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:
    Michelle Bechtel
    Colby College
    Michelle Bechtel photo

    I applied to HIF on a whim, not knowing what to expect. Now that I have completed the program, it's safe to say that applying was one of the best decisions ... more

  • Name:
    Kerra Hinrichs
    University of Michigan
    Kerra Hinrichs photo

    HIF was hands down one of the best experiences of my life. I came into the program with the goal of improving my Japanese, and I certainly achieved that ... more

  • Name:
    Hector Melesio
    Franklin & Marshall
    Hector Melesio photo

    For my first time traveling abroad, I do not think I could have picked a better place to be than Hakodate as an HIF student. Whether it be inside the ... more

  • Name:
    Owen Pietsch
    Swarthmore College
    Owen Pietsch photo

    Eight weeks felt like a very short time to spend at HIF. Our teachers and the staff encouraged us to make the most of our time in Hakodate ... more

  • Name:
    Xingruo Sun
    Colby College
    Xingruo Sun photo

    The summer at HIF has been wonderful for me! I'm so glad that I was able to improve my Japanese so much and met so many wonderful instructors ... more

Contact Us
Transcripts for Alumni
  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • YouTube