Year 12 student Joe Krishnapillai spent much of his summer holidays in Japan, including a week at our sister school Obu Higashi High School.
Just a day after the school year finished, I was off by myself on a flight to Japan. Ever since returning from the Elwood College exchange program in 2014 I had been planning a return to Japan. During the Obu Higashi High School exchange to Elwood College last year, I was able to talk with Principal Mr Takai and Japanese English teachers Miss Saitoh and Miss Shibazaki to organise a return to the Japanese school once again. Without their help my trip would have been impossible, so I am very thankful.
After a whole day of travelling in planes and trains, I was greeted by my generous host family in the city of Nagoya. I had previously met my host sister Minami Takagi when she came to Australia last year but had never spoken to the rest of her family. Through the extra Japanese speaking sessions Kuri Sensei has offered to VCE students, I had much more confidence in my ability, which helped me settle in extra fast with my host family.
The very next day I was off to Obu Higashi High School for the 8.30am start. I was more prepared for the intensity of Japanese schooling this time around. I surprised myself, in how much classwork I could understand compared to the last time I was there. The students and teachers were very accommodating. I was moved classes halfway through the week so that the students would have an equal share of the English speaking student for their English classes.
As the week was coming to an end there was school assembly. They ran out of topics early and decided to get me up to the front to speak to the gym full of students and answer questions. I was in no way prepared for this but I think I surprised many of the students and teachers as I understood and answered the questions asked of me. On my final day, I went into a meeting with the Principal Mr Takai, where we had an informal interview about the sister school and exchange program. I was able to tell him about how enriching these programs are for students, not just in the learning of language but also culture.
Although I only spent one week at Obu Higashi, it was a very enjoyable and enriching experience. I stayed with the Takagi family for a couple of weeks afterwards, visiting various places across Japan. In my final week, I was able to reunite with my host family from 2014. We were all really happy to see each other and spending time with them again was a great way to cap off my exchange experience.
Image courtesy of Obu Higashi High School.