Mito Diaries #2: Japanese High School
During my student exchange days, I had the privilege of attending an all-girls Japanese high school. Embark with me on this journey as I navigate through life as a teenage high school international student!
First Day: April 7th, 2014
"This is so nerve-wrecking"
"I think I’m ready. Maybe. I don’t know."
I looked at myself at the mirror one last time. "Bet the people back home would want a photo", I thought as I took out my tablet (yes, not a phone) and snapped a quick photo.
"You don’t want to be late!" My host dad called out as I scrambled to grab my things. I was so grateful that it was only an 8-minute walk.
As I approached the school, I was greeted by a Japanese lady who introduced herself as my home room teacher. She was also the English teacher, so that helped a lot.
"Your shoebox is 322, okay" - she said. I nodded and jotted it down on my speech paper. A week or so before school started, I was told to make a speech in front of the whole school... in Japanese. I had spent the past few days running it through with my host mum. Fingers crossed, everything would go well.
I removed my "outdoor" shoes, and put on my "indoor" shoes. I thought they were really cute, just like the ones you see in anime TV shows.
"Are you ready?" - my teacher asked. I smiled and nodded slightly.
She opened the door to the school auditorium/gym, and I literally saw the whole school there. I could feel the nervous tension rising in me as we walked to the side of the auditorium. The school principal introduced me as the new exchange student for the year, and invited me on stage.
I walked up to the podium in small steps, wanting to appear poise, but really, I just wanted to delay it as much as I could. All eyes were on me. Time to make a good impression.
My "Hello" Speech
(Below are the actual writings on my speech paper) *with English translation.
皆さん、おはようございます。*pause* bowing process —
Good morning, everyone.
最初に、私を受け入れてくれた〇〇高校の先生方ありがとうございます。 (Finish sentence before bowing)
Firstly, I would like to thank the school for taking me in.
My name is Rachel. I am 17 years old this year. I come from Northern Malaysia, Penang Island. Penang Island has delicious food, fun shopping and beautiful scenic streets.
I will study Japanese language and Japanese culture, and I would like to make many friends.
私はピアノをひいたり、歌をうたうことが好きですが、今年は新しいことに挑戦したいと思っています。いろいろな文化活動に参加したいと思っています。皆さん、さそってくださいね〜 (eye contact)
I play the piano and I like to sing, but I would like to take on new things this year. I would like to participate in cultural activities, so please invite me [to them]!
皆さんと過ごす学校生活を楽しみにしています。頑張りますので、どうぞよろしくお願いします。 (Finish sentence before bowing)
I look forward to spending my school life with you all. I will do best!
As I did my last bow, I heard sounds of clapping coming from the crowd. I breathed a sigh of relief and walked down the stage to where my teacher was.
Finally, it was over!
Or so I thought. After that day, I was asked to make a speech again — this time, addressing the first year students. I couldn't refuse because, well, you're supposed to listen to your teacher... so I made another speech. This time, without any guidelines for bowing or eye contact. I knew when to do what to do.
皆さん、こんにちは。 私はレイチェルです。今年は17歳です。マレーシアから来ました。 私はまだ2日しか学校に来ていませんが、しかし、私はこの学校がとても好きになりました。 それは、先生や友達がとても親切にしてくれるからです。一年生の皆さん、皆さんの先輩たちを信じて、安心して学校生活を一緒に楽しみましょう〜 私はまだ日本語が上手ではありませんが、早く日本語を覚えたいので、皆さん、私に話しかけてください。でも、ゆっくり話してくださいね〜 一緒に頑張りましょう！ ありがとうございました。
Hello, everyone. I'm Rachel. I’m 17 years old this year. I come from Malaysia. It has only been two days since I came to this school, but I have come to really like it, because of the kindness I have received from my teachers and friends. To all the juniors, trust in your seniors and have a wonderful school life together. My Japanese is still not that good, but I want to learn the language fast, so please speak to me in Japanese. But, please speak slowly. Let's do our best together! Thank you.
Okay. I am not going to do any more speeches anytime soon.
I’m tired now. Goodbye.
Here’s a snapshot of my school life!
- Classes began around 8:30AM and ended about 4:00PM, with 10 minute breaks in between classes and a 45 minute lunch break.
- After 4:00PM, students would usually have club activities. I tried out kyudo (Japanese archery), shodo (Japanese calligraphy) and sado (Japanese tea ceremony). (Guess which one I ended up joining the most hehe)
- I had two sets of school uniforms. The one pictured above was for Spring/Fall/Winter, and the other one (not pictured) was for Summer. I had to wear long up-to-the-knee black/dark blue socks and covered shoes. I didn't want to wear those loafers (they looked really uncomfortable), so I just wore my Converse sneakers. I also didn't have the black leather briefcase-like school bag, I opted for my knapsack instead.
- All classes were taught in Japanese, even the English classes. Though they did have an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher) who would use English to teach sometimes. I enjoyed the English classes most because it was the only class I was good at. In case you were wondering, yes, I was horrible at P.E.
Having the rare opportunity to experience being a Japanese high school student is something I will truly cherish. Though there were many difficulties in adjusting to the school life and making friends (more on this in my next article!), I would never trade this experience for another.
A huge thank you to the high school who took me in, and for making me do all those speeches. I'm sure my Japanese improved dramatically because of the public speaking I had to do.
P.S. I also did a farewell speech on broadcast! During that speech, I did a funny mistake: saying "カレー" (curry) instead of "彼" (he). I bet everyone laughed though I can’t know for sure because I was in the teachers’ lounge. I guess it was good to say goodbye on a funny note!
Thank you for reading!
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Stay tuned for Mito Diaries #3: Making Japanese Friends!
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