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25 posts categorized "Resident Director"


Cultural Immersion, Health, and Safety: CIEE Tokyo's Onsite Orientation

CIEE strives to provide students with as many opportunities as possible to immerse themselves in Japanese culture. One way we do this is by offering a number of activities throughout the program, including a daytrip to Kamakura City during the onsite orientation period just after students arrive. In Fall 2016 we continued this tradition and enjoyed a gorgeous sunny day at the city that served as Japan’s capital from the late 12th to early 14th century.

 Kamakura is rich in culture and history. It was during the Kamakura period that the samurai warrior class emerged to play a significant role in Japanese society. It is also the home of world-renowned cultural and religious sites. During our daytrip, local guides took us on a tour of three important sites: Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine, Hasedera Temple, and the Great Buddha Statue. By seeing these sites and hearing the guides’ explanations firsthand, students had a helpful introduction to Japanese religious traditions; knowledge that is important to understanding the fundamentals of Japanese culture and society.

In front of the Daibutsu "Great Buddha" statue in Kamakura.
Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine in the distance.

 In addition to the Kamakura daytrip and other immersive activities, during the onsite orientation we conduct sessions on academics, daily life and cultural adaptation, and health and safety. We place great importance on all these subjects, and where health and safety are concerned we go above and beyond to help ensure the wellbeing of our students. As in past semesters, we visited the Life Safety Learning Center (LSLC), a facility operated by the Tokyo Fire Department where people are welcome to learn how to respond to emergency situations. Under the guidance of LSLC staff, students experienced a simulated earthquake and learned how to best protect themselves, learned how to escape a simulated burning building, and learned how to properly operate a fire extinguisher. Through the LSLC visit and other safety-related activities and discussions, we’re confident that students gain the tools to enjoy their life in Japan in a safe and responsible way.

Life Safety Learning Center
Resident Director Peter Morris (third from left) and students putting out a simulated fire at the Life Safety Learning Center.


Fall 2014 Semester Begins!

Twenty-one students from schools across the US arrived safely on September 16, eager to begin an unforgettable semester (or year) in Japan!

Our comprehensive two-week orientation period began soon after arrival, so students participated in icebreakers and intercultural training activities, and also learned about safety and important logistics. Other sessions focused on group-oriented Japanese society, behavioral norms, expectations, cultural adjustment, and of course, academics.

Here are just a few highlights from the orientation:

Life Safety Learning Center

Safety is a top priority for CIEE. As part of orientation we visited the Life Safety Learning Center, operated by the Tokyo Fire Department. Students learned how to use a fire extinguisher, how to evacuate a burning building, and how to protect themselves in an earthquake simulation.


Putting out a simulated fire


On September 26, we enjoyed a guided tour through Kamakura, one of Japan’s former capitals. We visited Hachimangu Shrine (over 900 years old), followed by the Daibutsu (‘Great Buddha’), and Hasedera Temple. Our local tour guides did an amazing job explaining the importance of these sites and their impact on Japanese culture, religion, and art.


Hachimangu Shrine


Daibutsu (the 'Great Buddha' statue)


In front of Hasedera Temple


Classes started for our students at Sophia University on September 30. By actively engaging in coursework, participating in CIEE activities and excursions, and being immersed in Japanese society, we are confident that our students will develop skills for living in a multicultural, global society.

Stay tuned for more updates throughout the semester. Until next time! Mata ne!




Celebrating a Great Spring 2014 Semester

After a hectic few weeks of final exams, the CIEE Spring 2014 semester program officially came to an end on July 31. Over the past four months our students immersed themselves in Japanese culture and society by joining student clubs, spending time with host families, exploring the country on their own, and participating in CIEE activities and excursions. Here are just a few things that happened since our last post...

Taiko Drumming Workshop

On June 18, CIEE students participated in a taiko drumming workshop. In taiko, sound is combined with dynamic movements to create truly exhilarating performances. We learned some basic rhythms and by the end of the lesson were able to play a simple, upbeat song. Hitting the drum properly is a lot harder than it looks, and we were all quite sore the next day. At the end of the workshop the instructors kindly treated us to an incredible performance!  

Taiko 1
Learning some basic rhythms

Taiko 4
Students Shoko, Jessica, and Andre are actually members
of the taiko club at their home university! Before going home
they played a song and showed us some more cool techniques.

Taiko 3
Amazing performance by the instructors!


Wagashi Confectionary

On June 25 we had the privilege of learning how to make wagashi confectionaries from an experienced professional. Wagashi are delicate snacks made from rice, beans, and other natural ingredients, and are shaped into flowers that represent the seasons. These characteristics reflect the strong connection between nature and Japanese food and art. They are fun to make and very tasty, too!

Wagashi 1

Wagashi 2

Wagashi 5


End-of-Semester Celebration

We celebrated a successful semester with student presentations, prizes, and delicious food! During the first half, some brave volunteers stepped on stage to talk about their most memorable activities in Japan. Two groups presented on the taiko workshop and on their climb up Mt. Fuji, respectively. This was followed by a heartfelt thank you message to host families and a student made video presentation. Later that night we gave out prizes for a photo contest, as well as for the scavenger hunt that was held at the start of the semester.


Presentation on the taiko drumming workshop


Dr. Jensen posing with students after distributing prizes


Students eating and chatting with the dorm manager (left)

Our students have grown significantly over these past four months. We had an amazing group this semester, and while we are sad to see them go, we are also excited to see what the future has in store for them. Mina-san, ganbatte kudasai!


Check out more posts by our student bloggers!

Ildiko Kemp:

Samantha McDonald:

Teresa Fong:

Tori Fukumitsu:

Tyler Pircio:





Career Panel at the CIEE Tokyo Study Center

Here at the Tokyo Study Center, not only are we dedicated to helping students develop personally and academically. We also strive to help students develop professionally, as we understand that many of our students are thinking about the ‘next step’ after college.

On Wednesday evening June 4, 2014, the Tokyo Study Center held its second annual Career Panel. Five working professionals came to speak to our students in a relaxed, friendly environment. The speakers talked about their own professional journeys, and provided career advice based on their own unique experiences.

The speakers represented a range of fields, organizations, and nationalities. Branwen currently works as an Instructor Recruiter at a company that provides conversational and business English language instruction in Japan. William currently specializes in talent management and leadership development at a major sportswear company. Eric is experienced in professional recruitment and consulting, and is the owner of his own consulting company. Anh, a CIEE Tokyo Arts and Sciences alumnus, is currently a Product Manager at a Japanese e-commerce company. Matt, also a CIEE Tokyo Arts and Sciences alumnus, is currently working in the telecommunications industry as a Software Engineer.

P6040002CIEE Resident Coordinator Darren Biggs (far right) kicks off the Career Panel.

P6040005The speakers, pictured left to right: Branwen, Anh, William, and Eric.

P6040009Matt (second from right) joined us later.

During the first part of the Career Panel, each speaker had approximately 10 minutes to talk. This was followed by a Q&A session. Students asked thoughtful questions that generated great discussions about topics including networking, how to use social media in the job-market, language and education requirements for certain fields, and more. After the Q&A, flyers about the CIEE Alumni Global Network were distributed, and students were encouraged to join. At the end, students had the opportunity to talk with the speakers one-on-one.

The purpose for holding this Career Panel was threefold: (1) to inform CIEE students of potential career opportunities in and related to Japan; (2) to give students tips on networking and other job-hunting strategies; and (3) to encourage and empower students to actively seek professional opportunities. 




On Friday May 23rd, CIEE Tokyo staff took a total of 72 students – including Semester, Academic Year, and Gap students – on a weekend excursion to Kyoto and Nara.

Kyoto was the capital of Japan for over 1,000 years from 794 AD. With literally thousands of Buddhists temples and Shinto shrines, 17 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and an enduring tradition of crafts and artisanship, Kyoto’s cultural and historical importance to Japan and the world cannot be overstated.

On Saturday, students had the option of exploring Kyoto independently or choosing from a variety of CIEE staff-led activities. These staff-led activities included visits to Arashiyama, an area in west Kyoto that also includes the Iwatayama Monkey Park and the Sagano bamboo forest; selected temples and shrines, including Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji (the Golden Pavilion and Silver Pavilion), Fushimi Inari Shrine, and Kiyomizudera (the Pure Water Temple); and the Toei Kyoto Studio Park, where visitors can learn about Kyoto’s film and TV industries. 

P5240003Students and CIEE staff member (far left) at Arashiyama, in front of the famous Togetsukyo (‘Moon Crossing’) Bridge.

P5240005Monkeys roam freely at Iwatayama Monkey Park in Arashiyama, a roughly 20 minute hike from Togetsukyo Bridge. One student is pictured here feeding a monkey from within a caged rest area.

P1020542Students pose in front of the Golden Pavilion. 

P1020550After dinner, students painted their own Kyoto-style hand fans.



The following day, we went to the nearby city of Nara, which was the capital of Japan before Kyoto during the 8th century. This part of the excursion included a guided tour of Todaiji (the Eastern Great Temple) and Kasuga Taisha (Kasuga Shrine). These two sites, together with six other places, make the ‘Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara’ UNESCO World Heritage Site. Students also had some time to explore Nara on their own, and to feed the deer roaming around Todaiji and Nara Park. 

P5250017Although it was last rebuilt at only two-thirds its original size, Todaiji is still the largest wooden structure in the world. 

P5250021Students had fun making friends with the deer. Considered to be sacred in Japanese Buddhism, the deer in Nara are free to roam, and visitors are encouraged to feed them special ‘deer crackers’.

P1020567Group photo in Nara



Greetings From Tokyo! Spring 2014


On March 26th, students of various nationalities from universities all over the US arrived safely at Narita Airport. Despite the jet lag, the students were generally in high spirits, and were eager to get out and experience all that Tokyo has to offer.


We started the program with a two-week Orientation. During those two weeks we had short excursions, a city-wide scavenger hunt, games, workshops, and team-building exercises. 

Naritasan Shinshoji Temple

The morning following arrival, we headed to the nearby Naritasan Shinshoji Temple. Being over 1,000 years old, the temple has great cultural and historical significance to the surrounding area. We happened upon a Buddhist ceremony being conducted in the main hall. Visitors were invited to sit quietly and meditate as a Buddhist priest chanted and lit incense. For many of our students this was the first time to see a Japanese temple, and was a great way to kick off Orientation.

Naritasan Shinshoji Temple

(Students learn about the custom of purifying oneself with water before entering the main temple grounds.)


Icebreakers and Activities

At the hotel and later at the Sophia University campus, we did icebreakers and a number of activities designed to increase cultural awareness.



(Getting to know each other.)

Card game

(In small groups, students played a 'memory' game to help them recognize common Japanese characters.)


The Life Safety Learning Center

As in any country, accidents, fires, and natural disasters sometimes occur in Japan. Fortunately, the Tokyo Fire Department provides lessons at the Life Safety Learning Center on what to do in such events. Because safety is a top priority in all our programs, we visited the Center and practiced using fire extinguishers, learned how to evacuate a burning building, and practiced what to do during an earthquake using an earthquake simulator.

Earthquake simulation

(Taking cover in an earthquake simulation.)

Fire extinguisher

(Learning how to use fire extinguishers.)

The Old Capital: Kamakura City

One of the old capitals of Japan, Kamakura City is a very popular tourist destination. With its natural beauty, elaborate temples, and cultural and historical richness, it is a must-see spot for anyone interested in Japan. During this day-long excursion we visited three of the city's well-known sites: Hachimangu Shrine, Hasedera Temple, and Daibutsu ('The Great Buddha'). The students split into small groups, which were each led by friendly tour guides from the Kamakura Welcome Guide Association. 


(In front of the stairway leading up to Hachimangu Shrine)

Hasedera temple

(The sakura cherry blossoms were still in bloom at Hasedera Temple.)


(In front of the 43 feet tall Daibutsu)

Promoting Global Engagement at Sophia University

Classes for CIEE students started on April 14th. In addition to Japanese language courses, students enroll in courses offered by the Faculty of Liberal Arts (FLA). With a truly international faculty and student body, Sophia University is well-known for its focus on globalization and fostering globally-minded citizens. Through the FLA, students will acquire knowledge about Japan's history, culture and politics, as well as the country's unique role in the Asian region and the world. At the end of each day, students have many opportunities to further develop their language and cross-cultural communication skills in their dorms or homestays.

It is our hope that by the end of the semester, students will have built lasting relationships, gained increased sensitivity to cultural differences, and developed a passion for global engagement. 

Minna-san, ganbatte kudasai!




Looking back over more than two and half years of blog posts, I realized that most of the entries have been about CIEE activities and excursions, and students’ adventures in Japan. There have been, unfortunately, very few posts about Sophia University and almost no photos of the campus. Today I will attempt to remedy this by sharing a few pictures of our new Study Center in Building 2.

New Study Center



Last Monday our move to Building 2 was completed and we began the workweek at our new Study Center with a “shukubetsushiki” to consecrate the new office. Father Yamaoka led CIEE and Sophia University staff and guests in a blessing and sprinkled holy water around the Study Center.

CIEE staff members are enjoying the expanded office space and central campus location, and we can’t wait to welcome our new spring semester students later this month.


CIEE is on the move...

After more than two years in our current space on the third floor of the Jochi Kojimachi Building, the CIEE Study Center is moving back to the Sophia University campus. We will definitely miss the view of Kojimachi-dori, but we look forward to our new central campus location. CIEE will be occupying generous space across the hall from the campus bookstore on the B1 level of building two (campus buildings in Japan are usually given numbers instead of names), Sophia's main administration building. CIEE's student lounge, library, and meeting room will occupy space that once housed the campus baber shop, and CIEE staff will work in an adjoining office that until recently was the Poppins Daycare. Sophia has spent the past few weeks remodeling our new space, removing the adorable, tiny tables and chairs that were more appropriate, I suppose, for two and three year olds than our college students. Visit our blog again soon for photos from the move and an update on our new Study Center!
Shannon Quinn
Student Services Manager



The CIEE Study Center in Tokyo is thrilled to welcome 83 students from 45 US colleges and universities to our 2012 spring semester program at Sophia University. Our two and a half week new student orientation program began with “meet and greet” at Narita Airport on March 26, and continues until classes begin on April 12. 


Last week new CIEE students attended various orientation workshops, explored Shinshoji temple in Narita, went on a bus tour of Tokyo, and visited Odaiba for a welcome lunch. Homestay students attended a CIEE-led homestay orientation, and were introduced to their host families in the following "taimenshiki." Dorm students were escorted by CIEE staff to their accommodations for the semester. On Friday, CIEE sent all students on a half-day scavenger hunt in Tokyo. Some students came across a group of reporters in front of Shibuya Station and ended up on TV on Saturday morning!


After having the weekend off to explore Tokyo, students will be back on campus this afternoon for Sophia University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts (FLA) orientation session. Other events happening this week include the Japanese placement exam, a lecture on academics and socialization in Japan, a day trip to Kamakura, and a trip to the Ikebukuro Bosaikan to experience earthquake simulation.


Please visit our blog again for more news and photos from CIEE’s spring semester program in Tokyo. お楽しみに!

Shannon Quinn, Student Services Manager

Students pose with their guide in front of the Kamakura Daibutsu