Friday, March 17, 2017

Time at school with a Japanese exchange student by Stephen Signor


On March 9, I was afforded the opportunity to shadow a Japanese exchange student, who arrived in the United States two weeks ago. This was part of the ongoing efforts through Greenheart and its dedicated High School Programs Department to connect students with other nations and promote leaders - through a collection of programs and initiatives. Keishi Goya, a 16 year old freshman from Okinawa, was here in the United States for the first time, which is not always the case. Visiting students have a pretty good handle on the English language, but not always. 

Japanese exchange student, Keishi Goya, studies using laptop
During the first week here, as an introduction to American culture and the education system, all of the Japanese exchange students, and some host parents, went to Boston. “There were also year-long exchange students who attended the trip too, with their host sisters and brothers. They went to Harvard and toured the iconic school with its alumni and also had lunch with them,” shared Skylyn Vokey, a junior at Windham High and President of the International Club. They also got to ask a board of Harvard students questions as well. In addition to Harvard, the exchange students enjoyed a little free time to see some sights. They went to the Old North Church and Quincy Market to which Goya indicated, “I like Quincy Market very much”.

For this enthusiastic student it was a chance of a lifetime. When it comes to learning, one of the first things he shared was about the access to technology. “School is different here. We don’t have laptops back home in the classroom.” 

But that is just a small difference. In Japan the length of a school day can be as long as 11 hours. “The day starts at 7:30 a.m. and classes end at 4:00 p.m. Then there are mandatory activities and chores like cleaning the school,” continued Goya. With two hours a day of homework on top of that, sleep is at a premium and leaves students tired every day. In addition to long hours the school year is lengthier in Japan. “We start school in April and finish the following March,” shared Goya. Only a one month vacation during the summer and two shorter ones makes vacation seem shorter for them.
During Social Studies class, Vokey served as a chaperone and organizer alongside a team leader from Japan, Koki Keiko - while Goya listened intently. Teacher, Brandon Champion later shared, “This is my second year teaching here so this is the first time I have had foreign exchange students. I had quite a few that came into my fourth period class. Nation Emerges, a class which students learn the first part of US history, touches on the development of tariffs. So I took the opportunity to relate and talk about taxes/tariffs on Japanese cars. It was very good.”

Goya and the other exchange students left Windham High School on Friday March 10; but did not leave the United States. Their next stop is New York City where they will become tourists and take in additional American culture. On March 17, they will begin the long journey home. When asked if he missed Okinawa, Goya replied, “No, I want to live in the America. I like it.”

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