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Concerns on foreign exchange

2 Aug 2003
Hey everyone!

Lately my mother and I have been taking into great consideration of me becoming a foreign exchange in Japan! Right now I'm in highschool. So far everything seems great. I plan to do it in about 2 years, the program is very cheap and good, and I am very estatic about the idea itself!
But of course, doing something like this is very risky, don't you think? I mean, I don know how my host family will treat me (I've heard some pretty bad experiences). And how will school be, also? Overall how will I fit in? Also, another problem arises. I'm not white, like foreigners who visit Japan. My ethnicity is Chinese and Mexican.
I've read articles on the racism against whites in Japan (which doesn't sound too bad). But I've never really heard about how the Japanese treat Mexicans or a mixed person like me. =\
I think I am better prepared for the transition than most students who do this. Mainly because of my asian type lifestyle(food, morals and respect), and my research on Japan. My love and passion for Japan is so strong! I want this to be a very positive experience, obviously. But like my mom said, 'why go to a country where no one wants you there?' I love Japan so much, I won't know what to do if they don't accept me. )=
i wouldn't worry about it, no place is safe nowadays
and not alone with the momma venting -- i came back to phone messages like "I DON'T KNOW WHY YOU GONE OVER TO JAPAN!!! YOU GONE CATCH SARS IN YOUR BUTT!!!" and "i don't know if i want you to come home or not... i love you and miss you, but you might breathe on me and kill me(and what am i gonna be doing? dancing around the maypole?)"...
anyway, yah, BET that she isn't living that down for a while...
there is a manga called Garcia-kun (some of it ran in an american magazine caled Mangajin), let me look it up
Originally posted by budd
i wouldn't worry about it, no place is safe nowadays
and not alone with the momma venting -- i came back to phone messages like "I DON'T KNOW WHY YOU GONE OVER TO JAPAN!!! YOU GONE CATCH SARS IN YOUR BUTT!!!"

:D budd, you never fail to amuse me...
Best chunk of advice I can give is remain open to new ideas and be willing to go through the good and the bad. You will experience both. I, like you, went on a high school exchange for one year and lived with a host family.

First, you have the right attitude for having a great time in Japan. You will have some rough times, but if you stick it out, you will also have some experiences you will never forget.

Your ethnicity is not going to make tha big a difference. You are already going to be "the exchange student" and you stand very little chance of blending in. Since you aleady have som idea of how the social game is played here, you will adjust better than most first-timers anyway. 99% of the time how well you get along with peopl at school and home will come down to how well you interact with people. Obviously speaking Japanese will really help. However, at the core, a smile means the same thing, and gestures of kindness are universal. Just be as nice a person as you can be and the cultural differences will work themselves out.

Second, remain flexible to new ideas and way of doing things. You are coming to Japan to live with a host family and expereince life in Japan, not live like an American in the US. You might be asked to take a bath in the evening before bed, not in the morning. You might have rice with breakfast, you might have to attend boring class meetings after school. Try to take these moments when your normal way of doing things are changed to expereince a new way of doing things and a different take on social harmony.

As for your host family, I had one not so great one, and one fantastic family (they will be honorary nokodos at my wedding). Yes, you are putting yourself into a luck-of-the-draw-situation. If there is a real problem, if your program is worth going on, it has a mediation mechanism that can help you through any big issues. However, adapting your lifestyle is a given. You might get in a situation where you feel you are being treated like a child, or not having the freedom you had at home.

Well, first, your host family will worry about you. A lot. You are in the odd situation of being a guest and a member of the family. They worry that they will offend you (and they want to keep you safe) but at the same time they can't be always "on" with you. You are someone elses child and hey want to keep you safe. They will also bring their own cultural values into play when making decisions. You need to understand the pressures that are placed on them and do as much as you can to ease them.

For starters, do chores around the house. You are a member of a Japanese family, share the burdens. Let you family know when they are doing a good job. Let them know you like the food, that you enjoy their company and that you want to spend time with them (this can be as simple has sitting after dinner and watching TV for a bit). Show an active interest in Japanese culture and ask them to help you go after these interests. I can promise you that if you treat your homestay like a boarding house, you will have problems. Be yourself, try to fit in (hard to do yes) and remember that while the homestay is your home, it is not. It is a fine balancing act that you will work out eventually.

I'm running out of time, but lastly, you will find people in Japan who want you here. You will make friends and you will have an experience that you will remember, and treasure always. You have a great chance. Along the idea of "tis better to have loved and lost than never loved at all" would you rather spend your life remembering your trip to Japan, or the rest of your life wondering what might have been?

Sorry, no time to spell check etc. I have to go trick school children into learning. You can PM me if you want more exchange help.
"budd, you never fail to amuse me..."
it's good that somebody's laughing! :D
i end up buying tapes sooner than necessary, because i always want to keep the messages :)
for real, i always have to sneak off, because my mother is the type -- "___, ANSWER THE PHONE! ANSWER THE PHONE! *deep breath* AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHH!!! ANSWER THE PHONE! ___, are you there? you won't answer the phone for your po sweet momma... well, bye."
let's see, she did another one (and i actually had had some troouble over there) before that with "i don't know why you keep going over to Japan... you know you always breaking laws cause you don't know any better... they are gonna lock you up and i ain't gonna be able to come and get you out! you know i can't speak Japanese! you so cute and goofy, you'll be looking up at the sky and walk into a war zone (and she WAS close unfortunately :( if she knew i would NEVER hear the end of it) because you didn't pay attention!"

about ^ good post! plenty of useful info by someone who has obviously been there and done that
Mandylion, thank you so much for the extremely well-written and informative post!!

See it's encouragement like that that makes me wonder why I even worry! And yes, trust me, I and DEFINATELY willing to put forth the time and effort needed to get along w/ my host family. I know I will try my absolute best because this is something I dream of doing.

I plan to learn a little Japanese before I venture there. So far I'm doing self taught, but I might take a summer course at a local college. I'm not sure how far I'll get just reading books and online tutorials. :D Did you know Japanese when you did foreign exchange? Also, do you think it's possible that I'll actually learn to speak Japanese while I'm there?

what program did you use? I'm using a rotary club! Very good, very cheap (it's free). I've heard it's quite good. have you heard good things about it or have u ever used this program?

Oh and lastly, school! Was school harder than in the US. How did the teachers treat you? Special assignments or something?

akk! I gtg too. Well, once again thanx for your time~!
I used a sister city program. I guess rotary changed their deal, because back in my day you had to pay cash to go. I haven't heard anything one way or the other on their reputation, but I know people who have had wonderful trips through them.

The best place to learn how to speak Japanese is in Japan :) You will pick up a lot of it as long as you keep your ears open and make an effort. It is possible to get lazy. People will want to speak English with you and you can get by on minimal Japanese skills. But things will be a lot more interesting the more Japanese you pick up.

I wasn't graded on most of my classes in school. Since the education systems are so different, I didn't earn any credit for them. I couldn't not try to do my work, but also my teachers knew I was there to be a student but also experience Japan. So I would say classes were much easier than the US, but some classes, like English, were very, very borning. Might have been the way it was taught. Teachers were great, even giving me solo lessons when the rest of the class was doing stuff way above my level (like classical Japanese). I did spend a portion of the day in the library (again, when the subject was way above my Japanese level), which was fine for me. I could study what I wanted or just take a nap. It didn't make me feel isolated. Plus, if I had been in class, I would just have had to sit and do nothing.

I did have two years of high school Japanese, but I couldn't really speak it. You will probably be where I was if you stick with your current course of study. Do try and find a real class. I, for one, always do better in a formal study setting. There is a lot to be said for a planned approach to studying languages

School was fun, and a large part of the trip, but for me, the real center was life outside the classroom. I really didn't have that much homework, so I could spend time exploring my town or just trying to wrap my head around some othe things I was seeing and going through. Plus, I was going to have years to sit behind a desk and study, when else was I going to be in Japan (this was before I knew Japan would become some much a part of my life)? Like I said, I had two host families, and the second one I had, was fantastic. I still see them about twice a year, and through me my family has become close friends with them too. They really are like a second family to me and always will. I hope you get lucky too!

I don't want to paint too rosey a picture, but I don't want to freak you out either. I had an amazing year in Japan. I went through some of the best and worst times of my life when I went on my exchange (not host family stuff so don't worry). I made up my mind when I went that I wasn't going to give up and I would finish my year unless they shipped me home in a box. Looking back, I wouldn't trade the good for the bad, nor do I wish I had never gone. Going on exchange really helped me understand how big and complex the world is, and it made me a lot more mature and sensitive. Yeah, this thread is getting mushy, but these were big things for a smalltown USA, 17 year old Mandylion to deal with.

The long and short of it is, if I were on the board that selected exchange students to go to Japan, you seem just the type of person that could go and deal with anything that came up. You are not rushing into this (and exchanges are a big decision) and you don't have pie-in-the-sky ideas about what to expect. You have two years yet to go, and if you continue to prep yourself, you will be as ready as anyone possibly can be. I hope you make in on Rotary, and I hope you have a great time! Let me know if you have any more questions! -M
a point brought out previously that a smile can go a long way was a good one ;) A smile works like magic in any situation. Especially when you can't communicate with words.

I went to Japan 4 years ago by myself, and I homestayed with a family. I had a great time but it wasn't easy all the time - I was in hospital for 3 days (make sure you get travel insurance!! It cost about $1000nz per night in the hospital, excluding tests etc!) and when I returned home my host mum was very very very over-protective of me.
but, even those experiences don't overshadow the wonderful time I had in Kobe. I had so much fun, learnt alot and made heaps of friends for life.

It's great you're doing all this research now and preparing yourself ;)
well, thanks for your help every1! Now my only worry is making sure that I get accepted and that there are slots open for japan. But i'm quite detirmined so i think I'll be okay.

Thank you~! ^_~
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