Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Big News!

So it turns out I'll be spending this summer as an exchange student again! This time I'm going to South Korea! SO EXCITED. I'll be making a new blog for it, so look forward to that :)
Can't wait :D

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Advice 2: Host Family

As I mentioned a little bit before, you shouldn't have expectations about your host family. You aren't guaranteed to have two parents or any siblings. I know that the prospect of having no host siblings isn't exactly appealing to a lot of people, but trust me, you shouldn't worry about it. I know plenty of people who were hesitant about their host families at first because they had no host siblings, but ended up loving their host family so much anyway. I know people who had host siblings way older or younger than them, and they still had a ton of fun. I even know one student who only had a host father, but he still had a blast anyway. Just remember that no matter what the structure of your host family is, they are still willingly accepting you into their home and their lifestyle, and that they want you to have an enjoyable experience just as much as you do.
Now, that having been said, you still might have problems with your host family. I was extremely lucky, because my host family was literally perfect for me. We all got along really well and I have absolutely no complaints. However, I did hear of a bunch of kids who had problems with their host families. Most of them were minor, and chances are you will have minor problems with your host family (even my host family and I had some little hiccups occasionally, but they were all really temporary and inconsequential). But some kids did end up having major problems with their host families, most of which, in my opinion, boiled down a lack of communication and/or patience on both sides. Communication and patience are both really important in your relationship with your host family. I think those two things were the reason why my host family and I got along so well.
My host family always told me right away when I was doing something wrong or impolitely, which I am truly grateful for. This was really helpful to me because it helped me learn, and it also helped me to fix a problem immediately before my host family became angry at me. In some of the problems I saw, it seemed like the host family was slowly building up frustration with the student without telling them what the problem was until it was too late to fix. So be sure to talk to your host family about anything that might be bothering them. Also, if you are having any problems with school, or adjusting to new food, or whatever, tell your host family about it instead of just being upset about it. I know that the whole language barrier thing can make communication quite difficult, but just making the effort can say a lot.
My host family was also very patient with me. Since my host family and I were from two widely different countries, we naturally had our differences. But they were always really patient with me as I learned how to act in their family as well as Japanese society in general. They would always laugh and smile when I had to learn something new, and if I did something wrong, we would laugh it off together. And I tried my best to be patient when I was learning what do to and what not to do, or when I didn't understand what my host family was saying or doing. Some students and host families seemed to have really slim patience with each other, which caused a lot of tension and unhappiness on both parts. Adjusting to a new family and country is going to take time, just as taking in a new family member from another country takes time to adjust to. You aren't going to immediately understand your host family and they won't immediately understand you, so you both just have to be patient while you get used to each other.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Advice!

ひさしぶり!
Hey guys! Long time no see. So I figured I would finally get around to this advice stuff. I have a rough list of things that I feel I should talk about as of now, but I'll probably be adding on random posts as they come to me.
First of all, one very important thing that I learned was to try to have no expectations about your exchange trip. Because if you have certain expectations about how your exchange experience will be --your family, your location, your school--you're only setting yourself up for disappointment. It's best to be totally open to what is given to you and make the best of it instead of comparing it to what you expected. Being open is really, in my opinion, the key to a successful foreign exchange. Being in a completely new world-- a new family, a new language, new food, new school, new everything-- you need to learn how to be open and accepting of the culture for what it is.
In that same vain, there are some specific things that I would like to talk about:
JAPAN IS NOT ANIME: If you're drawn to Japan and Japanese culture because of anime or manga, that's great. However, if you apply to do a foreign exchange in Japan thinking that your life is going to be like an anime, you will be disappointed.
JAPAN IS NOT JUST TOKYO: Odds are you will not be placed in Tokyo if you go with YFU or any other homestay program. Out of the approximately 150 students who went to Japan this past summer through YFU, I think only about 3 ended up in Tokyo. Yes, I can admit that when I signed up for YFU I had my heart set on Tokyo, like lots of other kids I'm sure. So when I found out that I would be living in a tiny city called Kumagaya, it was not at all what I expected. And while I was fortunate enough to be placed relatively close to Tokyo, and I got to visit it many times, I'm still very glad that I lived in Kumagaya instead of Tokyo. Tokyo was amazing and interesting and I loved it so much. But Kumagaya became my home. It's my own nice little town that almost no one knows anything about. I definitely didn't expect to live in the hottest city in Japan with creepy cartoon suns everywhere and a crazy fan festival, but that's what I got and I wouldn't trade it for any other.
So that's all for now I guess. I'll be posting again with more advice (hopefully) soon!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

おわり

August 1, 2011 was a very unique day in my life. It was about 38 hours long, I went back in time 7 hours, and flew halfway around the world, but on top of all of that, it was my last day in Japan.
I reluctantly woke up at around 8:30. I say reluctantly not because I was tired, but because I did not want this day to come. I didn't want to face this day. I didn't want to leave. But I had no choice, so I woke up and packed my last few things into my bag and ate my last breakfast in Japan. After breakfast, I said goodbye to my host aunt and cousins by skype, and then I was out the door.
It was a 4-hour car ride from our home in Kumagaya to Narita International Airport. I think none of us really felt like talking, and we were all tired, so the ride was mostly silent. I just watched as one town passed after another, dreading the moment when we would arrive in Narita.
When we did finally arrive in Narita, my family and I walked through the airport together, working together to drag my baggage to the check-in. We tried to talk normally with each other, but we couldn't help but talk with that frantic and fake cheerfulness that you get when you're about say good-bye to someone who's leaving for a long time.
When the time finally came for me to say good-bye, everyone in my family was a little watery-eyed (me included). I gave them all a hug (not usual for Japanese people, but they didn't seem to mind at all). I wanted to say A LOT of things to them, but I found that I just couldn't talk. I managed to force out a thank you and a "ja ne" before I started walking away. My host family and I were waving to each other all while I was going through the security line. Once I got past security I saw Takuro jumping up and down waving from really far and I jumped up and down and waved back :) it was really funny. Then I turned and walked away. I thought that would be the last I saw of my Japanese family (for a while), but when I rode down the escalator down to the bag check-in/security scan or whatever, I saw my host family all waving at me from behind a glass wall which the escalator faced and eventually went under. I waved frantically at them all the way down the escalator until they were finally out of sight.
After somberly going through some more security lines I walked out to my gate, and saw all of the YFU kids spread out over the whole gate, taking up almost all the benches. This shook me out of the depression of leaving my host family as we all chattered away. It was so much fun meeting up with everyone! Some people I hadn't seen since the orientation in San Francisco, and I even met some people for the first time. We were all super talkative, telling endless stories about each of our respective trips. It was fun hearing about how completely different some people's experiences were.
We could have gone on talking forever, but of course, we all had planes to catch. So we all split up onto one of two flights to San Francisco. The flight was not pleasant. I had been feeling sick all day, but I felt HORRIBLE on the plane. And then I realized why: remember the shabu-shabu I ate the night before? Yup. It was my first time eating shabu-shabu, so I guess I didn't cook my meat well enough. Sooooo I had intense stomach pain all day, and it was especially bad on the flight from Narita to San Francisco. Wonderful. I couldn't even sleep on the plane.
After a very long, sad, and painful 10-hour flight, I landed in San Francisco at 9:30 in the morning (technically 7 hours before I left Narita) exhausted, sick, and cranky. I was nooot happy to be back in America. Plus I had a six hour layover, which I wasn't exactly looking forward to.
The layover in San Francisco wasn't as bad as I thought it would be though. Yes, the bathrooms were dirtier, and the workers were more rude than in Japan, but all of the YFU kids met up again, so we all hung out together for a while. But we all eventually split up to go near our own gates in clusters. It was fun exploring the airport and seeing YFU kids everywhere. As time went on, though, I was one of the only YFU students left in the airport, since almost everyone had a layover shorter than 6 hours. It felt kinda weird how we all just split up at the airport and left, most of us without saying good-bye to each other. It was weird, since we had been to all these orientations and YFU events together, and we all were in Japan at the same time, and now we were all just leaving. We would never all be in the same place again, and a lot of us won't see each other again. It just felt weird. That's when I really felt like this whole experience was over.
The flight to Philadelphia wasn't bad. I felt better, and I slept most of the time. Then I got off the plane, met my (American) family, and that was that, my dream was over.
Yeah, so that was my trip to Japan :D
Sugoi, ne?
By the way, I do plan on doing some more posts, mostly to help our future YFU kids, about what to expect, how to prepare, problems that I faced, stuff like that. But lately I've been really busy with the schoolwork that I didn't do in Japan, so bear with me :)