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Students, teachers, Seikyo Gakuen students discuss impact of studying abroad

Lily Hao
Senior Nicolas Torre-Teramoto gives a speech in Japanese to welcome students from Japan in the Main Cafeteria. Torre-Teramoto participated in the Japanese foreign exchange program over the summer.

In recent years, studying abroad has risen in popularity. Despite the pushback COVID-19 had on international traveling, in a study done by diverse issues in education, students going abroad in 2022 have seen the largest increase as compared to past years. Matthew Miller, a CHS student who went to Japan the summer before his junior year, said he is grateful for how eye-opening a foreign country was.

“Japan was a really eye-opening experience,” Miller said. “I think going abroad whether just as a trip or as a student, is really gratifying. Like me, I really like cars and because Japan is well known for its automotive industry, I didn’t just get to dive into my own interests a little more, but I formed what I hope can be lifelong friendships. I hope to stay in contact with my host family for as long as I can.”

Like Miller, Marcia Spade, coordinator for the Japanese exchange program at CHS for our high school and the sister school, Seikyo Gakuen, said the most significant thing about these programs is the people you are able to meet.

“I’ve been doing this exchange for more than 20 years and I love seeing the students interact with people of completely different backgrounds,” Spade said. “I’ve been in contact with my first host family consistently and I visit them every time I go back to visit my son who lives in Japan. They’re my family and it really can last a lifetime.”

In addition to students from the United States studying abroad, western influence has increased the flow of international students coming here. Richard Zhang, a senior who hosted a German exchange student, said hosting an exchange student is just as much of an experience as being one.

“It’s fun hosting, but it’s hard because you are taking care of another human being for three weeks or even longer,” Zhang said.

Zhang also said he wanted to give his exchange student the American experience, but being Chinese-American, it was a challenge.

“It’s a little challenging definitely not what you call the authentic American experience but being Chinese-American, that means I get to show my exchange student not just one culture,” Zhang said. “Carmel (High School) is like its own bubble and it kind of perfectly encapsulates the diverse American culture, so I think that’s one of the greatest benefits of hosting a student here.”

Elia Ricciardi, Zhang’s exchange student, said he was more interested in English which led him to the United States. 

“I was more interested in the English language so I decided to visit here just to experience the lifestyle and it could make me want to work here maybe in the future,” Ricciardi said.

Ricciardi also said he noticed the influence the West has in popular culture.

“With a half-Italian half-German background, I live more traditionally,” Ricciardi said. “I notice Americans start a lot of popular culture and then we follow it.”

Like Ricciardi, Akito Kanatsuka, an exchange student from Japan, said he is very interested in American culture and came here to deepen his interest.

“I have always loved English,” Kanatsuka said. “I even am in the English club at Seikyo and when the American students came here, I thought about going to America to see them too. I love their music and talking or texting my American friends. My favorite song is ‘Sunflower’ from the ‘Spider Verse’ movie that an American student told me about.”

Senior Melinda Yong said she decided to host a Japanese exchange student after seeing how much fun her friend who hosted a German student was having.

Akito Kanatsuka (left) meets his host brother Braeden White (right) for the first time as part of the CHS Japanese exchange program. Kanatsuka participates in White’s classes as part of the exchange. (Lily Hao)

“Actually because of Richard, I was really convinced to host a student of my own. The whole experience looks so enjoyable just forming a genuine connection with limited words and teaching another person a different way to live,” Yong said. “It’s also like teaching them to see life differently and something I want to treasure as a memory in the future.”

Akira Tomisaka, an English teacher at Seikyo Gakuen, said the reason he is an English teacher is because he also enjoys forming genuine connections with students in different languages.

“When teaching students a new language and immersing them in a different culture, the way they speak is so simple and nice. We don’t really need all these words to communicate our appreciation and happiness for one another,” Tomisaka said.

Additionally, Tomisaka said he noticed that there has been a rise in Japanese students wanting to study abroad. 

“A lot of Japanese students apply to study abroad because it looks great on their university applications, but there are also a handful of students who actually have genuine curiosity for American and Australian culture,” Tomisaka said. “Even though Japan is very conservative, I can tell our younger students are way more involved in trends now and just have a lot more fun trying new foods, dances, and especially music.”

Tomisaka said he is hopeful for exchange programs to continue and urges students to take advantage of them.

“Exchange programs are a means of expanding the opportunities for students in a natural way,” Tomisaka said. “Every other year, I look forward to the Carmel students coming to Seikyo. Our English classes are nervous, but always excited to talk to them considering the native English speaking conversation experience. I hope students can take advantage of these programs and just make new friends from different cultures especially since Japan is so homogenous.”

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