Aarron Lee: Participating in DESA

I took this picture. Roppongi Hills skyview, you should totally go check it out sometime.

Coming to Japan in August last year (Fall semester), I had initially participated in Kyuudou as my CIP activity outside of classes. In the latter Spring semester, I participated in DESA, which is a student organization that introduces you to Japanese students via activities, events, etc. In retrospect, I regret not doing it vice versa, where I should’ve joined DESA in Fall, and Kyuudou in Spring. Why, you may ask?

Well, it all boils down to the semester system in Japan being on a different schedule than in the United States. In Japan, the first semester starts in early-mid April, and the second semester starts around mid-late September. The second semester ends around late January to early February.

So to put this into perspective, KCJS runs on the US system where first semester starts in late August till mid December, and second semester starts from early January till late April. In other words, the only long period of overlap between the Japanese semester system, and our US semester system, is Fall semester (USA)! If you want to meet a lot of Japanese students and have more chances at speaking Japanese, Fall semester would’ve been the better time for me to participate in DESA.

For those that arrive Spring semester, you only have a paltry month or so before Japanese students go on their Spring break, and you won’t be seeing them back on campus until you’re second semester is practically over and you’re heading back to the states!

Aside from this rather disappointing realization, my activities in DESA have been a blast. I’ve already mentioned in my previous blog posting about climbing Mt. Daimonji at night, which was a wonderful experience in its own right. There are, of course, a lot of other events I’ve participated in (such as going to see a sumo match in Osaka, onsen-ing it up at bathhouses, etc), but I think this time around I should mention the actual organization members.

DESA is organized by Japanese students from the likes of Doshisha University, Kyodai, and a few other local universities; thus, its membership isn’t exclusively from one school. You’ll notice how Doshisha students tend to be more trendy and fashionable, Kyodai more stoic or simple, and so forth. Membership mostly consists of those that want to practice their English language abilities, many which would soon be either studying abroad, or just want to brush up on their skills. Unlike you’re standard everyday Japanese citizen, they tend to be quite fluent too.

The fact that DESA organizes events and such with these particular types of Japanese students is great, especially if you want to practice your Japanese. You can speak Japanese as practice, and generally swap to English if you’re having some trouble. The vice versa also applies to Japanese students, so it’s a mutual relationship in the long term. Of course, DESA also tends to subsidize some activities here and there, which makes things even better.

Long story short, my experience with DESA has been fantastic; I’ve met some great Japanese students, gotten plenty of chances to practice Japanese, and experienced stuff that I otherwise would’ve never even imagined. My only regret is not joining in sooner, but better late than never right?

2 thoughts on “Aarron Lee: Participating in DESA

  1. So the stereotypes about Kyodai vs. Doshisha students are true? My language partner from Kyodai had told me before that Doshisha students were very trendy relative to people at her school…meccha omoshiroi wa! What about attitude-wise? Does anyone come across as more spoiled or more intellectual or more outgoing, etc.? I wonder if Doshisha is considered a good private school like Waseda and Sophia are…

    • I get the general impression that Kyodai students are smarter. They tend to be more fluent in English, are taking tougher courseloads, etc. I don’t see many differences in terms of intellectual/etc though. Kyodai students tend to be more friendly(?), but that might have more to do with the particular students I met.