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After six weeks in Japan, there have only been positive responses from the abroad students. Senior David McClelland said, “Japan has been incredible so far. The abroad has been ridiculously fun and I can’t wait for what’s next.” Junior Olivia Adams stated, “I have absolutely loved the Japan abroad so far. […] It has been an incredible trip and I look forward to the last 3 weeks we have here.”

The students have just finished their homestays in Kyoto, Japan. “[After the homestays] we […] are preparing to go to Hiroshima and Tokyo,” said McClelland. Adams added, “We had the opportunity to stay with families here in Kyoto. Each of us were sent [our] separate ways and moved in with a family for two weeks. It was such a great experience because it broke us out of our comfort zones and enabled us to really dive into Japanese culture and lifestyle. It was nerve-racking at first, but the families took us in with so much love that the fear immediately disappeared.” McClelland and Adams agreed that Japan proved to be a place of fun and immense growth.

During their time in Kyoto, the abroad students also had the opportunity to work in Japanese schools. “We visited an elementary school today and taught classes. At the start, all of the kids met us in the gym and we taught them the penguin’s attention song. We then split up into classes,” said junior Nate Richards. “We played traditional Japanese games and then witnessed the kids preparing and serving lunch in the classroom. It was an awesome experience. After class we went outside and taught them how to play frisbee. We also played tag and Uno. The kids loved us and thought we were like idols because, one after the other, they kept coming up to us to ask for our signatures.”

After spending time with the Japanese students, senior Conrad Bollinger said, “Lunchtime with the 4th graders was an intriguing process to witness. The kids all split up into different groups and went about preparing the classroom for lunch. They set up the room, served the food, then cleaned up the room after. I was astounded by how efficient they were.”

Bollinger also explained how the students return home after a day of school. He said, “The ones that live far away will take a bus or subway by themselves to get home.  It was common to see kids who could not have been older than six or seven walking through a subway station or traveling on a bus entirely by themselves in the city.” The immersion of the abroad students into the Japanese education system has been an eye-opening transition.

Outside of the schools, the abroad students have also had the opportunity to see the Japanese culture. Junior Nate Richards said, “We had lunch with a geisha and maiko. We played rock-paper-scissors with them. They are sometimes mistaken for prostitutes, but in reality the wealthy of Japan actually pay for them to hang out as good atmosphere and a status symbol of wealth.”

Olivia Adams also was very impressed by the Japanese culture. She shared an experience she had with religion in Japan. She said, “One of my favorite places I’ve visited is Fushimi Inari which holds more than 10,000 Torii gates. You walk through these gates up a mountain and pass many places of worship. It’s so neat to see how other people are so dedicated to their religion and going to fushimi Inari with my homestay family enabled them to show me the importance of their traditions and beliefs!”

Altogether it seems as though the abroad students are having a wonderful time and learning more about Japan. Let’s hope for them to have a safe voyage home and make sure to welcome them back with open arms.