Twelve Japanese exchange students from Kyoto Girls High School in Kyoto, Japan attended TPHS from Feb. 2-9, marking the second consecutive year the school has hosted the Japanese student exchange program. This year, seven TPHS students are each hosting either one or two students.
The exchange program was arranged through Skyus, an organization that provides services for study abroad programs in California, which offer “high-quality education,” according to its official website.
In order to graduate from Kyoto Girls High School, a private school whose curriculum is centered primarily on world languages and international affairs, seniors must attend the week-and-a-half study abroad program in the United States.
“This study abroad opportunity is the last assignment they need to complete before graduation,” TPHS Japanese teacher Sato Umabe said. “[The study abroad program] teaches students to be global citizens.”
As it did last year, the week kicked off with a beach party at Moonlight Beach, planned and carried out by the school’s Japanese National Honors Society Club.
“There weren’t many changes [to the Japanese study abroad program] from last year,” Umabe said. “Since this is the second year, I’m more comfortable with what is happening … Although, I wanted to give them the opportunity to have more discussions with my students in Japanese classes and more reflection time before they left.”
During their week-long stay at TPHS, the Japanese exchange students were able not only to test and develop their English-speaking ability but also expand their cultural understanding of the United States. The exchange students compared the culture between Japan and the U.S., ranging from the noticeably-larger U.S. food portions to the contrasting fashion trends in the two countries, according to TPHS Japanese student Avery Osman (12), who hosted two students from Japan.
“In Japan, [the people] don’t really take showers but [bathe instead],” Osman said. “There is also a really big language barrier, so I learned how to be more helpful and outgoing … and be less shy and more open about things.”
According to Osman and her two Japanese exchange students, Reina Mizutani and Yuna Matsunaga, they enjoyed participating in a variety of activities, with their favorite being shopping at the Westfield UTC mall was the most memorable activity they enjoyed together.
“I like the [Japanese study abroad program] very much,” Mizutani said. “I really liked going hiking [at the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve], going shopping, going to Starbucks and going to parties … the weather was very good.”
While the Japanese study abroad experience got high marks from both guests and hosts, the language challenges complicated communication between the foreign students and TPHS students.
“Listening to English and understanding [it] was very difficult because it’s very different from reading and doing English exercises in a textbook. Especially because the rate at which the English is being spoken is very fast, simple phrases or slang … like ‘What’s up?’ can be confusing and strange,” Matsunaga said in Japanese, translated by Umabe.
Despite continued language and cultural barriers, Matsunaga and Mizutani see the study abroad program as a unique learning opportunity that they would want to experience again. They also feel that the program has indeed helped them become improved global citizens.
“I want to learn how to speak to many people all over the world,” Matsunaga said.
On Feb. 9, a farewell party was held for the 12 exchange students. After leaving San Diego, the students continued on to tour Los Angeles for several days before returning to Japan.
The 12 Japanese exchange students from Kyoto Girls High School who visited TPHS from Feb. 2-9 tour TPHS’ campus, go into different classrooms and observe the classes and learning environment. This is the second year that TPHS has hosted the Japanese student exchange program.