Astrid Brown: Doshisha Exchange Student Association

This semester, I decided instead of continuing on with my CIP from last semester (Soft Tennis), that I would try something new and join the Doshisha Exchange Student Circle. Though the name seems to imply that there are many foreign students, in reality it is mostly Japanese students who are very interested in meeting people from foreign countries, so I thought it would be a really great fit for me.


Though there was spring vacation right in the middle of the semester, DESA still had quite a lot of activities planned. I was able to experience many new things such as watching sumo, going to a setsubun festival and eating at a ninja themed shabu shabu restaurant.


Since I knew a few DESA members from the previous semester, it was really easy for me to become part of the group. It was really great to have members recognize me and actively want to meet up outside of the usual meeting times, which was very unlike my CIP last semester. Many of them could also see my improvement within my Japanese ability, which I was surprised about, but also was a really great compliment. Often I would be asked about my opinion on certain trips and I was invited to all the 飲み会 and dinners that were planned, even though these were not exclusively for exchange students.


In comparison to my CIP last semester, DESA was a lot more relaxed. Though there was definitely a seniority structure, it was not as strict as in soft tennis. The members actually wanted to be friendly with me, while last semester they were really uninterested and put off by my lack of speaking ability. The carefree attitude helped me want to be there and speak Japanese more, which is what the CIP experience should be about.  I think the reason for these differences is because DESA is full of members who are interested in meeting foreigners so they were more open to me joining. Sports circles also tend to be more traditional and therefore have a stronger kohai/sempai structure while in DESA there is no such thing as more ‘skilled’ members so there is less of this type of hierarchy.


In the end, this CIP was a really great experience for me and I was able to be a member as well as going sightseeing with the exchange student groups. Hopefully in the next few weeks I will be able to spend more time with the DESA students before I leave to go back home next month.

2 thoughts on “Astrid Brown: Doshisha Exchange Student Association

  1. DESA sounds like it has been so much fun and a great opportunity for you to make new friends! What has been your favorite DESA outing so far? Are the outings more traditional Japanese type of things, like Sumo, or is there a big mix of all different types of things? How does the kohai/sempai structure function within DESA?

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Thanks for the comment! My favorite DESA outing was probably the Sumo event. I think most of the outings are geared towards more traditional Japanese events because DESA wants exchange students to experience traditional Kyoto. But, there are quite a lot of typical nomikais! There’s not so much of a kohai/sempai structure, as the events are mostly planned by the students who have the most time which tends to be first or second year students. There is still respect towards the older members, but there’s not so much of a gap between the kohais and sempais.