Welcome, Maya Hiraoka

Summer Bailing, Staff Writer

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Poland Seminary High School has welcomed many new students over the years. These new students in the hallways, however, are not just from a different school, they have come here from a different country.

PSHS has embraced new student, Maya Hiraoka, junior. Hiraoka is from Japan and comes from a town west of Tokyo.

Over the years, PSHS has had a handful of foreign exchange students each school year; however, the process of becoming an exchange student is not well known. 

Hiraoka offered her insight on the exchange student process, “My school has an exchange program, and if I passed I can go and do the exchange year. At first, my teacher said, ‘Yeah, we have such program, and if you want, you can try.’ I got information about it, and it looked interesting.”

Besides the test, a lot of work goes into becoming a foreign exchange student; each student has to have prepared documents, orientations, and get ready for their new life in America.

For example, “There is a 13 hour gap; it is noon now, and back home, it would be one am.”

But, perhaps the hardest thing about the whole process is leaving friends and family behind and their reactions to acceptance. For Hiraoka, her family and friends expected nothing less from her and supported her.

According to Hiraoka, it was no surprise to her friends and family when she finally got accepted. Her parents wished her good luck, and they proudly sent her off knowing she would do her best.

Along with all of that, they have to adjust to the school. We may think that our schooling system is strict, but to Hiraoka, that’s not the case.

Hiraoka said, “For example, we have uniforms, and we have structured courses, so we can’t choose our classes.”

Hiraoka is taking many of the same classes we are, within reason, along with a few that aren’t in our everyday courses. She is taking App Design, Government, Art, and Choir at Poland.

Probably the most important question to ask is, why did you want to come to America? For Hiraoka, that answer was very simple.

“There are many reasons but the top reason is because I love movies, and in the future, I want to make movies, so I wanted to come here.”

Coming to a new place may be exciting and different, but there’s no denying some aspects of home are greatly missed.

“Food! American food is part of Japanese people’s daily food. I like American food. American food is in Japan, so I can eat it there, but I can’t eat traditional Japanese food here in America.”

The aspect of being an Exchange Student may not seem that difficult to you, but think about all the time and commitment it takes and about all the people and things left behind.

So, the next time you see Hiraoka in the halls, make sure to give her a warm Kon’nichiwa (こんにちは)!