Edition 134 - Friday 3rd July 2020

Exchange to Japan

On October 4th, 2019 I went to Japan on exchange for a month with AFS Australia. I set off nervously with a newly made friend also from Sydney who was going with me but would not stay in the same town. When I first arrived in Japan we stayed in an Orientation Youth Hostel for 4 days and met many other exchange students from all around the world! It was amazing to meet so many people from Mexico, France, Russia, Hungary, Thailand, Mongolia and so many other places. The orientation was helpful in getting to know people who I was going to go with to Hiroshima. After the 4 days of orientation, I went with a French girl, a Thai girl and a Hungarian boy to Onomichi city on the Shinkansen (bullet train).

Meeting my family for the first time was an experience. I really wanted to connect with my younger sisters because I’ve always been the younger sibling. I think that they were so accommodating and kind and although there were some language barriers, they were always smiling and trying to create conversation.

My first day of school is a memory I will never forget. The Hungarian exchange student and I had been placed at the same school. It surprised me how big an event it was that two exchange students from overseas were coming. Everyone was sticking their heads out of the windows and shouting to each other. Everyone was so energetic that I got so scared even though I’m normally very extroverted. Being confronted by a class of 40 students and giving an introduction wasn’t as scary as the thought of trying to talk to them individually and I was so surprised when an energetic girl came up with all her friends and invited me to eat lunch with them. That day was so good and I remember coming back home beaming as I prepared dinner with my host mother who I had grown closer to.

I miss so many things in Japan, particularly my host family and my younger sisters who would love to play cards with me after dinner and come to my room, slip into my bed and then ask me to read out loud children Japanese books. I always will miss those nights. I experienced so many new things in Japan. I played Mario Kart for the first time with my Hungarian friend and I won!!! (Once) I will miss the food, school and friends. However, coming back to Australia and being with my friends has made me so happy too.

Japan was such an amazing experience that I still haven’t entirely comprehended. Sometimes it feels like an amazing dream and sometimes I realise how lucky I was to experience what I had been given. Although I was nervous going to Japan, going there has made me realise how little I needed to be scared. I encourage anyone who wants to go to on Exchange to embrace the experience and do something amazing!

Karen Zeng

Year 9