Kennedy student studies in Japan

Tara Mittelberg

Over the summer, Hannah James, jr., spent six weeks studying abroad inJapan.

James became interested in the Japanese language and culture after playing video games influenced byJapan. Her Japanese teacher, Daniel Carolin, introduced Youth For Understanding, the foreign exchange program James traveled through, to the class one day.

“I thought it might be cool to try it and see if I can get a scholarship, and I did,” James said.

To prepare for her trip, James bought new clothes and an English-Japanese dictionary. “I also got a couple of applications for my iPod,” James said. “Those saved my life.” She attended a three-day orientation inCaliforniato learn about the cultural differences betweenAmericaandJapan.

While studying inJapan, James stayed with a host family. Her host father and two brothers, ages 16 and 18, spoke adequate English, and her host mother was an English language teacher. “My host mom was like my best friend,” James said. “She spoke really good English; I spent a lot of time with her.”

Everyday James rode a public train to school with her younger host brother. In most Japanese high schools students stay in the same classroom all day and a different teacher comes for every class period. Therefore, James spent most of her time with the same students. “The girls in my class were very energetic. I think the boys were kind of afraid of me; I guess American girls were kind of intimidating to a Japanese boy,” James said.

Hannah James, jr., (right) sporting her Japanese school's uniform

James saw a few differences between Japanese and American social interactions. “I noticed that I’m really loud,” she said. “You don’t notice that here because everyone’s loud inAmerica.” While inJapan, James most missed air conditioning and Dr. Pepper. However, she enjoyed the healthier Japanese food and developed a liking for seafood.

James was relatively unaffected by the language barrier between English and Japanese. “Because they teach English in school, other students spoke pretty good English,” James said. “There were a few misunderstandings, but usually we spoke a mix of Japanese and English.” James picked up some new words of Japanese by simply hearing them in her everyday life. She also taught herself the meanings of a few Kanji, Japanese written characters, so she could better understand printed materials.

The highlight of James’ trip was spending a day shopping with her classmates. “I felt like I finally really belonged,” James said. “[My trip] was really fun. I think if anyone wants to do an exchange program they should. You get homesick a little but it’s fun.”

James' host family's home


James visited this Japanese castle near her host family's town

All photos provided by Hannah James