One of the conditions depending on which I decided to study abroad at Doshisha University was the presence of a fencing team, since I needed a space to practice in order to rejoin Brown’s team upon my return. Doshisha’s fencing team operates with a system very different from the one I’m used to, due to the absence of a coach and the dependence on small groups to schedule their own practices, which included usually a warm-up and sparring, with a few days where we would give each other individual lessons. I would meet with the women’s epee team anywhere from two to four times a week, depending on everyone’s availability.
Practicing with the Doshisha fencing team led me to better understand Japanese cultures in terms of the senpai/kouhai system, but also the progression from using respectful forms to casual speech as we got closer. Furthermore, since I was the youngest of the group, although I had the most experience with fencing, I was given very little responsibility in terms of practices. However, as time went on and the boundary between me and the upperclassmen began to dissipate, I was allowed more say in what the practices entailed, and could even lead some of our drills.
That being said, Doshisha’s fencing team reminded me in many ways of my own. No matter the differences in speech between Japanese and English, the struggles of the student-athlete remain the same. Between balancing classes and practices, making time to focus on this extracurricular, and the comradery of the team dynamic, I felt very much immersed in the same society as I was back home.
For future KCJS students thinking about their CIP going into their study abroad experience, my main piece of advice would be to choose not based on the subject of the CIP entirely, but also based on the community you would be involving yourself in. Focus on building relationships throughout the semester just as you would back home, even though there’s an expiration date hovering in your mind you can’t always ignore. The CIP itself might be temporary, but what you learn from it will remain ever-present.