Program Description

Independent Study (IS)

The overall objective of IS is to enhance your Japanese proficiency and autonomous learning skills by focusing on your individual study objectives. It is your responsibility to design the project, but you will be supported by your instructor and a “support group” of your peers to achieve your goals. You may choose a theme related to your interests and long-term goals. You will finalize and share the outcome and/or your experience with an audience at “IS Fair” before the summer program is completed. You are required to report the progress of your IS to your instructor and support group members at least once a week so that you can refine your work. Participants are strongly encouraged to choose a theme for their IS before the program begins. (Please see the past examples below.) This will provide you with sufficient time for a full discussion of your project’s objectives, methods, timelines, etc. with your instructor and support group members.


Support groups consist of 3-4 people from the same class and meet once a week (usually on Tuesday afternoon) to keep each other on track to accomplish their objectives.


time line


IS is not limited to a research project or a PowerPoint presentation. Ideally, you should be able to continue learning about your topic after returning to your home country. Therefore, we encourage you to find a topic or activity that truly interests you.

IS can be categorized into four types based on theme and methodology. The followings are topics former participants selected and put great effort into accomplishing. Please remember that the “IS Fair” is only one process of IS, not the final goal.

Type 1: Research

A topic related to your major, MA thesis, or PhD dissertation
  • translating an article written in Japanese to your language with a tutor
  • interviewing a Buddhist monk / Shinto priest in Hakodate
  • making a video clip about the history of Hakodate
A topic related to your interests
  • analyzing lyrics of Japanese visual-kei bands
  • reading a novel in Japanese
  • researching Japanese punk rock / Ainu language
  • interviewing a local Tofu maker / traditional confectionery craftsman / animal shelter
A topic related to your future
  • looking into how to enter graduate school in Japan and making a plan

Type 2: Explore & Learn

Take lessons with local teachers
  • learning a traditional dance
  • learning instruments (e.g. Japanese harp, guitar, flute)
  • learning martial arts while participating in a local high school club activity (e.g. karate, judo, kyudo)
  • learning a traditional art (e.g. tea ceremony, calligraphy)
Explore the city
  • writing reviews of local ramen restaurants
  • keeping a blog about sweets in Hakodate
  • making a jogging / hiking / biking map of Hakodate
  • exploring onsen (hot springs) in Hakodate
  • exploring the spots where a student’s favorite film was shot in Hakodate

Type 3: Create & Learn

  • drawing landscapes in Hakodate
  • making bentos with a host family
  • presenting rakugo in Japanese
  • drawing a manga about the history of Hakodate

Type 4: Improve

  • overcoming kanji difficulties
  • studying for the Japanese Language Proficiency Test
  • improving vocabulary using an app
  • improving grammar accuracy


Cynthia Rinehart

University of Virginia / 2013 Participant

I was able to meet two priests and a monk, something I haven’t even gotten to do in America, and discuss their religion with them. It was a really unique opportunity.
Having a support group was nice to have to check in each week and be held accountable for my progress, because I’m something of a procrastinator. And it was nice to have people to encourage me through tough parts and be able to encourage them as well.
I felt a bit more in touch with Japan’s culture- religion is so inseparable from culture here that you have to understand both. And I learned some great new vocabulary.


Comments from Alumni

  • Name:
    Emily Branam

    This program for me was about self discovery more than anything. I was given the opportunity to ... more

  • Name:
    Ismail Can

    Throughout my time at HIF, I feel that I made many wonderful memories, whether that be with my ... more

  • Name:
    Dabbour, Jawad
    Franklin & Marshall

    HIF was one of the most incredible experiences ever. Being immersed in a homestay in Japan, ... more

  • Name:
    Ernestina Hsieh

    I feel so lucky to be here. From the fluidity of transportation from home to school or culture classes to ... more

  • Name:
    Plearn Janvatanavit

    At HIF, I was able to not only improve my Japanese, but gain a better understanding of the culture. more

  • Name:
    Keanna Lundy
    University of

    The HIF program has exceeded all my expectations and has become one of my most valued experiences. more

  • Name:
    Randy Tran
    University of

    HIF gives you the tools, resources, and support to help you not just succeed, but to exceed! more

  • Name:
    Michelle Wan

    HIF has been a great experience for me. The program provides you with lots of opportunities to get involved with ... more

  • Name:
    Yiyang Zhong
    University of

    TThe HIF program is wonderful in respect of not only improving your Japanese language skills, but also on ... more

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