People Making Changes Issue 2 -
New schools and homestays
- Dorothy - 10/1/97
Changing countries has its problems - for the exchange
student and the host family.
Emiko Komagata was sent by her mother to English school in Japan - rather a
difficult change for her as she knew almost no English. She responded so
well to this change that next she wanted to go to where most people spoke
English all the time. This she did when she was fifteen. She went to Los
Angeles for a month. She returned for tertiary study and now visits her
homestay family every year. Here in Christchurch, New Zealand, she is in
her fourth homestay in a household where she is their thirteenth homestay
Emiko and Ayano, exchange students from Japan, on the Port Hills
Emiko's home town is what she calls "a small town in Japan" - Kawasaki -
with a population of 1,203,000 people and an area of 142 square kilometres.
Most people live in apartments and the streets are narrow compared with
the roads in Los Angeles. So her first strong impression on arrival was
that everything looked different, including the height of American people
who were much taller than the average Japanese people, and the variety in
the colour of people's hair. Only a few had black hair!
Getting into bed was the first problem at her homestay. At what level among
the layers should she sleep? She watched how her American homestay sister
got into bed, because in Japan she was used to sleeping between two futons
and found American bedding confusing. The problem of how to make the bed
was solved in the same way - by watching.
Asking questions seemed too scary for some of her Japanese friends and they
slept on top of the bedding on a couch for weeks because they did not know
how to turn it into a bed. Emiko found out about arrangements for laundry
by asking. Her hostess showed her how to turn on the shower, so she coped
Eating with a knife and fork was a problem. Would the meat slip off the
plate when she tried to cut it? Which cutlery should she use? Again she
solved the problem by watching everyone else first. Food was not a problem
as she had eaten Western food in Japan and enjoyed it.
Calling older people like her homestay parents by their first names was a
change she did not find easy - so different from the Japanese way.
The large amount of homework was a surprise to Emiko when she attended an
American high school. Little is set in Japanese schools and the teachers
do not check to see whether the students have done it. Many students attend
cram schools outside regular school hours and rely on these to get them
through their exams.
Small classes, lecturers taking a personal interest in the students'
progress, offers of individual assistance, group discussions, tests and
exams - all these happening in tertiary education were a suprise to Emiko.
Her Japanese university awarded her a scholarship to study at the Business
Studies Programme at Christchurch College of Education.
At the university which Emiko attended there are hardly any tests or exams.
The assessment is based on a report which the students must research and
write independently. There is little emphasis placed on regular attendance
at lectures which often relate very little to the report topics. Writing
in English in the style appropriate to business reports has been a
challenge for Emiko. The short time allowed in exams and tests was an
Emiko has coped with the changes for one semester and the result? She
passed all her subjects with flying colours.
Like most exchange students Emiko took the chance to visit other places in
New Zealand. Queenstown attracts most overseas visitors. While she was
there Emiko went for a trip on the vintage train, the Kingston Flyer, and
greatly enjoyed it.
Emiko boarding the Kingston Flyer
Since she returned to Japan Emiko has completed her university degree
course. Recently she has had to take over the management of one of her
family's businesses, a restaurant, at very short notice. She has found
that her studies in Business Communication and Organisation and Management
while at the College of Education have been most helpful in her new role.
For further information follow these links:
Education in Canterbury
Accomodation in Canterbury
People Making Changes Main Page
Published with permission from NZine