MOUNT GILEAD — Japanese student Akine Ishiwatari says there is a lot that surprised her when she came to live as an exchange student in Mount Gilead.
The first difference she mentioned between the USA and Japan is that teachers stay in the same room at American high schools. In Japan the teachers move from room to room and students remain in their home room all day.
Akine’s school in Japan has six floors and is a private Christian high school. She said there is a lot of pressure in Japan to do well on exams. There is also a lot of memorizing because teachers tell you what to study for exams.
At Mount Gilead, Akine is a junior and has English, anatomy, algebra II, ACT English, science and American history. She likes her math class better here than in Japan. There she had 11 classes and more homework.
“We also take our shoes off when we go into school in Japan, and when we go into our home and most other places,” added Akine.
Akine is living with Mike and Kim Porter in Mount Gilead. Kim said it’s been hard for Akine to get used to the food.
“She doesn’t like potatoes, especially mashed potatoes,” said Kim as Akine made a face. “But she does like French fries. She misses the food in Japan. She loves noodles, but doesn’t like their raw fish.”
Mount Gilead Principal Deb Clauss praised the young woman.
“I give Akine so much credit for her fortitude and positive attitude. She has been lucky to live with the Porters! They have made the transition easier than most. Akine is a sweet young lady. She has worked hard at the high school curriculum, and her smile is contagious. I will certainly miss Akine when she leaves MGHS.”
“We think a lot inside ourselves,” said Akine, speaking of characteristics of Japanese people. “Showing respect is also very important to us.”
She said suicide is a big problem in Japan because of keeping everything inside. Akine said Americans show emotion much more. She is surprised at some of the things her classmates say to each other. But then they get over things more easily and forgive each other.
Akine is from Sapporo and said the Japanese ride the crowded trains or buses every day. People there use public transportation much more. Here there is more room with lots of roads and many more people drive their own cars instead of using public transportation.
“Japanese people worry much more about what people think,” said Akine. “Showing respect is very important, but it feels fake sometimes. You still need to show respect – even for mean people. Otherwise you might lose a recommendation or work.”
Akine said her favorite activities this year were football games and the prom. There isn’t anything like that in Japan, although they do have school festivals with activities.
Kim Porter said the students and teachers have been very welcoming to Akine. Akine agreed and said she‘s made lots of friends this year.
She will return for her senior year in Japan and plans to take tests for the university and hopes to have good recommendations. Her exchange is through ASSE International Student Exchange programs.
“I like America and I would also like to travel and see Europe and England,” Akine said.