I lived in Mito city in the Ibaraki prefecture during my stay. I had two very caring and welcoming host parents, sixteen and twelve year old sisters, and a ten year old brother. My host family was very kind to me and tried very hard to give me a wonderful Japanese experience. They taught me tea ceremony, how to use chopsticks, cook Japanese meals, and even lit off sparklers on the 4th of July to prevent me from feeling homesick. My host parents were always looking out for me, like when the waiter at the sushi bar put a British flag in my sushi and my host mom told him I was American My host family also took me on vacation with them to Nara and Kyoto, the old capitals of Japan where I witnessed much of Japan’s history and tradition. We toured many ancient temples, shrines, and even the old emperor’s palace. I also got to spend a day in Tokyo and shop in Harajuku to see Japan’s modern side.
Attending school in Japan was an amazing experience. The students were so wonderful, and I loved wearing my school uniform. Many students were brave enough to talk to me, and I made good friends with a few of my classmates. I joined band club there and got to play at my school’s baseball game. It was exciting when they won, and even more so when it was in the local newspaper along with a picture of me playing in the band to support them. I’m very used to a school cafeteria so it was interesting getting a lunch from my host mom every morning. Occasionally, I would have no idea what she gave me, so I would try it. I usually enjoyed it!
I definitely learned to expect the unexpected while in Japan. Even when I thought I knew what was I was doing or what was going on I was nearly always wrong. This occurred all the time, especially when trying food, going different places, and trying to communicate with people. Sometimes it was very frustrating, and rather funny other times. One morning I came downstairs and said goodnight in Japanese to my host brother in Japanese.
Spending six weeks as en exchange student in Japan this summer was more than I could ever have expected. Every morning I woke up to a new adventure, new surprises, and experiences I will never forget. I often saw the people around me ########### activities completely different from our American culture. Some of their customs even seemed to make more sense than our own, while others made me miss some American ways of life that I have always taken for granted before. I have every intention of returning to Japan someday, and I would highly recommend it for anyone wishing to travel or experience an entirely different culture. Information for those interested in being an exchange student can be found at www.yfu.org.
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