Translation: Six reasons to thank our Japanese students
It might be tempting to think we are the ones doing the favour when we host international students but I’m sure we benefit just as much, if not more, from their visits.
We just farewelled 19 middle school students from Yamanashi Gakuin, West of Tokyo in Japan. It was a flying visit of only one week that culminated in a special “Sayonara party” on Thursday evening where in typical Japanese style they lavished their thanks upon us for being their host. However, I believe the benefit to our own students and College community can’t be understated. I can think of at least six reasons to thank our Japanese students for visiting us.
1. Small taste of multiculturalism
This has been an excellent opportunity for our students to interact with people their own age from another country and culture. Students gained an expanded worldview and it can even open their eyes to parts of our own culture. There are so many things we consider ‘normal’ that would be considered strange or even outrageous in other cultures. For example, most of us don’t think twice about blowing our nose in public but it is just not done in Japan. On the other hand, it is polite to loudly slurp noodles in Japan but considered rude in Australia. Sometimes it is the little differences that are the most fascinating. Our Year 7 students were treated to presentations from our visitors about their culture and school life on Wednesday and they found it fascinating.
2. See your surroundings in a different light.
Host families in particular benefit from seeing their surroundings in a new light. I remember our first contingent of Japanese students about a decade ago. They were with us for two weeks and were hosted by GCC families who showed them a great time. They took them to the beach, shopping in Mooloolaba and some even splurged on a visit to Australia Zoo but what the students really enjoyed didn’t cost any money at all! These particular students were from Tokyo and they were overawed by our beautiful starry night skies because they had never experienced them in their part of Japan! Ever since then, I’ve been a little more grateful and appreciative when I see our sky at night.
3. Enhance your communication skills
Australians can be lazy speakers. We roll our words into each other, for example: “howyagoinmate?” or “avagoodweekend” or shorten them almost beyond recognition. For example, we don’t have afternoon tea with a cup of coffee and a biscuit; we have ‘arvo tea with a cuppa and a bickie’. Speaking with our Japanese visitors forces us to speak slowly, clearly and precisely. It’s not only good practice for when we travel overseas or spend time with people from other countries but these are good skills for our teenagers to develop.
4. Develop an understanding of others and ourselves
Understanding another culture better also helps us understand people who might be different from us even if they are from our own country and culture. Recognising that lots of people are different from us helps us understand that we don’t all have to be the same to be valued and understood. Children and teens often hate it when they feel different from others but when we come to realise that we are all different, it helps our acceptance and understanding of others and ourselves.
5. Shake up the daily routine
This has been a benefit for our host families and our students. Our host families are enjoying lots of activities with their students. Some are special like visiting a tourist attraction and others are just including them in our normal routines. I saw one of our host families out jogging with three of the students before school during the week and thought it was a great way to shake up a daily routine. This week, our GCC buddies have enjoyed integrated classes and lunch breaks with their Japanese visitors and it has certainly livened up the usual class and break routines!
6. Form life-long friendships
Earlier I mentioned that our first visit from Japanese students was more than a decade ago. Did you know that many of those students and host families forged strong friendships and are still in regular communication today? Some of the Japanese students even came back to Australia for visits after their graduation and some of our students and host families have been to Japan to visit them! Disney got something right when their songwriter Robert B Sherman penned the song, “It’s a small world after all.” These days it is easy to have friendships and keep in regular contact with friends no matter how far away they live.
On behalf of Glasshouse Christian College, I would like to formally thank the students, the Principal Mr Yoshida and the teachers Mizuki Iida and Akio Shinohara from Yamanashi Gakuin for honouring us with their visit.
Mike Curtis, Principal