Kokugakuin students: one-month trip in Vermont

Kokugakuin students go to Spare Time to play bowling and game machine on Saturday, March 2. (Photo by Nick Chen)

On a day of sunshine in early February, 20 students from Kokugakuin University in Japan arrived at Burlington International Airport to start their one-month experience at St. Michael’s College. The culture has shocked and delighted them.

For Rina Ishii ’21, a Japanese literature major the openness of Americans left her a bit uncomfortable in the beginning. “In Alliot, when I had a meal with other Japanese friends, there were always strangers saying ‘hi’ to us,” Ishii said. “In Japan, people don’t greet the group or person they don’t know.”

Then there is everyday cleanliness. Ishii was shocked to see that American students always leave their shoes on inside of their homes. “I just can’t stand it. In Japan, we will always leave the shoes outside of the houses, making the houses clear,” Ishii said.

The students have come to improve their English, which Miyabi Inoue ’22 a Business and Management major defined as the world language. “If I want an international trade job in Japan, I must improve English skills,” Inoue said, adding that the speed of American students’ language offered a particular challenge.

“During the discussion with American students, I totally didn’t understand what they were talking about because they spoke so fast,” said Inoue. “I still have a long way to go.”

At the same time, Inoue said she enjoyed everything in America, including food, people, landscape, and lifestyle. “Although we have a busy schedule, we enjoy the American lifestyle, which is cozy and quiet,” said Inoue. “Also, male students at St. Michael’s are so gentle. Unlike male Japanese, American students love to help girls.”

Makoto Saito ’21, a male Japanese student whose major is global culture said he has enjoyed getting to know Americans and other international students. But it hasn’t been easy adjusting to the more casual interactions. “We usually shake our hand when we say bye, but here people normally hug each other no matter they are old friends or just friends.”

Not all Japanese students enjoyed their American experience. “I love America, but my first-time American experience is not wonderful,” said Yui Shimizu. “In Japan, people normally walk on the left side. Because of it, I always collide with others.

“I love American people, and they are pretty open. However, as long as they are talking, they can’t stop,” Shimizu said with a smile.

Emily Kayoi is one of the four adjunct instructors teaching the students from Kokugakuin University “Last year, there were 15 students, but this year we have 20.

“We made a busy but fun schedule for them,” said Kayoi, explaining that the students have gone to Boston and Montreal, participated in Saturday-bowling, and held a special coffee hour. “I really cherish the time spent with them.”

On March 8, they will leave campus and return to Japan.

“After I go back to Japan, I will tell my friends and families what I have been through in America,” Mokoto said. “Especially, I have been interviewed in English and on the school newspaper.”