I believe that the best way to learn is not through reading books, having lessons or searching through the Internet, but it is through experience.
“Experience is the teacher of all things.” This is a quote from Julius Caesar. I can relate to this quote because I believe that the best way to learn is not through reading books, having lessons or searching through the Internet, but it is through experience. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to join this International Student Exchange Program. I didn’t really know many things about Japan and I wanted to learn its culture through this program. To live with a foster Japanese family was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I could try. I also heard stories from my classmates who joined the program the previous year that they enjoyed that experience very much so I wanted to try this program myself.
Before we arrived in Japan, we had basic Japanese lessons and we also learned its culture and traditions. Its culture was quite different from ours and it made me even more excited to see those traditions with my own eyes. The idea of living with a Japanese family surely interested me because I would feel how it would be like a Japanese for two weeks. The main transportation that the Japanese used was trains. They still had cars but most of the time, they used trains. When we were about to meet our foster families, my fellow Ateneo Hearters and I, were feeling a bit nervous. We were going to meet our respective families whom we had never met before. When we arrived at Ofuna station, we first saw the mothers and then we met our Japanese brothers. We ate in an Italian restaurant and for the first time, we talked with each other. It was a bit awkward at first, but this was when we got to know more about each other. After this, we all went to our homes and that was when I met my Japanese father.
The next day, we had a BBQ party with all the families. After which, we, the Ateneo Hearters and the Eiko Gakuen students, had our first bonding time together through playing bowling. We already started becoming closer not only with our brothers but also with everyone else. The next day, we went to the school and we went around seeing the different facilities. During the next days, we still went to school with our brothers and we also observed classes. After school, we visited different places like shrines and the Buddha statue in Kamakura. The next day, we walked around Yokohama seeing the different views. My foster family brought me to Niigata and this was the first time I tried riding the Shinkansen. We visited the mountains and there was still snow on some of the mountains. This was also the first time I tried the public bath or “onsen”. I found that experience very interesting even though the idea of the onsen seems weird to non-Japanese people. We rode a ship in Tokyo and it gave us a wonderful view of it from the sea. We also spent time around Tokyo to do some shopping which was also fun. The last day of our tour was in Tokyo Disneyland. We were having so much fun not only with the rides but also with each other. This was when I already started to feel that we weren’t just foster brothers with the Eiko Gakuen students anymore, I felt that we were already real brothers.
After our tours around Japan, we already had to start preparing for the Eiko Festival. We spent the next two days setting up our booth and practicing our traditional dances. In our school, we have a similar event called Christmas Fair wherein booths were located around the school. During the Eiko Fes, it was very similar. There were game booths and also food booths around. The Eiko Fes was very tiring for us since we had to dance and present in our booth numerous times. We also had the chance to dance on stage. Even though it was exhausting, it was also very fun and we enjoyed the festival very much. The day after the Eiko Fes, we had a farewell party to say goodbye from our foster brothers which would mean that our departure from Japan was already very near.
I will never forget this experience in Japan. I have learned so much about the culture and traditions of the Japanese that I never knew before. I did not only learn those things but I also experienced them myself. I felt how kind the Japanese are, especially my family. They treated me like I was really part of their family and I will never forget that. I also made new friends with the students and I will always treat them like brothers. I will miss the view and the lifestyle in Japan, but in the future I can just visit it again and see those sights, but what was the most memorable for me was being with a Japanese family and also spending time with my friends from my school and from Eiko Gakuen. If I could travel back in time, I would go back to the first day we were in Japan and experience it all over again.