Mikako’s reflection on overcoming Exchange Student challenges
Living in a new country as an exchange student, going to a new school, learning new languages and cultures, can be daunting, challenging and a tad scary. Mikako from Japan, wrote down some words about the struggles she faced as an exchange student in a new country, and how she overcame them to then create some amazing friendships and memories of her time here in Australia.
10 months have passed much more quickly than I expected now looking back on the beautiful experiences during my exchange program. However In the first 1 month, I was feeling like the next 9 months would be so long as I had so many difficulties when I first came here. The biggest problem was language, but that wasn’t actually ‘language’ it was just a lack of confidence to speak English. I was too scared of making English mistakes, and it made me overly withdrawn and quiet. I knew it wasn’t how I was supposed to be, but I could not do anything to make the situation better. Every time I got to see a new person, I told myself to break up the big shell that had been covering over my shyness, but it never actually worked. I didn’t say a word except for “Hello”, “Thank You”, “Sorry”, “Please” and “Good Night” for a month. I was so disappointed with myself and this brought me to make a big change.
It was on the last night of February, after spending a month in Australia, I decided to change my ‘feign personality’ completely to enjoy the next 9 months. I talked to myself in the bed “This is the last chance to change my impression on others, otherwise they will assume I’m a quiet person. It’s not too late yet because it’s been only a month, I can still change the story of my exchange life”.
On the following morning, I talked to my host sister much more than I used to do, also at school, I started to talk to new friends instead of staying in the library at recess and lunch. I set a resolution in each week such as ‘focus on listening’, ‘try to talk a bit faster’, ‘get into a conversation as much as possible’. Moreover, as a daily resolution, I decided to make at least one friend a day, and even I pushed myself by making myself exposed to many new people and new environment. Of course it didn’t always end up with a success, but this challenge certainly helped me build up confidence.
About 3 months later, I started actually enjoying my school life and conversation with my family in English. Now finishing the 10 months program, I absolutely loved my school, friends, teachers, family and this country after making so many unforgettable memories, and I honestly don’t want to go back home. I’ve already started planning coming back here to see my amazing family and friends. I would say my life here was the best time in the last 17 years, but at the same time, if I hadn’t made the change in the beginning of the program, I couldn’t have enjoyed this much and I wouldn’t miss my friends so much. I regret spending a month being too shy, and I wouldn’t make the same mistake again. That month surely made me tough enough to face any harder challenges coming into my future.
Another big thing that I realized in my mind after being on exchange is this success became possible by many people’s support. I’m very thankful to my parents, host family, host school and all other people that supported my challenge, for giving me this opportunity to challenge myself. This year took me one step closer to my life goal dream in many ways. I’ll keep getting to know new things and people after this meaningful stage in Australia, and hopefully I’ll be coming back here one day as ‘the grown Japanese exchange student’.