For my CIP, I participated in the Ping Pong circle within Doshisha University. The club met twice every week on Wednesdays and Fridays, usually for about three to four hours at a time. Before coming to KCJS, I had only played ping pong recreationally, but I had experience playing tennis before so it was not too difficult to catch on. That being said, even though the circle only played at the club level and were not the official varsity team, they all were really skilled at ping pong.
Coming in, I was nervous not just because of the gap in my ping pong skills, but also because I was not confident in my own Japanese speaking ability. However, I quickly found out that all of the club members were very accepting and friendly no matter their own skill level. Even after classes started again for the Japanese school year, I seemed to be the only new member to join the club as everyone else already knew each other and were at a high skill level. Still, none of them seemed to mind just rallying with me rather than playing actual games and a lot of them gave me tips as well as helped me practice certain shots each time.
In terms of the actual CIP goals, trying to balance speaking Japanese and playing ping pong at the same time was challenging. Not with standing that it took most of my concentration to play ping pong since I’m not too good at it, the Japanese members did not usually talk to much of their own accord since they were focused on the game. Thus, most of the responsibility was on me to initiate conversations and keep them going. The primary purpose of the club is of course ping pong, so I spent a lot of my time either trying to talk while playing, which not many others did, or while I and others around me waited our turns to switch in on a group rotation. Each week followed the same format in terms of how practice proceeded, so once I got the hang of that it became easier to find openings to have conversations.
All in all, the ping pong circle was one of the highlights of my first semester. While the ping pong circle was like any other club sport that you could take part of in America, joining the club was a really easy way to make more Japanese friends, something I highly valued. Though the CIP requirement is to just participate for at least an hour a week, the activity is definitely enjoyable enough that I was more than happy to spend more time just playing or hanging out with the other students. For anyone keen on making more Japanese friends, the CIP activity is a great route to go, and honestly joining more than one circle or club on your own time will be well worth your while as it comes at no cost to you except for some of your free time.