Japan trip expands
students' horizons

From the ancient shrines of Kyoto to the futuristic modernity of Tokyo, 15 Year 11-13 Japanese language students from Palmerston North’s Awatapu College recently got a taste of the great diversity of Japan on a two-week visit. The school was assisted in taking the students to Japan by a Japan Study Grant.

Watch a slideshow of images from the trip

The college’s head of Japanese, Elin King, says the students revelled in experiencing everything Japan had to offer.

“Students especially loved the diverse vending machines and kombini (convenience stores), and the contrast between the very traditional: 1000-year-old shrines and temples, women walking down the street in kimono, and the freaky modern: humanoid robots, state-of-the-art technology and Harajuku funky fashion!”

Jethro Thomas: “The Japan trip was an eye opener. It showed me that there is a world wider than Palmerston North. It has inspired me to learn Japanese and aim higher than ever before."

Over the two weeks they were in Japan, the group visited Tokyo, Nara, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Himeji and Miyajima.

After exploring the country, soaking up the culture and practising their Japanese language skills, the students returned to Tokyo where they were billeted for four days with Japanese families and attended Senshu Matsudo School.

King says the homestay could have been a bit daunting for some of the students but because of the confidence they had developed over the previous two weeks it was without a doubt a highlight for all of them.

“They loved the fact that they so quickly made friends and discovered not only the interestingly different things about Japanese life but also the similarities between people.”

It was not the first time Awatapu College had taken students to Japan and the group met with five former students who now lived there, three of whom had been on Japan trips themselves, the other two were Japanese and attended Awatapu College as international students.  

Of the three Kiwi students living in Japan, one now works as a manager for a fashion design company, another is working for Softbank in Tokyo. The third student went to Japan on the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) programme and is now the JET coordinator for Tokyo.

“I've seen time and again how a trip like this is "life-changing" (student's words not mine) for students, King says.

In every school group she’s taken to Japan there have been a number of students who have never left New Zealand. King says the trip helps expand their horizons.

“For our students to become rounded citizens of the world, I believe it’s imperative that they encounter and learn to understand and coexist with people of other cultures.

“…taking students to Japan is a great motivating factor for continuing with their studies. Quite a substantial number of ex-students have continued well beyond school with their Japanese studies and many are living and working there, or working in New Zealand for Japanese companies.”

Some quotes from students:
  • Jessie Ladd: "Such an enriching experience - honestly an experience of a lifetime! I'm not only more confident in the language but also in myself. Would highly encourage anyone to just get up and experience Japan!"
  • Jethro Thomas: “The Japan trip was an eye opener. It showed me that there is a world wider than Palmerston North. It has inspired me to learn Japanese and aim higher than ever before."
  • Abii Bingle: "This trip to Japan was my first look into another culture. It helped me understand more about not only Japanese culture but the way the world works."
  • Ellie Kilty: "The Japan Trip was probably the best experience of my life. I really enjoyed it."
  • Sean Butcher: "Visiting Japan was a great experience for me. I loved absolutely everything including my home-stay and school. If I see an opportunity to visit japan again, I will take it!"
  • Josh Rickard: "The trip let me apply the Japanese language in ways that I hadn't before, and let me appreciate Japan and its culture and people in a new and more exciting way. I loved it!"
  • Frances Harnett-Darlington: "If I could go again, right now, I definitely would! 10/10!"

Japan Study Grants are kindly funded by Nakashimato Co Ltd. of Japan.