It almost feels like as if it was just yesterday when I was with my co-exchange student (Rashiel) on a plane going to the land of animes not really knowing what to expect and worry but thrilled for what the experience will bring for me. I’m back home with loads of reminiscence, school works to pass, and infinite stories to share. I can’t seem to find the perfect words to start my experience as an exchange in Kumamoto, Japan for almost a year.
Well, I have never imagined myself traveling abroad alone nor being an exchange student. I’ve wanted to be an exchange student ever since AFS Intercultural Programs Philippines held an orientation in our school (PSU-LHS). I’ve listened intently to their lectures, took down notes and I thought then that living in another country, surrounded by new faces would be the most awesome thing in the world.
I would be on my own, making a cool Adventure Time episode of my life, and fulfill my dream of experiencing something different and exciting. During my third year high school, AFS conducted an interview, and together with my twin (Ivy), we decided to join and choose the whole year experience for it may give me more immersion and would make the experience so much better.
Unfortunately, my twin did not made it as the program does not accept two people that are biologically related and applying for the same scholarship. My twin understood the situation and I thank her for that. All over the Philippines, I ranked first, my twin at second place, and another guy from Albay, third, which makes him my companion in Japan for a year program.
The process of going to another country wasn’t that easy at all. We had tons of interviews, written exams, application for Visa, and so much more. After about four to five months of preparation, I got an e-mail confirming that I am one of the representative of the Philippines for Kamenori Program and on the same day, I also received an e-mail from my host family. I was so excited and overwhelmed and I was telling all of my friends and teachers about it. I surfed the Internet for information about Japan. I was getting tensed (in a good way) of the experiences I can get during my stay.
And the day that I have been waiting for finally came. At exactly 5:30 in the morning, March 19th, me and my BFF Rashiel were escorted by AFS volunteers to the airport. I had mixed emotions. “Yung feeling na pinapawisan pero excited pa rin ako,” those were the last words from the text I sent to my mom. I wasn’t nervous. Not at all.
We arrived in Narita Airport after a 4-hour smooth flight. We were welcomed by AFS Japan volunteers with warm smiles on their faces. We had a three-day orientation in Tokyo, and another three-day orientation in Osaka. After that, we rode a small plane headed to my place of stay, Kumamoto.
Being an exchange student is not an easy task.I needed to be independent in many ways like budgeting my allowance, decision making, and simply washing my own clothes.
One of the highlights of my exchange year was being able to attend a Japanese school (Uto Junior and Senior Highschool) which enabled me to experience their education system, also their school festivals and club activities. I wasn’t a fan of anime but I find their festival themes and other events, cute. I also had my host family (Nakashima Family) who accommodated me wholeheartedly for a year.
During my stay, I didn’t just learn their way of writing and language, but I also learned how to immerse myself deep in another culture. It was hard at first but I’m very thankful because Japanese people are very thoughtful and caring. I also learned to be more sociable and vocal about my opinions for the image and impression that I’ll make will also be the image of my representing country, the Philippines.
(Eunice is a graduate of PSU Laboratory High School and will enter college this school year. She will take up BS Petroleum Engineering. Her proud parents are Mr. Ulysses and Ruth Consebido)
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