WS welcomes Japanese exchange students
March 20, 2017
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West Springfield has welcomed a new exchange student, Leo Muramatsu. Muramatsu is a Japanese exchange student from Tokyo who is staying with junior Stefanie Takenaka. (Interested in studying abroad,) Takenaka found the American Field Service Exchange Program, where she was able to spend six rigorous months in Osaka, Japan.
“It was challenging because I didn’t know any Japanese, and I’ve never been to Japan, so there was a language and cultural barrier…. You learn to just smile and nod because you don’t know what anyone’s saying,” said Takenaka.
When she returned from her visit, she was offered to host Muramatsu and soon enough he arrived in America.
Unlike most exchange students, who are only in the U.S for a few weeks, Muramatsu is spending a whole school year at WS. Arriving in late August, Muramatsu was able to settle into his new home before attending Spartan Spree to receive his class schedule. Muramatsu was surprised by the variety and freedom of class selection, not being able to have that leniency back in Japan. Muramatsu takes classes at WS ranging from AP Physics to Personal Fitness, while trying to adapt life as an “American teenager”. The thought of spending a whole school year millions of miles away from friends and family may sound scary, but Muramatsu is embracing the freedom of American education which, to him, seems less stressful.
“Colleges don’t look at your grades [in Japan] they just look at the entrance exam test,” said Muramatsu.
The Japanese Entrance Exam Tests are the equivalent to the SAT and ACT but with more at stake, determining ones future education endeavors.
Surprisingly, Muramatsu’s English is impeccable, clear and comprehensible. In Japan, English is a required course beginning in middle school and usually is taught all the way through college. Students are encouraged to learn another language because it will most likely help them with their global studies and future careers.
When asked if he liked the city of Tokyo or the simple Virginia suburbs Muramatsu was conflicted.
“I don’t like it [the suburbs] because you need the car to get everywhere and if you don’t drive you can’t do anything.”
Muramatsu will finish his junior year here at WS, and when summer rolls around he will return to Japan.
Muramatsu hopes on studying international business in college.
“It was weird at first especially since he’s a boy but he fit in really well and now he’s like as if he was my real brother,” said Takenaka