K-M teen learns new culture as exchange student
Last summer Kasson-
Mantorville junior Andrea Richard had a once in a lifetime opportunity.
After applying for a scholarship through YFU, which is an organization that stands for Youth For Understanding she
was awarded a scholarship to study in Japan for six weeks as an exchange student.
Richard was first encouraged to apply by her Family Career and Development teacher, Michelle Lindquist who told her about the opportunity and said that she would be a great fit for it.
From there Richard started the application process, which included filling out an online application along with being interviewed by different representatives from the organization.
After being awarded the scholarship the next step in the process was attending two different orientations one for students from Minnesota who were participating as well and one in Chicago for everyone
before they flew out to Tokyo and eventually to the islands were they would be staying.
For Richard she would spend her time in Matsuyama, which is
not on the main island in Japan and instead is on a smaller one.
LEARNING NEW THINGS
Richard explained that the main reason why she wanted to be an exchange student was to learn about a new culture.
During her six weeks in Japan she did just that.
One of the first culture shocks for Richard was when her host dad greeted her at the airport and she went to the wrong side of the car to get in.
While they were driving she also had another culture shock, which was the fact, that people in Japan and other countries drive on the opposite side of the road compared to America.
“I was very scared,” Richard said with a smile a couple of months later.
Another major difference that Richard saw in Japan compared to the America is the fact that everyone takes off their shoes when they enter people’s homes or even in dressing rooms at stores.
Richard described one time when she went to go try on clothes at a store’s dressing room she accidentally wore shoes into the room and got yelled at.
When it comes to eating there is also a huge difference.
Aside from the different foods that they have compared
to America one of the biggest differences is that at home and even at school people eat on the ground as a custom.
Richard explained that some restaurants did provide chairs as an option for people to sit on but her host family like many others sat on the ground instead.
DIFFERENCES IN SCHOOL
One of the biggest differences for Richard when it came to school was transportation.
Unlike in America where some students either get dropped off or take a bus all students ride their bikes to school.
For Richard this meant about a two mile bike ride everyday to school.
While Richard didn’t mind biking to school one thing that she was not a huge fan of was the fact that they had to wear a school uniform everyday something that is a major difference compared to public schools in America.
Aside from having to wear a uniform she also explained that she would have to change from her outdoor shoes that she would wear while ridding her bike into her indoor shoes.
While changing shoes may sound like a simple task, for Richard one of her challenges was finding shoes that would
fit her because Japanese people feet are much smaller generally than Americans which made it a difficult for her to find shoes, resulting in her having to buy mens shoes.
While studying as an exchange student she also quickly saw a big difference of what st dents do when they get to school.Instead of hanging out with friends, eating breakfast, or watching Sports Center when students get to school in Japan they all read in the classrooms silently between 8-8:30 a.m. without a teacher in the classroom.
She also explained that anytime a teacher enters the classroom they all stand up and bow to the teacher before class begins.
At school instead of having custodians clean the school it was a culture shock for Richard when she found out that students clean the class rooms everyday.
Aside from cleaning the class rooms they also were responsible for doing deep cleaning of the school.
During designated PE classes students would be required to do intense
cleaning of the school and learn proper ways to clean.
One of the biggest challenges for Richard came when she had to give
a speech in front of teachers in Japanese and to the whole student body in English.
While she tried to learn Japanese before going
to Japan she admits that learning through different apps and books is very difficult.
Despite not knowing much of the language she was
able to learn some through interactions with kids at school and her host family and was able to learn some of the language and was able to give the speech.
Overall Richard said that she had an amazing time during her trip and she didn’t want to leave after her six weeks were up.
Richard said that she also hopes to get back their some time to visit.
In the meantime she will continue to travel to different countries which includes a planned trip to Scandinavia this summer for a choir trip.