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! This advice to future international students thinking of studying abroad is from Mai who came to Adelaide from Tokyo in February this year to study Year 11 at William Light R-12 School. Mai’s inspiring story shows how her positive action is enabling her to follow her aspirations of studying abroad, improving her English and becoming the person she wants to be:
Opportunity to study abroad
Mai says that ever since she was a child she only ever loved watching TV programmes that featured foreign countries and as she grew she gradually began to think about leaving Japan. “I wanted to try removing myself from the familiar surroundings of Japan and see how I make it on my own.” When this feeling became strong, her mother recommended the Tokyo prefecture International study program. Without hesitation, Mai submitted an application. Mai is participating in the ‘Program for the Development of Next-Generation Leaders’ international study program. This program was established by the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education and is offered to public high school students who want to take on the challenge of studying abroad. It 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 the future international society. Of the students from Tokyo public high schools chosen to take part in the program, there are 60, including Mai, who will experience student life here for the next 12 months, attending high schools and staying with homestay families across Adelaide.
Mai has always liked studying English and while she studied in Japan she felt it was one of her strongest subjects, but when she actually came to Adelaide, she felt really shocked to realise that she couldn’t speak or understand people as much as she thought she would. When school started, she couldn’t be without her dictionary for even a moment, finding it almost impossible to even ask her teacher a question because she couldn’t string her vocabulary and grammar together without it. On top of that, making friends or becoming part her classmates’ group was really scary and Mai says at first she couldn’t find any opportunities to make friends. However, after around one and half months, something inside Mai suddenly broke free and she started to speak to and sit with her classmates, actively making the opportunities to communicate with them. “I think at first, part of me had a really passive attitude and I thought to myself ‘they’ll come and ask me eventually’. But in the end, I realised that, especially here, I have to put up my own hand and be more proactive.” From then on, Mai began to make more and more friends, started asking questions of her teachers after class and getting a good grasp of her studies, and now she has become a member of her class group. Although it is still difficult for her to follow things like the debating videos played in her classes, she has gotten really comfortable with daily conversation and she has no problems understanding her teachers or the content of the subjects she is studying. She finds drama class, a subject not offered in Japan, really interesting and looked really happy when she said, “I haven’t been in a play since kindergarten. It really looks like a great way to learn new vocabulary.”
Even outside of school
Mai makes the most of every moment of school life, but she isn’t satisfied with just that. 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.