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Alissa, Japan

In January 2022, just as the Covid-19 restrictions on entry into Australia were relaxed, Arisa Nagayama started her study abroad program in Adelaide with the goal to graduate from her Australian high school. Making the most of the challenging times when she couldn’t travel so had to take online classes, she is making the most of the remaining one and a half years she has studying here.

Arisa, who lived in the United States and was surrounded by English between the ages of two and five , attended an international school for the first two years of primary school when she returned to Japan. After transferring to a public school, she stopped using English and, even as a primary school student, felt that her English ability began to decline. Because of this she decided to go to a private integrated junior and senior high school, and take advantage of the study abroad program for a year of high school.

However, shortly after starting junior high school, Arisa began to think differently about her study abroad plans.

She heard about a student who went to study abroad in Canada for a year as part of the high school program, but enjoyed so much that they stayed and continued studying there. Arisa thought she would feel the same way, and began to think more and more about studying all of her high school studies overseas. Her parents were very understanding of her thoughts so she made the decision to study abroad for all of her high school. In particular, she says her mother really gave her a lot of support, understanding the importance of the experiences she would gain living overseas and communicating in English.

For Arisa, selecting her study abroad destination was easy. Her family had welcomed foreign students from Australia to homestay with them when she was in primary school, and learning about Australian culture and schools got her very interested in the country. Because of this, right from when she first started thinking about studying abroad, Australia was always top of the list.

She chose Adelaide because she had heard from a friend, who had consulted a study abroad agent, that Adelaide is rich in nature, has a low cost of living, and a good quality of education amongst other large cities in Australia. That friend is also now here in Adelaide attending a different high school.

Arisa had planned to start studying in Adelaide from April 2021 after graduating from junior high school, but the Australian borders remained closed after they were shut in March 2020. While a lot of students with plans to study in Australia gave up because of the closures, Arisa believed that they were short term and it would soon be possible to travel again, so she has decided to take ISEC Connect (an online version of Intensive Secondary English Course) in Term 3 & 4 (July-December) with an expectation to travel to Adelaide to begin Year 11 in Adelaide in January 2022. Before that, she spent the three months until July taking an online course at ECA (English College of Adelaide) to improve her English proficiency.

However, when she actually started her online courses, things proved to be really challenging.

“It was hard just staying at home all day. To be honest, ISEC Connect was difficult. I had a lot of homework, so I was busy even after class.”

The barriers that Covid-19 created made it difficult mentally as well but Arisa said that she started to connect via social media channels like Instagram with similar aged students from other countries also taking the online course and they built good bonds. Those other international students are now in Adelaide, and although they are at different schools, they occasionally get together and catch up. Making friends with others who had the same challenging experiences brought on by Covid-19 is something that Arisa will learn from, and make the most of while she studies here.

Starting Year 11 in Adelaide

Coming to Adelaide full of expectations, Arisa is now enjoying life at school and spending time with her host family. While at first, she didn’t really understand the school rules, found classes difficult, and had a lot of challenges with things like making friends, now, almost six months later, she says she has made many friends, can talk with her teachers about anything she needs, and is having a good time without feeling nervous.

Currently studying five subjects, she says that while classes like biology which have technical terms are still quite difficult, and there are a lot of assignments from each subject, she is working hard to do her best, utilising her self-study lessons and going to the library with friends.

In addition, Arisa has been appointed as an “International Student Ambassador” run by the SA State Government Department for Education, working with about 20 ambassadors from other countries to promote studying abroad in Adelaide.

“At home on weekdays, I make the most of my time with my host family. The food my host mother cooks is healthy and delicious, and it’s fun to watch TV together after dinner. My host family is kind and they are fun; we often do things like go hiking together. On weekends however, I consciously try to be independent, often going out with my friends.”

One thing that Arisa really likes about living in Adelaide is the sea. “The water is crystal clear; the sand is soft; it’s really beautiful.”

Arisa says she hasn’t decided on what she wants to do after she graduates or what her plans are for her future.

Before coming to Adelaide, she had planned that she would graduate from an Australian high school then return to Japan and go to a Japanese university, but now she is thinking of going to an Australian university and studying architecture. Talking to other international students she has met here, it seems that many people stay in Australia and go on to university after graduating from high school, and this, along with other experiences she has had since starting her study here are really sparking big changes in how she feels.

“I feel more free and confident in myself here than I do in Japan. I feel more rounded and free to be myself. I think Australia suits me.”