High School Abroad/Gap Year Japan

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  • Overview

    Studying abroad with Greenheart Travel’s language school experience in Japan will give you a chance to take a glimpse into a culture with a rich history and unique cultural traditions. As an exchange student in Japan, you will learn first-hand what it’s like to immerse yourself in a university like environment with your peers and live with a host family or in a supervised residence hall. This is your chance to experience a life-changing adventure during your academic exchange abroad.

    Program at a Glance:

    • Have knowledge of the hiragana alphabet in advance 
    • Host family accommodation provides full Japanese language & cultural immersion
    • Supervised Residence Halls for students that do not want to live with a host family 
    • Start dates available in spring or fall
    • Straight forward online application process

  • Eligibility

    In researching a study abroad program, you have already shown you are a leader and open-minded in your academic pursuits. These are just a few of the traits that our exchange students possess. You’re motivated to immerse yourself in another culture and flexible enough to live outside your comfort zone. You should also:

    • Beginners welcome, but prior knowledge of the hiragana alphabet is required
    • Be a minimum of 16  years of age (at the time of travel)
      • MUST have completed your 10th grade year at your current high school
    • Be from the United States or Canada
    • Be in great mental* and physical health
    • Have a genuine interest in becoming a part of your host family and community
    • Be willing to adapt to the demands of Japanese academics and culture
    • Fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before departure

    Don’t meet the eligibility requirements? Check out our Teen Summer Language Camp in Japan that takes beginners to study Japan for 1-6 weeks in the summer! You can also learn more about fulfilling the requirements with our online courses for complete beginners here.

    *What does it mean to be in good mental health?

    Moving to a new culture and staying in unfamiliar surroundings without your normal support structure can be very stressful, even to a well-adjusted student. Sending a student with pre-existing conditions on a long-term exchange program could exacerbate whatever challenges the student was previously facing. In order to ensure the safety of our participants, we must be rigorous in our pre-screening of all high school abroad applicants.

    Therefore, we may not be able to accept students who have struggled with any kind of mental illness, specifically within the last 2 years and/or are reliant on medication to address their existing mental health condition. Each student will be addressed on a case by case basis and ultimately it is Greenheart Travel’s in-country partner who holds the right to accept or decline a student based on their individual policy.

    These include, but are not limited to:

    • Depression
    • Anxiety
    • Obsessive-compulsive disorder
    • Eating disorders
    • Chronic debilitating migraines
    • Bipolar Disorder

    All students who currently experience one or more of these conditions will be required to submit an addendum to the terms and conditions as well as a letter of support from their current mental health specialist. If the student’s mental health issue has been managed (post-medication) for over 2 years, we will still require a note from his/her relevant practitioner (psychologist, therapist, psychiatrist, etc) as part of the application process.  We encourage you to discuss your specific situation with us directly, before securing these documents.

    Please note that students who have been diagnosed with ADD or ADHD will not be guaranteed any academic accommodations plans by the host school abroad.

  • Program Dates

    Spring 2025 Dates

    Application Deadline: September 15, 2024

    • March 2025 – January 2026

    The above dates are estimated ranges. Exact dates will be provided once they are confirmed.

    Not quite ready to commit to a long-term program? Check out our Teen Summer Language Camp in Japan with 2-6 week programs to learn Japanese in the summertime.

    Arrival and Departure 

    All students are required to book flights on their own. An airport transfer upon arrival is included in the cost of the program. We will provide your exact arrival and departure dates after acceptance, as well as the exact timeframes you should arrive/depart, so that you can start to search for possible flights. We require prior approval of a proposed itinerary before you purchase any flights.

    Nervous about flying on your own? We recommend students and parents sitting down together to review the following resources:

    For many Greenheart Travel students their first time flying is across the world to start their exchange program! You can read our alumni experiences on our blog, such as Emily’s or Madison’s blogs on their experiences flying to Japan or Rachel’s tips on what you actually need to know about flying.

  • Costs & Inclusions

    Prices for Spring 2025

    • 3 month program in a residence hall or homestay: $10, 775
    • 6 month program in a residence hall or homestay: $16,475
    • 12 month program in a residence hall or homestay: $21,880

    Packaged into the Price:

    • Airport pickup upon arrival
    • Host family accommodation and 2 meals per day during the week and weekend OR Residence Hall accommodation with a private room with shared facilities (laundry, bathrooms) and 2 meals per day during the week, except on Sundays and national holidays
    • Comprehensive medical/accident insurance
    • First day orientation hosted at the language school
    • Certificate of Completion upon successful completion of the program for use on college applications.
    • Access to Greenheart Travel Facebook groups to connect with alumni and others on your start date ahead of your program.
    • Greenheart Atlas Program 
    • Greenheart Travel T-shirt & other Greenheart swag

    Our Support and Services: 

    • Visa Assistance in applying for the visa ahead of arrival, including visa paperwork and extensive directions and support.
    • Extensive pre-departure advice and support from a US-based program manager! They will be with you from your first inquiry, all the way through preparing to leave and your arrival in Japan.
    • Support from in-country staff upon arrival to Japan.
    • Online pre-departure cultural and logistical orientation before you leave.
    • 24-hour in-country and emergency support for the duration of the program, including 24-hour emergency phone numbers to reach a program manager at any time.
    • Opportunity to apply for a Greenheart Grant to give back to your community at home or abroad

    Additional Expenses to Budget for (Estimates):

    • Airfare to/from Japan
    • Monthly public transportation pass ($100)
    • Daily school lunch ($5)
    • Japanese dictionary ($20)
    • Any personal spending costs for entertainment or independent travel ($300/month)

    Payment Details

    • $1,500 Application fee due by the program deadline to formally apply
    • $5,000 Commitment Payment due 14 days after acceptance
    • Remaining balance is due 16 weeks prior to your start date. If your program starts within 16 weeks of acceptance, the remaining program balance payment will be due at the same time as the commitment payment. 

    Worried about the program fee?

    Our goal is to help make travel accessible to everyone and we are here to help when you are deciding if this experience is financially do-able. Each year we offer scholarships for high school study abroad students! We also have a guide to fundraising your program fee, and many high school students fundraise in their hometown ahead of their program.

    We also offer discounts for applying early (plus there are many other benefits to applying early!) for each start date and for US families that have hosted an exchange student with Greenheart Exchange.

  • Orientation

    Students will participate in an orientation the first day they attend the language school. They will be introduced to staff and other students. Students will also be given specific information regarding how classes run, their schedule for the week, and the activity schedule.

  • Academic Info

    So, what about credits? 

    Neither Greenheart Travel nor the host school abroad provides high school credit. All credit must be granted through your home school in the U.S. or Canada. All U.S./Canadian schools have different policies. Here’s a blog post to read more about how some alumni have transferred credits.  

    In Japan, we cannot guarantee your host school will provide you an official transcript. If your school will not, some host schools will provide documentation, letters, and any other materials you require upon request. You must have good behavior, attendance, and performance in order for the school to fulfill this request.  

    Then, you should take this documentation back to your home school as proof of your participation in the program. Your home school is responsible for awarding you credit for this program or not.  

    Before You Go Abroad

    You should meet with your U.S./Canadian high school before you leave and share the general curriculum guidelines for Japan with your guidance counselor and/or teachers.  

    Because the curriculum will vary by school and we cannot guarantee you’ll take any specific classes, it is important that you arrange the required classes required for your graduation, such as U.S. History, before or after your time abroad.  

    Greenheart Travel will be able to provide information about the general curriculum for your age level in Japan, but you will not know your course schedule until after you arrive in country and start attending school.  

    Access your High School Curriculum Guidelines for Japan here!

    Once You’re Abroad

    Please keep in mind that the grading system in other countries is different than the US. Most host schools will not grant grades or transcripts as it is too difficult to evaluate your work due to the language barrier. If your host school is able to award you grades, they won’t be an exact match to what you would get in the US.

    Manou-LiuI would love to thank Greenheart Travel for making this awesome experience happen for me! The staff is really nice and easy going. And of course, the Japanese group who took care of me during my five months, from my arrival to Narita airport in August to the moment when I walked into the security section – thank you guys so much!!”  – Manou Liu


  • Host Families

    The best way to learn about a new culture and language is to be fully immersed in it which is why all Greenheart Travel high school abroad students have the option to live with local host families. All of our host families are volunteers and will treat you as a member of their family. By being a part of your family’s daily life, you will learn to live and speak like a local.

    Prospective host families undergo a rigorous screening process. Participants can rest assured that only suitable host families will be selected. In fact, many of our current host families have hosted students in the past, showing what an impactful experience it was.

    In order to qualify as a host family, the prospective hosts must:

    • Successfully pass a criminal background check
    • Undergo and pass an in-person interview with program staff
    • Agree to and pass a home inspection

    We will connect you with your host family prior to your arrival in your host country. By e-mailing and speaking with them before arriving, it will help break the ice when you finally meet in person. It will also show that you are as excited to live with them as they are to host you!

    Host families have many reasons why they want to welcome you! Our host families are volunteers, meaning they don’t receive compensation for housing and feeding students during their program. Many host families love the experience of cultural exchange – they learn just as much about your country as you do theirs. Many are also former exchange students and want to return the favor, or they have children who have gone or will go to study in the U.S. Having an exchange student exposes their children to new languages and cultures.

    Greenheart Traveler, Maggie, with her Japanese host family.

    Greenheart Traveler, Maggie, with her Japanese host family.

  • Placements

    Currently, the Japan language school experience is only offered in Fukuoka, Japan. The language school is located centrally within Fukuoka, Japan. Fukuoka is a small and relaxed city with nearby beaches and a convenient downtown/entertainment/shopping area! This is the perfect environment to immerse yourself in the culture and practice your Japanese outside of the classroom.



    We make it a priority to place students with host families that closely match your interests and personality, for example, if you like music, we’ll do our best to find a family that also loves music! For this reason, we work first to find a suitable family rather than a destination preference.

  • FAQs

    I am a parent with questions, where do I go?

    Please head to our Parent Handbook page. You’re also welcome to set up a time to chat with us about your child’s program abroad here. We’re happy to chat with you about this big decision!

    I identify as LGBTQ+. How will I be supported?

    Greenheart Travel welcomes travelers identifying as LGTBQ+, and is committed to helping you find the best program for you. We can provide information on the cultural norms of our destination countries and are prepared to advise you on the best programs based on your needs and interests. 

    Please read more here.

    Can I choose where I will be placed with my host family?

    The only location offered for this program is in Fukuoka, Japan.

    I know a family in my program country that would like to host me. Is this possible?

    This is possible as long as we have a support network in the family’s host community and there is an available nearby host school.

    What if I don’t like my host family? Can I request a new one?

    No. We do not change host families based on preferences or location. However, if issues arise once you are on the program, we will handle them on a case-by-case basis and may make changes if necessary.

    Will I have a host sibling my age?

    There is no guarantee that you will have a host sibling your age. Your host family may have young children, teenage children, or grown children who no longer live at home. Regardless of the age of your host siblings, they’ll be excited to welcome into the family!

    Depending on your host family,  you may be expected to share a room with a host sibling of the same gender.

    What meals are provided? What are they like?

    You will have breakfast and dinner provided for you by the host family. Though you  might think of ramen, sushi, and teriyaki as Japanese food, these will not be common in your homestay. You’ll eat a lot of rice and noodles accompanied by meat, fish, and vegetables. Many home-cooked meals will also have soy sauce and soup stock from fish and kelp as a seasoning. Please be as open-minded about food as possible, as this is important to show respect and appreciation to your host family!

    Are flights included?

    Round trip airfare to/from Japan is NOT included in the cost of the program.

    Will someone pick me up at the airport?

    Yes! Our in-country partner staff will be eagerly waiting for you when you arrive! They’ll then take you to the on-site arrival orientation site.

    What is the school schedule?

    You may have a commute up to 40 minutes to school. Most students take trains, but you may also take a bus, walk, or ride a bike (or a combination of all of them!) depending on your location.

    Class hours work somewhat like a university in that, depending on the class students are placed in, they may have morning classes on some days and afternoon classes on  other days. It is not possible to choose the time and the schedule for each week. The schedule gets released the week before.

    For example, morning classes are usually from 9:30-12:10 p.m. Afternoon classes are from 11:25-3:50 or 2:05-5:45 p.m.

    Will anyone at my school speak English?

    It’s possible that teachers and students at your school will speak English. However, remember that you’re there to learn Japanese!

    All classes will be taught in Japanese as this is a full immersion program.

    What sort of clubs will I find at my Japanese high school?

    Activities students could participate in:

    1. Kick Boxing
    2. Jiu jitsu
    3. Dance
    4. Tea ceremony
    5. Katana Sword
    6. Calligraphy
    7. Volleyball
    8. Cross fit
    9. Kendo
    10. Swimming

    Depending on the activity, there could be an additional cost. 

    Will I get to travel?

    Students are allowed to explore the city as long as it is day light and the school has been notified and no classes are being missed.

    You are not permitted to travel on your own during the program. There will be opportunities to travel through the program and/or through your school, but you are must be accompanied by an approved chaperone to travel.

    Do I need vaccines/shots?

    All students are required to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 before arriving to their destination.

    You are required to submit a record of immunizations during the application process.

    What is the insurance?

    Comprehensive medical and accident insurance will be included in the cost of your program. This will cover you for most medical expenses you might incur, like prescriptions, ER visits, doctor visits, dental accidents, and hospitalizations.

    Depending on your placement location you may be required to also purchase Japanese insurance for around $15/month. You will receive more details upon placement.

    What happens if I get sick or have an emergency?

    If you get sick, your host family or local coordinator will help you go to the doctor.

    If you have an emergency on program, we have a 24/7 emergency number you can call. Our in-country partner staff and your host family will be there to assist you. Greenheart will be in touch with your parents regarding your emergency.

    What visa do I get and how do I apply?

    All students will be required to obtain a Tourist visa to Japan. It is the students’ responsibility to apply for this visa, but Greenheart will provide you guidance and the proper documents you’ll need to apply with your local consulate or with the embassy.

    Starting October 11, 2022 Japan is set to reopen for tourists. With this in mind students will no longer have to apply for a visa. before departure.

    Do you offer any scholarships, financial aid, or special discounts?

    Yes. Every year we offer various scholarships for select high school program destinations. There are two Early Bird Deadline discounts offered each year as well. If you have hosted a student for Greenheart Exchange, you are also eligible for a Greenheart Host Family discount.

    Do I need to be fluent in Japanese?

    No. There are language requirements for this program, you must have at least 1 year of Japanese language instruction OR a level 4 on the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test (JLPT). However, you are not expected to be fluent in Japanese.

    One of the main goals of studying abroad is to become fluent in another language while living overseas. The host family and school will not expect you to be fluent when you first arrive and will help you improve your language skills. As long as you try your best, you’ll pick up the language sooner than you might think!

    Can I come home to visit or can my parents visit while I'm abroad?

    No. Visits are not allowed during the high school program. If your family wishes to visit, they should plan to meet you after your program is completed. In this instance, Greenheart Travel’s National office and international partner office should be informed of your family’s plans.

    Will I have a cell phone and internet?

    We give you tips and advice for communication while abroad during your program. Students are not required to get a local Japanese phone number. They usually rent a pocket Wi-Fi and get in touch with each other via email or applications using that Wi-Fi.

    All host families (and most every person) in Japan have internet in their homes. There is also 4G internet widely available throughout the country.

    If you have a laptop we recommend bringing it, as it will be helpful for school and for communicating with home.

    Can friends study abroad together?

    Our programs are based on a full, cultural immersion experience so friends will not be placed in the same host family. You’re welcome to both go to Japan at the same time but you would not be placed together. Don’t worry though; making friends in your new host town will happen quickly!

    My school requires service learning in order to graduate. How will I do that abroad?

    Greenheart Travel is proud to offer the Greenheart Club for all of our students. The Greenheart Club challenges our participants to pursue a deeper level of immersion through volunteerism. As a member of the Greenheart Club, you will receive guidance in strategizing creative ways to give back to your community, have access to tools for tracking your impact and receive incentives for your efforts as a global leader. This is a great chance for you to get to know the local community outside of the classroom while you study abroad.

    Can I take the SATs while abroad?

    You will not be able to take the SAT’s while abroad. We highly recommend taking the SAT’s prior to or after the program.

    When should I apply?

    We recommend you apply a minimum of 6 months prior to your desired semester.

    The sooner you can apply the better, as acceptance, gathering documents, etc. can take a long time. Read more about why applying early is a good idea.


    I have already graduated, am I still eligible?

    Yes, students who have graduated are able to attend the language school.



  • Why Greenheart Travel?

    Greenheart Travel has been working with high schoolers for many years, and there are advantages of applying for this program through us:

    • 33 years of experience with cultural exchange programs
    • Friendly, responsive, and professional support from your program manager
    • Connect with alumni and others on the program via our Greenheart Travel only Facebook forums, before you even leave!
    • We try and make our program fees as inclusive as we can. We include things like medical insurance and in-country airport transfers so you don’t run into any hidden fees down the line
    • Greenheart Atlas Program. The Greenheart Travel Atlas is a cultural training interactive guidebook alongside five videos where you will find three main topics covered: Personal/Professional Development, Cultural Understanding, & Environmental Awareness
    • Our alumni recommend us! GoOverseas.com Reviews // GoAbroad.com Reviews
    • Hands-on support and personal attention every step of the way
    • 24/7 emergency phone number to reach a staff member at any time
    • Pre-departure “Culture Shock and Adjustment” Webinar before you leave
    • Discounts for future Greenheart Travel programs
    • We are a non-profit, mission-based organization
    • Continued support throughout your time abroad

    We also have some unique offerings to our Greenheart Travel students and alumni!

    Greenheart Global Impact Grants (GIGs)

    Greenheart GIG Grants are funds awarded to Greenheart Travel participants to use for community development projects in their host or home country. A GIG is the opportunity to create, improve, or maintain an impactful, community-focused project abroad or at home. Grant funds could be applied to supporting women’s cooperatives, schools, community centers, or health clinics, for example. Grant winners will be featured on our website, social media, and blog. You can see our past winners on our blog here.

    Greenheart Alumni Program

    We created the Greenheart Travel Alumni Program to provide resources and a community to support alumni in their advancement as global leaders, and a way to celebrate and reward our participants for being ambitious, inspiring catalysts of cultural exchange!

    Junior Greenheart Global Leaders Conference

    Each May Greenheart offers full-ride scholarships to around 10 teen alumni to attend our annual conference in Chicago. You can see more about what Jr. GGLC is and what you could do at the conference here.

  • Dorm Stay

    Student have an opportunitty to live in resident dorm surrounded by student from all over the world! Single room in a supervised dormitory half boarded includes breakfast + dinners (Monday to Saturday, only Sundays and national holidays no meals are provided)

    Shared bathroom and common facilities include:

    • Bed/futon (sheets/blankets etc. provided)
    • Desk and chair
    • Air conditioning
    • Internet (might be wired- access only, so bring your own LAN cable or buy a cheap router from school if required)
    • Closet (cloth racks are not guaranteed)


    Common areas.

    Interested in applying for this program?

    Start your application here and select “trimester” if you are applying for 1 term, “semester” if you applying for 2 terms, and “academic year” if you are applying for 3 terms.

    During the student interview please inform Greenheart Travel you are applying for the Kyoto Dorm Stay Program and you will indicate which term(s) you wish to study. You can also schedule a call with us here if you have any questions before applying.


  • Application Process

    Committing to studying abroad can feel daunting, but we are here every step of the way to make the application process as simple as possible! Below are the various steps you’ll need to take to be accepted on a high school abroad program.

    Please note: Your spot is not reserved until you complete all of the steps below. You must submit all questionnaires and documents and have completed all interviews before we can process your application and save your spot. 

    1. Understand the Program: It is extremely important that you are professional, detailed, and serious during this application process. You must show your best self and prove that you have the maturity and dedication to Japanese that the language school and host families require. 

    1. Start Your Application HereYou will be sent more information as well as the link to our application portal to begin your formal application. Once the initial form is complete, you will be connected to a High School Abroad program manager who will speak with you and a parent to go over the details of the program.

    2. Submit Basic Program Information: The first step in our application portal will be basic things like your chosen start date, etc.

    3. Submit your application fee: A $1,500 application fee is required in order to apply for the program. This is subtracted from your total program fee, it’s not additional.

    4. Complete Application & Documents: Provide more detailed information about yourself in Part 2 of the application. In this section, you’ll tell us more information like your work history, motivations for joining the program, travel history, and emergency contacts. You will also submit your documents (below) within your portal account.

    5. Zoom Interview: After submitting your deposit, you will schedule an interview with a Greenheart staff member.  During this interview, you will be asked questions about living with a host family, adjusting to new situations and homesickness, among other things. You will also receive an overview of the next few months and what you can expect. This is done via Zoom, and at least one parent should also be in attendance.

    6. You’re Accepted! Once you’ve completed all the steps, Greenheart Travel will thoroughly review your application and will contact you within 2-3 weeks about your acceptance. Then, you’ll get more information about preparation, visas, and placement.

    7.Commitment Payment: Once you are accepted to the program, you will need to submit a $5,000 commitment payment within 14 days to confirm your spot on the program. We cannot start the host family matching process until we have this payment. Once you submit your commitment payment you will unlock the acceptance portion of your portal, which includes things like pre-departure videos, travel and arrival information, the Greenheart Travel Atlas, and more.

    8. Book your flights, and get ready for your adventure to Japan! 

    Required Documents

    In addition to completing an application, you will also be required to submit documents. You can be collecting the documents during the application process, but all documents will be due 14 days after you submit your deposit.

    The following documents will be required:

    • Additional handwritten application form*
    • Secondary conditions of participation*
    • Photo Album (4 photos of you with captions)*
    • Letter of Recommendation (from a teacher, coach or guidance counselor) [Please provide two for Japan, one must be in Japanese by a Japanese teacher]*
    • Transcript from the last 3 years
    • Proof of at least 1 year Japanese language instruction
    • Dear Family Letter in handwritten Japanese (must be extremely legible and written in dark ink, scanned and sent as a PDF)
    • Dear Family Letter in English (must express awareness of the program, student goals, love of Japan and Japanese, and appreciation for future host family)
    • Parent Questionnaire and letter*
    • Medical Form*
    • Copy of your passport

    *Indicates that these forms must be downloaded from document upload link, completed, scanned and uploaded to the document link again.

    There may be additional paperwork following your completed application before your official acceptance. Your program manager will inform you of what those documents are during the application process.


    For payments, a $1,500 non-refundable fee will be due with your submitted application. This will be deducted from your overall program cost. If we are able to take a last-minute application submitted after the deadline, the deposit will be $2,000.

    Once you are accepted onto the program, a $5,000 commitment payment will be due within 14 days of acceptance.  The remaining balance is due 16 weeks prior to  your start date, or at the same time as your commitment payment, whichever comes first.

    You’ve Been Accepted, Now What?

    Start getting ready for your adventure! Your program manager will be in regular communication with you to make sure that you are on track in your preparations to go abroad.

    • Upon acceptance, you will receive a student handbook (parents – you get one, too!) and access to the Greenheart Travel Atlas, as well as the Greenheart Club.
    • You will receive your host family and school placement roughly 2-3 months after acceptance.
    • After receiving your host family and school placement, you will receive further instructions on applying for your student visa (if applicable for your program length)
    • We will also schedule an online pre-orientation with other Greenheart students a few weeks before your departure!
  • Schedule a Call

    Have questions or want to talk to one of the program coordinators? Set up a time to have a phone call below.

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