Shoma came to Adelaide in April 2019 to study here and complete his high school education. He enrolled in the Specialist Soccer Program at Hallett Cove School when he first started studying here and even now, in Year 11, he is successfully balancing his studies and soccer, making the most of his life here.
School Soccer Program
Having really focused on playing soccer since his fourth grade of elementary school, Shoma chose a junior high school that has a strong soccer team and really applied himself to the sport every day. During that time, he was fortunate to get the opportunity to play in France and he says it was while he was there that he became conscious of his desire to play soccer overseas. “I wasn’t really good at studying so I thought that I want to do something which would give me the skills to help me in the future. For me, that was to learn English while playing soccer overseas.” While deciding on which high school to go to, the idea of studying at an overseas high school became a clearer goal, so much so that he began talking to his parents about it to get their advice. They really understood their son and were fully supportive of his decision.
There were several countries that were good candidates for him to study in, but while sifting through English speaking countries he looked at factors including safely and high level of soccer and Australia became the natural choice. Then, when choosing which city in Australia would be best, Shoma was able to narrow it down to three cities, and he and his mother actually flew to Australia and travelled around to inspect various schools in each of the cities, each of which offered a soccer program. The pair visited two schools in Adelaide with soccer programs but when he went to Hallett Cove School it was the ‘at home’ atmosphere that made him feel comfortable and he says he instinctively thought to himself, “I want to come to this school!”.
“I’m really glad I came to this school. I have no regrets.” And that feeling still hasn’t changed.
Challenging but not Hard
Shoma started his study here with the ISEC (Intensive Secondary English Course), an intensive English language course for international students, but he says at first he had absolutely no idea what the teachers were talking about or what his homework was. He says, “That first year, study was a constant challenge.” This was really highlighted when he decided to extend his time in ISEC, which normally has students enter main stream class after six months, to really get a strong grasp on the language from the very basics.
Shoma says that staying in ISEC longer was not a bad thing, nor did it make him feel down. He joined the soccer program from when he first enrolled in ISEC so he had already started making friends with local students there. And in order to improve his English, he pushed himself to speak English with local students outside of the ISEC class. By proactively making the effort to spend time with his local friends and through trying his hardest with soccer, Shoma has been able to make a place for himself. “Going into my second year of study here I became able to speak English and I no longer had problems with everyday conversation. I really think that making local friends through soccer was a big factor in making this happen.”
The Challenges of Soccer
The Specialist Soccer Program is set up so that soccer is a subject that counts towards the student’s grades. Each week there are practical and theoretical classes and they even have matches with other soccer program schools from across the country. As part of his international study application, Shoma presented a video of himself playing soccer which helped him to successfully pass the screening process and earn a place in Hallett Cove School’s Soccer program; his journey had begun.
In addition to his school’s soccer program, Shoma joined a team at the local soccer club when he first started studying here. As it is a local club, it is close to his homestay family’s home and he made friends with others from his high school and age group. It also really helped him to get used to the English language. Shoma quickly settled into the team and became a key player before being scouted by the high-ranking Cumberland United FC, and playing in their U18 reserves team while studying at high school. Realising his improvements as a soccer player along with all his other growth, Shoma really is making the most of his life here in Australia. “With grassed ovals, Adelaide’s standard of soccer is very high and it really provides the best environment for playing!”
Starting Year 11
Starting Year 11 from 2021, Shoma’s school assignments are increasing and becoming more difficult, but he says that he is somehow managing to keep up. Until the end of Year 10 he says there was flexibility that allowed him to continue even if he didn’t quite get it 100%, but he is becoming more and more aware that Year 11 will need him to really focus. The tutor he has had since he first began studying here continues to play a significant role supporting Shoma. He has so much appreciation not only for his tutor but also for the two home stay families, his school teachers, friends, and his parents who support his study here. He really wants to be able to repay everyone but especially his parents one day in the future.
While he hasn’t decided on his career and what he plans to do after graduating from high school, his dream of becoming a professional soccer player hasn’t changed. “There are people who belonged to my club that are now professional players so I think I have a chance,” says Shoma who at the same time says he is working hard to set goals to go to university either in Australia or Japan.
Finally, Shoma has a message for anyone who is going to study abroad. “I think you definitely need friends. For me, it isn’t fun without friends and having friends is the most important thing. While I think it is obviously important to have Japanese friends, I really think it is very important for your life as an international student to become friends with local people and students from other countries and spend time together. Please make sure you make friends and enjoy your time as an international student!”
Balancing soccer and studies, and enjoying the connection with friends, Shoma’s life here as an international student is running forward into the second half of the match!
To read this article in Japanese, click here.