Mei, Japan

Mei is here in Adelaide studying Year 11 on a Tokyo prefecture study abroad program. 8 months has passed since arriving and Mei is enjoying her life here saying, “it really suits me”.

I’m going abroad!

It wasn’t like Mei had a really strong interest in foreign countries since she was a child, but what sparked her awareness of other countries was visiting her uncle in America when she was in second year of senior high. Her uncle spoke to complete strangers like they were old friends and she thought that friendly atmosphere was great. Mei has always liked the English language and in her spring break before starting her final year of senior high she did a language study program in Canada where she again got to enjoy living abroad. Returning to Japan, she thought to herself, “I’m really suited to living abroad and I’m going to go again!’

Soon after getting back to Japan, she applied for the Program for the ‘Development of Next-Generation Leaders’ and, quite impressively, she was successful in gaining a placement. In January, half way through her final year of senior high, she left her friends who were all studying for university entrance exams and started her year-long study abroad program at an Australian high school.

 

The Program for the Development of Next-Generation Leaders which Mei is participating in is a program established by the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education. This program supports students of Tokyo prefecture public high schools who take up the challenge to study abroad and is designed to broaden the minds, improve English, build resilience and give a sense of purpose to the young people who will be responsible for carrying Japan forward into a future international society. Including Mei, there are 40 Tokyo public high school students chosen to study at Adelaide’s city and suburban high schools as part of the program, each staying with different homestay families across the state while they spend about 12 months experiencing student life here.

High School Life in Adelaide

Although she liked English, Mei says she wasn’t very good at it, and the Next-Generation Leader program doesn’t give participants the chance to study English language classes at local schools; instead they go straight into mainstream classes with local students. Because of this, Mei says she struggled at first, not understanding what her teachers were saying. However, she recorded her lessons and double-checked the meaning later, made vocabulary books, and did research online, spending every moment studying even after she came home from school. She also did things like get support from friends, mimic the words she heard people say, and watch lots of movies as part of her studies. On top of that, she spoke English even with her Japanese friends. The result of all this was that she became more and more able to understand what was being spoken around her and she soon became able to express herself in English.

“At first I really had no idea but after about 5 months I began to think that I was starting to understand. Now I feel like I’m really making improvements”.

Mei says that the first few months, “were a really jam packed time for me” and feels that the skill she has improved the most while here in Australia, where computers are an everyday tool of life, is her typing speed.

Outdoor Education

Mei loves all sports, currently enjoying basketball and Australian rules football at her school here and she says she was really happy when she kicked her first goal in football. Her favourite part of her school program are the activities she gets to do in Outdoor Education. As part of Norwood Morialta High Schools’ Outdoor Education program, students get to plan for their own camp which they go on every six months, doing things like researching the food they’ll prepare and physical training. On camp, they do various team activities including hiking and rock climbing, naturally learning about the environment, leadership, and group dynamics through the outdoor activities.

“This was the first time for me to be in amongst so much nature. Laying down on the beach on a pitch-black night and looking up at the stars was really impressive. I’ve gotten to do things that I’d rarely have the chance to learn in Japan and the camp has been the highlight of my study program here”.

Through Studying Abroad

Before her study abroad program, Mei didn’t really know what she wanted to be in the future, nor did she have any real goals, but during this year of her program she has had the chance to think carefully about her future. Now, 8 months into her studies here she still doesn’t have a clear future dream but it has started to come together; she wants to go to America where her uncle is and study international relations and sport at a university there.

“I feel that I get to improve my ability to think at my Australian high school. With a lot of subjects to choose from, I think it is easy to work out what we want to do in the future. It feels like the part of my brain that I didn’t get to use in Japan has grown and my imagination has improved”. For Mei, her study abroad program in Adelaide has been a big step towards helping her mold her future.

 

Mei has a message for all of the people in her generation who will take part in study abroad programs.

“I think there are a lot of challenging experiences when you study abroad, but there are always good people around you. If you get into a difficult situation, I think it is ok to ask for help. You can meet a lot of different people with different cultures in Australia so you really get to grow in ways that you can’t in Japan. I think that studying abroad is life-changing so please try hard and take up the challenge.

But I think the most important thing while studying abroad is to not compare your experience with others. Comparing just leads to wasted effort in pushing yourself and jealousy. Please just enjoy it at your own pace”.

 

Mei has only 3 months left of her study abroad program, and right to the end she will continue to enjoy every moment of her student life here in Adelaide at her own pace.

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Mai, Japan

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A Message to Future Students from Abroad

“If you come here to study, don’t waste time feeling embarrassed or squirming in your seat; I think it is much better to get out there and take action. I really recommend that you start studying English as soon, and as hard, as you can!”

Mai makes the most of every moment of school and out of school life. Once a week, she catches a bus by herself into the city and heads to the State Library to participate in the free group English lesson to increase her opportunity to communicate in English. “I am the youngest in the group, but I have made a promise to myself to speak up at least twice each lesson, even if my English is a bit crazy.”

Recently, Mai even got the chance to experience being a volunteer and teaching Japanese calligraphy at a community event. “I wanted to share a part of Japanese culture so it was a really good experience for me. It was my first time to be a volunteer. I really want to continue improving my English ability while I broaden my interactions with people by taking part in all sorts of volunteer activities, not just relating to Japan.”

Mai says that when she was in Japan, she was the type of person who didn’t really have an opinion, but this is one of her goals of

studying abroad. “Through this experience of studying abroad, I want to become the type of person who can say ‘This is what I think’ and ‘I am this kind of person’; someone who can say it like it is.” That is why Mai wants to understand not only her own way of thinking, but the thought processes of all sorts of people; taking part in community activities is a really valuable opportunity to understand the value of people. “In reality, there are people from all over the world gathered here and I have come to realise that there isn’t just one way of thinking. I want to become a person who is adaptable to all sorts of things.”

After graduating from high school, Mai wants broaden her global mentality by studying at university and she says that she wants to become a Japanese person who is globally active. She is also interested in working for the United Nations.

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Laura, Germany

My time in Australia was simply amazing! A huge thank you to everybody for being so welcoming and friendly. I´m looking back to a great time at Victor Harbor High School, where I had the opportunity to make some great friendships and experiences I´ll never forget!

I enjoyed every minute here, even when the weather was bad. It was so fun to be part of the rugby team, getting my boat license in Marine Studies, going fishing, bike riding and even camping at rainy Deep Creek in Outdoor Education. I also had a nice time at Kangaroo Island, which was unfortunately my only travel around Australia, but I´m looking forward to visit Australia, and of course Victor Harbor, again!

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Alexandre, Switzerland

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At the beginning of my stay in Adelaide, an event happened called the “Color Run”. It is basically a race where you get covered in color powder with music and DJs. We went there with a couple of friends and had a great time! The run was really fun and we ended up completely covered in color. We decided that we would then go to Glenelg beach to wash ourselves and have a swim. That was my first time swimming there too, and it was great!

I also got lucky enough to stay in Adelaide at the same moment as AC/DC was on tour. Considering it is one of my favourite bands, I decided to get a ticket for the concert when they would come performing at the Adelaide Oval. Three friends of mine were also fans of the band so we decided to go all four of us to the show. The show was amazing and we had a great time ! Truly a day to remember!

Alex_BLACKROCK_4The son of my homestay family is really active in the domain of arts. He’s been dancing and acting for a long time now and he recently took his first steps as a director. For his first play, he decided to do Blackrock by Nick Enright, an Australian play. As he knew I had already acted in some plays, he decided to give me a small role in his play and also asked me to help move the different accessories on stage when it was needed. Once again this experience allowed me to meet plenty of other people! We met many times with the comedians to rehearse and that to talk a bit with them. I learned a lot about acting here in Australia and I am really glad that I could act for the first time in English, even if it was just a small part. In the end, the show was great and the knowledge and experience I gained is without a doubt really precious.

One stereotype that us, Europeans, have about Australia is surf. For us, Australia is the country of surfing, so the one thing we had to try out while we were here, was defintely try to surf! Then, with a group of friends, we decided to go surfing for a day on Moana Beach, at the south of Adelaide. I had personally never surfed before but some of my friends had so they taught me the basics on how to do it. Pretty quickly, I understood the technique, and even if it took me a lot of time, I managed to stand on the board (well, let’s say I was half-standing). It was tiring, but it was a lot of fun and we already told each other with my friends that we would do it again!

Alex_Cairns_1I had plenty of time during my summer holidays so I decided to participate in some camps organised by recognised organisations that the governement had shown us. One of those camps was organising a tour on Kangaroo Island for two days, and as I heard it was a great place to see in South Australia, I went on the tour. During this trip, I saw so many great landscapes. There is only a few people living there and everything is really “wild” it was amazing! I saw different animals; seals, emus, kangaroos, koalas… And I also met other international students on the way that were really nice! It was the discovery of a whole new world for me.

 

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