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.
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.