San Francisco International Airport) for the Kansai International Airport in Osaka. It was a surprisingly pleasant plane ride, in no small part due to the fact that I was seated in United Economy Plus, which was well worth the money to upgrade (yay for 5 extra inches of leg room!). Anyway, an hour-long bus ride found our group at the Hearton Hotel in Kyoto, where we met our Resident Director. Saturday was our orientation at the Kyoto Consortium for Japanese Studies (KCJS), which included a 2.5-hour long placement test, a campus tour, and (finally) lots of information about our classes to come (and our first homework assignments, of course!).

Today, I finally met my host family. I’m staying with a very nice couple in a house just a short walk from Doshisha University‘s Imadegawa campus, where KCJS is based. I’m excited, as this is my very first homestay experience, and I hope to make the most of it! And it looks like an amazingly relaxing place to live and work–I have a surprisingly spacious room all to myself, and even a separate study area:

The house is also home to a very well-behaved dog named おじゃる (Ojaru):

Overall, I’ve been very impressed with the coordination and effort put in by American Councils and KCJS–and the State Department has been amazingly generous in paying for pretty much every expense that we could possibly encounter. They’ve even set us up with temporary cell phones for our stay! (Although, as anybody who’s lived in Japan knows, cell phones are basically mandatory for Japanese life.) I’m quite glad that I decided to attend this program. It’s like the study abroad program that I never did as an undergraduate.

Anyway, I should unpack and get started on my homework! No rest for the weary!