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YFU Blog - Recent stories about Youth for Understanding

Jesse - Japan Exchange Student - Summer Program Alumnus


An eight-week exchange program in Fukuoka, Japan was the realization of Jesse’s childhood dream. After a warm welcome from his host family, he began learning how to be part of a culture with unfamiliar customs, foods, and a new language! Here is what Jesse wrote about his experience:

Winner of the 2007 National Japanese Language Speech Contest

"The Events of my Shining First Day Studying Abroad in Japan"

Greetings. My name is Jesse Bias. Last summer, through a generous scholarship from the Japanese Business Society of Detroit and Youth for Understanding International Exchange. I was able to study abroad for 8 weeks in Fukuoka, Japan. My exchange in Japan was a very fresh new opportunity, and I was able to experience many new things. Now I would like to take moment and tell you about the events of my first day studying abroad in Japan.

June 18th 2006 was quite possibly the greatest day of my life; why, you might ask? It was the day I arrived in Japan. Since the 3rd grade I have dreamed of someday traveling to Japan, but I never imagined I would have the opportunity to live there for 3 months during high school as an exchange student. The house in which I spent my home stay was a Temple and my host father was a Buddhist priest. When I first arrived in Japan my host family welcomed me warmly into their home, and treated me just as if I was a member of the family. Then they gave me a tour of the house. Afterwards, while my host mother began to prepare dinner my host grandmother and I went and sat by the kotatsu (table). My host grandmother kept talking to me about various topics, but her talking was too fast and difficult to understand. I didn’t want to be rude so I nodded my head and did my best to pretend to understand.

At last my host mother finished preparing dinner. During dinner I was surprised to find that unlike America, Japanese families always eat dinner as a family. During dinner my host family also taught me some of the local dialect, among other things. However, as we were all enjoying the conversation, something bad happened. A cockroach suddenly approached my chair. Until that moment I had never seen a cockroach, especially the size of the ones in Japan, so I immediately jumped up onto my chair in fright. My host mom hurried over with a fly swatter and killed the cockroach, and with that my eye-opening first day in Japan came to a close.

Japanese Language and Culture have made a major impact on my life, and through this exchange I was able to increase my knowledge of Japanese language and culture. Furthermore, because of this experience I intend to attend a Japanese university in the fall, and if possible work in Japan someday. I truly believe that if I hadn’t gotten this opportunity to study abroad in Japan, my life would not be the same.

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