MY LIFE IN THE DESERT
Hey guys!! My name is Kano Okada from the 6-year Program Course and I was currently an exchange student from the EIL program.
Studying abroad had beem one of my dreams since I was 12 and luckily, with an affluent support from various people around me and with my hard-work, I managed to make my dreams come true. I stayed in a city called Scottsdale, which is in Arizona, the desert. Its location is in the southwest of the United States and the capital of Arizona is Phoenix.
The climate is mild warm in the winter and extremely hot in the summer. The temperature goes up to 50℃ which is boiling hot. The best season there is probably from the early November until the late March. That is the time when it is not too hot to spend outside, so many people from different states come and visit during these seasons.
Scottsdale is besieged by numerous cactuses and palm trees. It is a rich, resort city and has a lot of tourists every year. There are many golf courses, outdoor pools, art museums and tennis courts to do fun activities.
I attended a local academical public high school called Saguaro High School. I took a school bus for about 15 minutes to go to school every day. Does anyone know what a saguaro is? It is the name of the cactus that grows around Arizona.
My school has 1281 students in total and 114 faculty members. The school mascot is a saber cat which represents my host school.
My school is known as holding the number one high school football team in Arizona which is really, amazing. Also, my school possesses a high academical study program.
My school hours started from 7:30am to 2:30pm and students usually have 6 hours of classes per day. Each class lasts for 54 minutes. I took Algebra, Oceanography/Astronomy, Theatre, American History, English for sophomores and Graphic Design class. In algebra class, I learned the basic mathematical problems.
I honestly would say that the level of the content in America is low compared to Japan, but it was a good exercise for my brain and helped me review my math skills.
In Oceanography/ Astronomy, I did a lot of projects based on each unit. The vocabularies for oceanography and astronomy are not used commonly so I struggled a little with that at first.
In theatre class, for the first semester we learned about stage directions, playwrights, monologue, history of ancient theatre and improved. In the second semester, I studied tech theatre, puppetry, creating our own script, cultural theatre and history of broad way.
Through my theatre class, I had a chance to demonstrate the Japanese traditional play called Rakugo in front of my classmates, which had been one of my memorable moments since that was the time when I actually got to have the opportunity to share Japanese culture as a representative student from Japan. In American history class I not only simply gained knowledge about the past events of the United States but also, I was able to observe how American students were taught about world war II. Sometimes I got scared hearing and watching about what Japan had done in the past, but it made me see the world in a clear way from different perspectives.
In English class, I read and looked into a lot of literature and poem by having class discussions and by presenting essays. I did a presentation about cellphone usage in schools and gun control in America which were both interesting topics since cellphones and gun control was things that were related to issues that were occurring at that time.
In graphic design class, I learnt how to utilize the three major programs to design on a computer which are Photoshop, In design and illustrator. We usually had to create a thumb nail before we design on the computer. At first the programs were difficult to operate, but eventually I got better and better by practicing little by little. Practice makes everything better!
I joined two school activity clubs during my stay.
One was the International club which gave me the chance to share about Japanese culture ,and also knowing about other countries. We had a lunch meeting every Monday and at that point, we discussed global issues occurring in society. We tried to collect picture books, stationary goods and toiletry materials that can possibly give aid to people in impoverished areas. We created a big box in the main square at school to collect donations and we eventually was able to send the things that we gathered to countries in Africa. We did a lot of volunteer works to make the world a better place.
Other school club that I joined was the girl’s tennis team which I was waiting for the season to come for a long time since one of my hobbies was to play tennis. Tennis started from the middle of January until the end of April and the practice was from Monday through Friday after school for about two hours. We had our tennis games about 3 times a week and this intensive training made me become a stronger individual in a many different ways. Additionally, I was able to see the American sports spirit with my own eyes which made me realize that local people there are passionate when it comes to sports.
I stayed with my host parents who are both engineers and is working at Intel. They both were living a hectic life but they were kind enough to adapt me as a new family member.
On the weekends I had a lot of chances to spend time with them. They both like to play golf, cooking and traveling. We did a lot of things together and every moment with them were precious for me. We usually did grocery shopping, watched movies and did outdoor activity.
What we really loved to do was just sit down and talk. Our relationship was just like natural real family and nothing fake at all and I liked that.
I literally told them everything that happened in school or what I did with my friends. They always listened to me and gave me pieces of advice when I needed.
They always supported me and cheered me up. I love my host parents so much and I miss them so much.
There were a lot of culture differences between Japan and America. For the past 16 years, my life was fully based in Japan, and then all of a sudden, I got into a completely different environment where everything around me was new.
The first month or two were so uncomfortable for me and I was a little lazy to get out of my comfort zone. The time when I actually got used to America was probably after 6 month and although It feels like I took too much time to utterly accept the American culture, it was really that hard to break the walls.
Throughout my year I, of course, got into homesickness which occurred to most of the exchange students. I do not necessarily define this loneliness as a negative circumstance since this experience of mine helped me become a mature person who can have self-control. Furthermore, this experience made me realize how families are important and precious and It even made me love my country more.
Language was no problem for me, but I wasn’t sure about all the slangs and word abbreviation. Once you get into school, you will hear local high school students having a conversation and eventually your ears will start to catch up with the words naturally. So, do not worry about language problems, but it is necessary to try to chat with people and have an interaction with them.
When conjuring up and thinking back about my study abroad life, I would say that it was a success and I would give myself an 80 out of 100. I am so glad that I got this opportunity and I would wish to share the idea with people in Japan that we always can make our own decisions, you don’t need to be forced by people about what to do next and it is always important to stand up and share your opinions with no fear.
You can always disagree with people and let people know your ideas and that behavior is not rude at all. Nobody will comprehend your feelings if you don’t express your inner thoughts. Don’t hesitate to scatter what you think and try to tell people directly what you think. Don’t be indirect, otherwise it will cause a new misunderstanding.
Before I went to the United States, I never lived my life without my parents and I didn’t know everything about this complicated world that are full of conflicts and global issues. I still don’t know everything about this world, but I at least was able to see the different parts of the world.
We are all human, so of course, everybody wants to be in their comfort zone and live a stable life. I think, for every exchange student including me, had a hard time to adapt the diverse culture and environment at first. Throughout out this year, I realized that the world is not always perfect and it is essential to appreciate people and always respect them and love them just the what they are.
If I would give a piece of advice to the future exchange students, I would say that always remember that you are not here to waste your time.
You have your own purpose, always keep in mind, always ask yourself, “Why am I here?”. So that, you don’t lose your track.
Always remember appreciation to people around you. Always say the word “Thank you” to them and let people know that you are appreciating them.
Also, I recommend every one of you to join some sort of sports team even if you suck at sports. It is not about abilities but about participation. By being part of something, you will feel like you are part of something special.For me, I was in the girl’s tennis team and I really was impressed with the team spirit and loved it.
Again, I learned that this world isn’t always perfect but if we try to make this world better it will always be better. We can’t give up on our goals until we reach the peak. I assert that it is vital to believe in yourself and be positive. Let’s make this world a better place.