One on One with KCP Alumnus Abigail Dunn, Part 4

Meet KCP Alum Abigail Dunn as she shares her KCP experience:

Did KCP meet expectations?

Abigail: Absolutely! And I got what I put into it. It is what you make it. You could just go and be OK, but you’re not going to learn as much if you don’t put as much into it. But as I said, I tend to overdo things! I think though, in order to get the very most out of it, you kind of have to, especially as an American from a monolingual country. Even the other Asian students had some English, so already they’re used to learning and speaking other languages. Americans in the program really have to work a lot harder.

Describe a typical day for you as a student.

Abigail: Mornings are breakfast with my host family, study, then I take the train to KCP. Classes were in the afternoons, and then I’d go out with friends for a while. And then I’d go home and study – a lot – like four hours a day. I wasn’t used to that here in the U.S., but there, I really wanted to learn. I put the most time into Levels 3 and 4 to make sure I kept up. I probably didn’t need to do that much, but I felt like I needed to keep up with the students who had been in the KCP program starting from Level 1. It was the first time I was in a Japanese class where I was at the tail end. I had to work really hard to keep up with the rest of them, but I also feel like I passed them up at some point because they didn’t put as much time in.

If I’m going to learn Japanese, I’m going to overdo it. For example, we had pronunciation practices. We had to read something they gave us earlier in the week out loud to the teacher so they could correct your pronunciation. I studied until I didn’t need the paper. I memorized it.

Did you ever speak English?

Abigail: I had only one friend, who coincidently went to Western. At first, I didn’t want to connect with her before we went, but I realized when I was there that it’s really important to have one person who you can talk to and have that solidarity with, because I think I would have been really lonely. You need that one person that you can decide to switch between Japanese and English with, but actually, most of the time we used Japanese. Especially around our friends. She was my one friend that I could speak English with.

What would you tell a parent whose child wants to go? Set my mind at ease.

Abigail: It’s still a blur, the first few weeks. I didn’t have culture shock, really, but my body did. The first month, I got really sick. My body went into shock, sort of – the food, the air, the train, with a bazillion people smooshed up against me – I was adjusting a lot physically. I was sick all of October. But it was fine. I was too excited to be sick!

Also, the teachers are amazing. They put in so much extra time and effort for students who ask for it – and even those who don’t. They’re dedicated to meet you where you’re at – language-wise – and to push you, too. I always had a fear of talking to my professors. I feared getting words or formalities wrong. I never asked questions before. But they were so responsive to my questions.

The staff was very personable. I never felt lost. I could have taken better advantage of the teachers and staff by asking more questions, but I thought I had to do everything on my own. That’s just my stubbornness. They spoke very good English if I needed it. I felt taken-care-of.

What are some qualifying questions you would say, if you said “yes” to these, KCP is for you?

Abigail: My first question would be why are you going? Everyone says “passion,” or “I love Japanese” – but what would set them apart?

I’d ask, “Are you willing to dedicate a lot of hours every single day and study your brains out?” Studying 4-6 hours a day is not an exaggeration.

I’d ask about their goals for the class. If getting C’s is OK with them then that’s fine, but it wouldn’t be for me. If I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it well. Here [in America], I got A’s all the time. I mean I did all the work, but to me it didn’t feel like a legitimate A because I just did the things I was supposed to do. It didn’t mean anything to me. But at KCP, because of the difficulty and because I really experienced the difficulty, when I got A’s, it was like, I EARNED this. Plus, I didn’t always get A’s. I flunked several classes, especially in fourth level because it was very hard, but they let you retake. They want you to learn. It’s not just, get a grade and be done with it. They want you to know the material.

This is the final piece on Abigail Dunn’s interview. Thank you for sharing your amazing journey!

Read Parts 12, and 3! Stay tuned for the last installment from Abigail!