We reached out to Thomas Clinkenbeard, an alumnus from Western Michigan University that participated on the 2016 JCMU Summer Intensive Language program about his experiences as a student at JCMU.
What was your motivation for studying abroad in Japan? Why the Summer Intensive Language program?
My motivation for studying abroad came from the fact that everyone I have ever known has told me to study abroad. I also really wanted to experience a culture other than my own first hand. I chose the language intensive program because it fit well with my schedule and because I had already taken some Japanese classes in the US and really wanted to challenge myself.
Did you take the recommended flight? How was the flight over?
I personally did not take the recommended flight because it flew out of Detroit and I live in Chicago but booking a flight from Chicago was not difficult at all. The flight was about 12 hours which the time was easy for me to fill because there were many movies to choose from on the flight. They served 2 meals on my flight so I wasn’t extremely hungry at any point on the flight.
What are your thoughts on the city of Hikone?
I loved Hikone. Hikone was such a nice city to live in for two months and I already consider it a home to me. Hikone had so much to see and do even though at first I thought it was a pretty small town.
Did you often travel and explore the area?
I went sightseeing as much as I possibly could have and saw so many cool things not only in Hikone but in other areas in Shiga Prefecture.
What were some of your favorite places? Did you travel to other cities?
Out of the places I really enjoyed in the Hikone area I think I liked Hikone Castle and Taga Taisha (Shinto Shrine) best. Both sites were beautiful and extremely interesting to visit. Other cities I traveled to were Otsu, Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe. I highly recommend visiting Kyoto a few times as there are many different places to see and you will not be able to see them all in one day. My personal favorite site in Kyoto was Fushimi Inari Taisha, I liked it so much I went around five times.
What were the classes like at JCMU, and how did they differ from American classes (if at all)?
The classes were really fun and the instructors were really helpful. I will say that it’s not called the intensive program for nothing, it is a lot of work but it is definitely worth it. The classes go for 4 hours a day Monday through Friday and if you want to do well you will probably end up studying/doing homework for another 4-6 hours. I was in level 2 so we were only allowed to speak in Japanese which really helped my spoken skills. Another minor difference that took some time for me to adjust to was that after you turned in your homework and got it back the instructors did not fix your mistakes they just marked what you had gotten wrong. Due to this you have to really go over your homework to try and figure out what you did wrong but if you need help the instructors were always happy to help you out if you came to their office hours.
What was living in the dorms like? What were some of the pros (and cons, if any) of the dorms?
My dorm experience will be a little different from others because I only had a roommate for about a week because my roommate participated in a long term home stay. I did really like the dorms there and enjoyed my time living in them. It was really cool to be living in a building where everyone there is studying the exact same things as you. There is a game room with a TV and some game systems so you have some things to do while you hang out with the other students. One big benefit of the dorms that I found helpful is that there was a kitchen in my room, I got way better at cooking while I was at JCMU.
How was the food in Japan? Did you cook your own food? Did you often eat at Coco’s or other restaurants?
The food in Japan was fantastic and delicious. While at JCMU I picked up a taste for sushi, which I had previously not cared for. I often cooked my own food in my room which was nice because I learned how to make many Japanese dishes by myself. Coco’s is also another good option for food because they are cheap and JCMU students get a discount there. Coco’s had some really good Japanese dishes and is also a good place if you are craving some more American style foods such as pizza or burgers. Other than that the only restaurant that I went to in Hikone was a ramen shop near the station and the ramen there was really good. If you are interested ask Harada-san about “Ramen Under the Bridge.”
We would like to thank Thomas for sharing his experiences with us, and we hope this inspires future students to consider studying abroad in Hikone! For more information about Thomas’ program, please visit the Summer Intensive Language program page.