Public Relations Office March 21, 2013
William Wells, Exchange Student from University of Missouri at Columbia
My name is William Wells. I am an exchange student attending Kwansei Gakuin University and currently living in the city of Ashiya with the Satoo family. This consists of three people: Shigeru, a graphic designer; Sachiko, his wife, who works at a hotel in Osaka; and Shigeki, their son.
The Satoos have been very kind to me. They have hosted many exchange students from various countries in the past, and while they both know a little English, we speak mainly in Japanese, although I have a very limited vocabulary. When I am stumbling over my words and trying to remember how to say something, they always wait patiently for me to finish, never pushing me to speak English (as my Japanese friends often do).
Because we are all on very different schedules, we don’t eat breakfast together, but most nights we have dinner as soon as Sachiko gets home from work. Shigeru and Sachiko usually ask me about my day and what I had for lunch. They also talk to each other about their days, and while their Japanese is way over my head, I do my best to listen and understand.
Most weekends, Shigeru has some sort of outing planned. Sometimes it’s a trip to some event or famous location; my first weekend, we went to see the Monkey Punch exhibition, and last weekend we went to Osaka Castle (we stopped to see Sachiko while we were in the area). But even if it’s something as simple as going to the library or farmer’s market, it’s always a pleasure to spend time with him.
Amanda Hartunian, Exchange Student from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Since coming to Japan my most rewarding experience by far has been the time spent with my host family. From the first moment I came to the decision to study abroad, living with a Japanese host family was always what I wanted to do. When it came to the task of applying to a host university, the university’s home stay program was one of the most important factors. So it came to be that Kwansei Gakuin University was on the top of my list.
The decision to come to Kwansei Gakuin and stay with a host family was definitely the best I could make. My Japanese communication and comprehension has already improved. Every day I speak in only Japanese with my host mother, and her daughter, a fellow Kwansei Gakuin student; English is never used. From this I have become more familiar with natural, everyday Japanese speech, and have gained confidence, which has allowed me to communicate with more Japanese students comfortably. My host family and I have spent hours talking about the differences and likenesses between Japanese and American culture. This has helped me to better understand much about Japanese norms in society, although I have still made many mistakes; such as failing to remove my shoes before I entered a changing room. However, my host mother was quick to rectify this mistake and others, while always making a huge effort to make sure I understand. Every morning while watching the news she proceeds to explain it all to me in simpler Japanese; always making sure I understand exactly what is happening.
On the second night of my home stay my host mother threw a party, which I also helped to prepare. I was able to meet many of her friends and found myself constantly being thrown into conversations where my conversational Japanese was put to the test. I also gained firsthand experience of preparing the food traditionally served, and how exactly to serve it. It is possible that my speaking skills vastly improved from just that one night. The most meaningful time that I spend with my host family is the time in which all three of us are together in the house. The fact that my offer to help with the daily chores was accepted almost instantly has made me feel like a part of the family. Talking about our day, in Japanese of course, while washing dishes, cooking dinner, and doing laundry, has made me feel at home here and less like an outsider.