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2024 Ebetsu-Gresham High School Exchange Program Participant Reports

印刷用ページを表示する 掲載日:2024年3月26日更新

"A Month of Feeling the Vastness of the World" by Kaede Ikeda, Sapporo Higashi High School

 かえで 日本語の授業 グレシャム

 First of all, I would like to express my heartfelt gratitude to everyone who has worked so hard to support the sister city relationship between Ebetsu and Gresham. This past month has been the best month of my life.

 I have been interested in English and foreign countries since I was an elementary school student. I loved English class, I tried to sing English songs (even though the lyrics were totally off), and I watched videos of people living abroad on YouTube. I hoped to study abroad someday, but I never dreamed that I would be able to have that experience while still in high school.

 It was my first time traveling overseas, and I was traveling with one other high school student. Normally that would make one feel anxious. However, I was so excited that I left Japan without feeling anxious at all. We arrived in Los Angeles, and as soon as we stepped outside, I was moved by the view of America that I had always seen through my smartphone and TV screen. After that, our connecting flight was canceled, so we had to stay the night in Los Angeles. On the way to the hotel, we saw the large LAX sign, and Momoha and I had to stop to admire the glowing red sunset behind it. Thanks to the beautiful scenery, we were able to forget our troubles.

 The next afternoon, I finally met my host family. There were welcome presents waiting for me in my room, and Elena, my host sister closest in age to me, had hand-knitted me a stuffed rabbit. The thoughtfulness of my host family filled my heart with joy. Staying with a nine-person family was lively and fun. On the second day of my homestay, a winter storm caused a power outage that lasted for two days. During that time, my host sisters and I played Uno and a Mexican card game called Lotería. Once the power came back, I realized my appreciation for modern conveniences and universal card games.

 Gresham High School had finals week, so local volunteers planned various activities for us. We had lunch with Japanese majors at the local community college, we had Papa John’s pizza, which I had been longing to try for some time, and we visited downtown Portland. Thanks to the volunteers, I was able to have a fulfilling week. In particular, the 1000-calorie cheesecake left a lasting impression on me. I will never forget the taste of that high-calorie cheesecake, which was equivalent to about half of my daily-recommended calorie intake! It tasted sweeter than pure sugar.

 After finals week ended, I rode on a yellow school bus as I had always dreamed about, and attended Gresham High School for the first time. It was so beautiful and built like a college campus. I was amazed by how different it was from my own high school. Americans start school surprisingly early, with first period starting at around 7:30. I took the same classes as Elena all day. I knew that chewing gum or eating small snacks was allowed in American classrooms, but I was shocked to see someone eating a hamburger.

 In addition, Gresham High School has students of various races and ethnicities, including white, black, Hispanic, and Asian. I felt that American culture is not formed by everyone identifying only as an "American," but by respecting and mixing each person's diversity and roots. I saw people coming to school wearing the traditional costumes of their family’s country of origin, and it was very refreshing to see them cherishing their heritage even though they were in the United States.

 After school and on the weekends, my host family took me many places, such as fast food restaurants, popular restaurants, Portland, the mall, and Starbucks. My host sister Sydney loves Starbucks, so she took me there almost every day. Grande (473 ml) is large in Japan, but according to Sydney, that’s kids’ size, so she always ordered me a venti (709 ml). On top of that, we drank cola with dinner. I was shocked when I realized I was drinking over one liter of sugary drinks each day.

 My host family took me many places, but the Space Needle was the most memorable. It is a tower located in Seattle, Washington, and has an observation deck where you can enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of the Olympic Peninsula, the Cascade Mountains, and Mount Rainier. Tourists come from all over the world to see this breathtaking view. I will never forget it.

 I wanted to share my culture with my host family, so I brought soy sauce and mirin, and made teriyaki chicken, mitarashi dango, and Japanese curry. Teriyaki chicken was a hit! With my host sisters’ help, we made 24 pieces. It has become a staple of my host family’s dinner rotation even after I returned to Japan.  

 On the last day of school, my friends and teachers said, “Kae, arigato,” and gave me some presents and letters. I was truly touched. I also received countless gifts from my host family. On the day of my departure, even though I had an early flight and needed to leave the house at 3:30 AM, my entire host family came to see me off. I was so sad to say goodbye to them that I cried while looking at their photos on the plane. The month was over before I knew it. Even though I was far from home, thanks to the wonderful people around me, I did not feel lonely at all. I was so blessed. I have returned to Japan, but I still contact my host family and the friends I made every day. I will see them again someday!

 Through this study abroad experience, I was able to feel the vastness of the world. Every day was full of surprises and new experiences. Again, I would like to thank everyone who supported this exchange program, including the staff and volunteers in Ebetsu and Gresham, my host family who welcomed me, my family who supported me from Japan, and Momoha who traveled with me. Thank you very much, everyone!

"Study Abroad in America - Memories to Last a Lifetime" by Momoha Shima, Ebetsu High School

 パスタ クラス ホストシスター

 Thank you very much for allowing me to participate in the Ebetsu-Gresham Sister City Exchange Program. The month I spent in America was a wonderful experience and has become my treasured memory.

 My family and I have often gone on overseas trips since I was small, but I felt frustrated because I couldn’t understand the English that was spoken to me. For that reason, I decided to study English and study abroad someday. My homeroom teacher introduced this wonderful program to me, and for that, I am very grateful.

 I didn’t feel particularly nervous when it was decided that I would study abroad, but the day before I left, I was suddenly overwhelmed with anxiety. Luckily, the other student, Kaede, and I got along very well, so she helped calm my nerves. I was able to depart from Japan with peace of mind. However, there was a state of emergency in Portland due to freezing rain, and the airport was closed. We were stranded at LAX and stayed in a hotel for one night. I was going to meet my host family one day late, but relaxing at the hotel cured my jet lag!

 The next day, we took the first flight and arrived safely in Portland. Local volunteers Barry and Bill picked us up and drove us to our host families’ houses. Since it was my first time in America, I was moved by just looking at the scenery from the car window.

 Once I arrived at my host family’s house, they welcomed me warmly. “If you’re hungry, help yourself to whatever you like in the fridge.” “Let me know if you don’t feel well,” they said. Their kind words made me feel very comfortable.

 My host family consisted of my host father, host mother, host sister, host brother, and one cat. I was told that the cat’s name is Kenma. It sounded like a Japanese name to me, so I asked about the origin of the name. My host sister said, “Because Kenma is my favorite character in the anime Haikyu!!” Kenma is my favorite character from that anime too, so my host sister and I hit it off! I was very happy that she watches Japanese anime.

 The freezing rain canceled school for one week, so during that time we watched my recommended anime together, and also watched movies as a family. “Why don’t we try going outside?” my host sister said, so we played in the park in the freezing rain. The cars, the roads, and the playground were frozen solid, and people were ice skating in the street. I felt like it was a scene taken straight from a movie. We couldn’t go to school, but thanks to my host family, I was able to have a fulfilling week.

 The following week school was open, but since it was finals week, I couldn’t go. Local volunteers took Kaede and me to tours of the police department, fire department, Portland, and many other places. The most shocking thing to me was the jail cell in the police department, because the only thing it contained was a toilet. The starkness creeped me out a bit, so I will try not to get arrested!

 The school in America was very large and had a large number of students. Students were free to eat, drink, and listen to music during class, and they could dress and style their hair any way they like. I felt that individuality is important, and I wished Japan were the same way. There is more group work in American classes than in Japan, so I understood why there are so many expressive and friendly people in America. At school, many people talked to me and I was able to make friends from many different countries. For lunch, my host sister drove us to a restaurant, and we bought our lunches and ate them during class. After school, I spent every day with friends skateboarding in the park, shopping, and doing many other fun activities.

 On the weekends, my host family took me to parties, shopping, and to the beach. I also hung out with friends. The most enjoyable time was going out for Korean barbecue with many friends and making sweets at a house party afterwards. This was a special day for me because I was going back to Japan on Valentine’s Day, so my friends organized this party to celebrate with me and make some lasting memories. I was surprised by how sudden it was, but I deeply felt that I had made some great friends.

 Through this study abroad program, I learned about different cultures, met my wonderful host family and friends, and I was able to gain new knowledge by experiencing things I could not experience in Japan. In the future, I would like to work hard on activities that serve as a bridge for international exchange, and take actions that build even deeper relationships.

 It is thanks to this program that I was able to have such a wonderful experience. I would like to thank Kaede for traveling with me, my homeroom teacher for encouraging me, all the people involved with the program in Ebetsu and Gresham for looking out for me, and my family for supporting me. Thank you very much.