In January 2017, Meiko was 2 months from graduating junior high school in Japan when she came to Adelaide to begin her international study program at a high school here. She has been playing volleyball since she was in primary school and is enjoying her life here balancing the game she loves with her studies.
A Skill to Help Me Transition Overseas
Meiko has always had a strong interest in the English language and she says that since she was a child she had a feeling that she would one day live overseas. Realising in junior high school that one way to make this happen is an international study program, she didn’t feel that her choice was between doing a program or not, to her the only thing to choose was between waiting until university or going during high school.
Meiko thought “while less people study overseas during high school, it does have many merits,” and while her friends were considering their future high school plans, she began seriously thinking about studying high school internationally.
Having played volleyball since primary school, she began a strict training regime while going to a junior high school recognised for its strong volleyball team. A driving force behind her perseverance was a vision she held for the future, “having at least one strength would be useful when I go overseas”.
It is because of this that Meiko planned to keep playing volleyball even when she went overseas to study.
Special Interest Volleyball Program
Around that time there was an incident that helped Meiko make up her mind to study high school internationally. One of the seniors from her school volleyball club invited her to play together at high school. This was a very tempting invitation to Meiko, equally as exciting as studying overseas, so she deliberated over the idea. In the end, however, Meiko decided on an international study program.
“I might have been able to have fulfilled my volleyball dreams by going to high school in Japan, but I might have neglected my studies. On the other hand, if I
focussed on my studies, balancing that with volleyball might have been a challenge. But I thought if I studied overseas, I would easily be able to balance volleyball, English studies, and the other things I want to do.”
Meiko’s parents respected her thoughts and the process of choosing a country to study began.
Meiko says that the first country she thought about studying in was actually America, but rather than having to change sport each season, being able to continue with the one sport all year narrowed her search to Australia. She chose Brighton Secondary School in Adelaide because not only does it have a strong volleyball team, but it is near one of her favourite places; the beach.
Brighton Secondary school has a Special Interest Volleyball Program with over 300 students studying volleyball as a subject with SACE (South Australian Certificate of Education) accreditation. Participating in tournaments is also part of the program. Entry to the volleyball program is only open to those who pass the selection process, so Meiko included video footage of her volleyball matches with her international study application sent from Japan to the South Australian Department for Education and that earned her a place in the program. That all became part of her journey to confirm her place in the Special Interest Volleyball Program.
A Gold Medal and MVP
Meiko began her international study program in January 2017 with the ISEC (International Secondary English Course), a high school entrance preparation course for international students. Even during her ISEC, Meiko replaced one of her subjects with volleyball and was able to play right from the beginning of her studies here.
“It is difficult to socialise with local students during the ISEC but through playing volleyball I was able to make friends easily not only with other international students, but also with locals.”
Just as she had thought in Japan, volleyball was the key to making her transition into studying here a smooth one. Now in Year 11, the number of subjects she is doing has decreased and the content is more complex and Meiko says that she is doing really well. She is also really enjoying her homestay experience.
Twice each year the Special Interest Volleyball Program participates in the Australian National Championships where teams are assigned by age and their performance in trial matches. In the championships held in December last year, Meiko was really successful, not only did her team win the Under 16 competition but she was also named the MVP (Most Valuable Player).
Starting her International Studies
Meiko says, “English was really challenging at first. I didn’t even understand what my teachers were saying”, but she made every effort to talk with other people and, rather than immediately looking up each word she didn’t understand, she tried to comprehend from the flow of the conversation. She says that ISEC was really tough but, “It was thanks to learning programs like PowerPoint and Excel in ISEC that made her studies smooth when she joined mainstream schooling. In the end either I do it or I don’t, I think it is all up to me.”
Although Meiko is thinking about going to university in another country rather than in Japan, she doesn’t have any real ideas about what type of work she wants to do in the future. However, she does have subjects that really interest her and lots of things she wants to do, and she feels like one of the merits of studying internationally is the great choice of subjects on offer.
“Part of me wanted to experience high school life in Japan, but the opportunity to have the valuable experiences of studying internationally are a once in a lifetime opportunity and we only have the window of a few years to do it, so I am really glad that I just took up the challenge and came to Adelaide to study.”
Meiko has just finished the first half of her studies here and she will keep balancing volleyball with her studies in the second half, enjoying every moment of her ever increasingly fulfilling life as an international student here.