An ISAK education is full of challenges and sometimes students get pushed far outside of their comfort zones. It’s all part of a philosophy at ISAK that includes getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. One major challenge at ISAK this year was the homestay project in Mr. Masui’s G-10 beginning Japanese class. Students were tasked with coordinating their own homestays including contacting potential hosts, planning their travel and logistics, funding their trips, and spending the weekend with their hosts, many of whom did not speak English.
Most students completed their homestay projects in May, and have now provided Mr. Masui with considerable feedback. For many, the logistics of traveling on their own by public transportation turned out to be one of biggest challenges. The Japanese transportation system is one of the safest and most efficient in the world, but it still takes some skill and planning to board a shinkansen (bullet train) in Karuizawa and then change trains or transfer to a bus line, especially at Tokyo station! Although there were a few missteps along the way, eventually all of the students got to their destinations and connected with their hosts.
G-10 student, Long (Vietnam), described his experience this way:
How did you get to your homestay?
I went to Tokyo by shinkansen (bullet train). From Tokyo station, I was supposed to go to Ibaragi by bus, but on got on the wrong bus and went to Chiba instead. I had to take the sinkansen and go back to Ibaragi. After that, my host picked me up at Mito station.
What did you do while visiting your host?
After leaving the station, we went back to his house with his friend. The three of us ate lunch together and then we went to his farm to do some farming. Later we came back and I cooked dinner with his instruction. The next day, after eating breakfast, we went back to the farm and I had a chance to drive a truck. After sharing lunch and talking, he drove me back to ISAK.
What were some highlights of your homestay?
I learned how to plant a tree, drive a truck, use a grass cutter and cook Japanese food. Most importantly, I had a chance to practice my Japanese.
What is something you will remember forever from this experience?
My host’s kindness and his welcome for me. The Japanese traditions and the taste of the food. The smell of the farm and the feeling after you plant a tree.
What are some things you did well during this project?
I practiced my Japanese a lot in preparation. I didn’t make a bad impression on him, and we had a good time.
What are things you could have done better?
I should have talked to him more before the homestay so we could understand each other better.
What advice would you give to the G-10 students next year?
This project is soooooo good and fun, so please do it and try to find a host as soon as possible so you can improve your relationship more in advance.