Student Voices

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"PII was an amazing experience. My host family was incredibly kind and all-around awesome, while being completely immersed in the language and culture greatly improved my Japanese language skills. My time at PII has become one of my most unforgettable summers."

Jeff Chen, Princeton University, PII 2014

"I want to thank the staff at both Princeton in Ishikawa and the Ishikawa Foundation for International Exchange for all that you have done. I really enjoyed the program, and I can feel the difference that it has made in my Japanese language skills. I’m also very thankful for the bond that I formed with my host family, and I hope that someday I will be able to visit them, and Ishikawa Prefecture, again. Thank you for all that the program staff has done, and thank you for the positive impact that all of you have had on my Japanese studies."

Anthony Volk, Harvard University, PII 2016

“PII and my internship with Hokkoku Shimbun, a newspaper covering the Hokuriku region, transformed my perspective on Japanese culture and prepared me with the Japanese proficiency to share these ideas with others. Passing the wooden archway in Kanazawa station every day as a PII student, I had the chance to appreciate the coexistence of traditional artisanship and the new in Kanazawa, from the 21st Century Museum to Kanazawa castle.

Outside of language, the PII program grounded my studies of Japanese with a sense of purpose: I discovered that as my Japanese progressed, I was able to more critically explore less consciously presented aspects of “tradition.” Coming from New York, one question that remained in my mind was how traditional culture remained relevant in Kanazawa. By interning at Hokkoku Shimbun, I was able to explore this from an insider perspective with professional Japanese journalists, from the lively and violent Abare festival to learning about the shift from traditional Kutani porcelain painting to printed designs. Together, PII and Hokkoku Shimbun grounded my studies of Japanese, introduced me to fantastic people, and above all showed me how much more Japanese there is to know."

Morris Reeves, Williams College, PII 2015, Ishikawa Internships 2016

“My name is Victoria Mancuso. I am a 2016 Georgetown University graduate with a degree in
Japanese and Mandarin. I attended the Princeton in Ishikawa program (PII) in Summer 2013. PII
was my first time travelling to Japan and, looking back, I would not have had it any other way.
Learning languages feels a lot like stumbling around a dark room. You don’t know which way is what,
and the only way to really learn is to take chances, bump into walls, and hope you don’t get too
bruised in the process. PII provides the support and encouragement you need to confidently forge

The host family aspect of this program makes it unique and ultimately enriches the experience.
Initially, though, it is quite nerve-racking for students to get to know people so intimately using a
language they are not necessarily confident in. I remember on the first day, my host mom took me on
a car ride through the city. The whole time, she was chatting away and I had no idea what she was
saying. I was too nervous to ask her to speak slower and was worried I would make a mistake or seem
rude. After about two hours of grunting and enthusiastically nodding my head, she asked me how
long I had been studying Japanese. I told her nine months. She was stunned and asked me if I
understood her. I slowly shook my head and we both burst out laughing. She ended up becoming my
main source of support for those two months, comforting me when I was homesick, and bringing me
to all the best food spots in the city. My relationship with her remains strong even now, three years
later, and has motivated me to push forward in my Japanese studies and work hard so I can improve
and we can chat away together.

PII’s faculty is the driving force of this program. The teachers are incredibly dedicated, and will go all
miles necessary to make sure you are learning and improving. The language classes are very intense
and sometimes it feels like all you do is memorize kanji. What gives the classes their extra edge,
however, is that they are sandwiched in the middle of your new Japanese life. The program’s
structure allows you to apply what you learn immediately. It, quite literally, brings the language to
life as the words on the page become actual experiences and social interactions. Quite quickly in the
program, your teachers also become your guides and mentors. They are akin to life coaches, and are
always ready to help a student who may be struggling to communicate with her host family, or to
simply explain a confusing interaction she may have had on the bus that morning. They are your
safety net, providing you with the space to try, to fail, and to try again.

After nine years of learning Mandarin and four years of learning Japanese, I can attest to the fact
that you never really stop feeling lost in the dark. Languages evolve and there is always room to learn
something new. It is programs like PII, however, that can lend a hand in guiding you around the
terrain and cushion you when you fall.”

Victoria Mancuso, Georgetown University, PII2013