I was born between two Japanese parents, in Japan, to be a part of a Japanese family tree. My mother tongue is obviously Japanese, the language my parents and relatives have continuously spoken to me in. However, I go to Yokohama International School, an international school located in Japan; this is my 15th year starting from ELC (Early Learning Center) to 12th grade, essentially being the current grade I am enrolling. Regarding the school, I take subjects of the International Bacculerate (IB), which most of my classes are taught in English. As may be seen, I have been part of an international community and learning school materials in a language which is not my mother tongue for my entire school life.
My experience, I would like to share, is my entire school career at YIS. My first introduction to this international community was ELC. Before joining, I was only able to learn English from my father, who transferred his nationality to the United States, and very few TV programs. As far as I remember, I did not have any experience to communicate in a foreign language to a foreigner then. However, after entering ELC, I have had numerous opportunities to interact with people who we could only understand each other through the English language in the PYP and MYP programs. I am currently enrolling in the IB diploma and working very hard in order to gain my certificate with a sufficient score.
Throughout the course of the PYP, MYP, and IB program at YIS, I have learned various things which may not be obtained if I went to a regular Japanese school. First of all, I was able to learn about the existence of different cultures in the world through various events at school which allowed cultural exchanges. For example, events which required us to wear clothes from our culture were frequent during Elementary School. As a young child, I was actually able to see and identify differences between the culture I represent and a different culture. Now that I think back at this event, I was able to get a general idea as a child that there is a clear difference between environments in which people are raised in. Another example is Food Fair which our school hosts every year. Taking our international community as an advantage, there are many booths selling traditional food of a specific country set around the school at this event. Every year, I have been fascinated by the biodiversity when seeing all the different meals that are being cooked/sold at each booth. Although Food Fair is a Parent/Staff lead event, I, as a student of this school, learned how important and fortunate I am to be in a community which allows close contact with people from different regions/countries, and cultures to be easily exchanged.
I have also learned how to interact with others who do not share similar characteristics with me; for example, nationality, culture, beliefs, traits, etc. Although I have been raised in an environment where I can easily be exposed to both English and Japanese (since my father’s nationality is the United States, and my mother’s is Japanese), I would not have as many opportunities to communicate with a completely foreign person if I attended a Japanese school. In this case, my communication levels in English may have resulted to be weak from the lack of familiarity and comfort, which may be obtained through practice. However, my experiences at an international school had not only allowed me to talk with people who have different traits but also allowed me to interact with people who are similar (i.e. fully Japanese people/Japanese speakers). Therefore, I was able to learn and gain comfort talking in a language different from my mother tongue. This ability has also let me feel comfortable in sharing my ideas and opinions during class in English. This international community has allowed me to view things from various perspectives (for example, thinking of the effect of a historical event from the perspective of 2 different countries) in which I am able to consider in group discussions and written assessments.
Now that I am spending my 15th and last year at YIS, I feel I was able to gain valuable experiences of global interactions. Thinking I have started in an environment where the Japanese language and aspects of the Japanese culture were mainly applied, my entry to this international school had altered my world and perceptions to become wider. It is hard to identify the change in my emotions as I have been in this community for my entire school years, which made me feel this is a common school life when it would not be, especially in Japan. However, this experience reduced some of the biases I had, or what the Japanese culture suggests towards different countries. In other words, I have become open-minded towards the world and various races, therefore having limited prejudices of some countries. The skills and feelings gained from this school life will never be lost, but it can be overwritten if I continue to belong in an intercultural community. This matters because I believe I am able to expand connections, interests, and perspectives in the future (this means after I graduate from High School and even University) through this valuable experience. I have very strong interests towards the Japanese culture whilst being in an international community, and I wish to share these with foreigners and spread it around the world in the future, whether these are amongst friends or others such as clients. Considering Japan is aiming to develop as an international country/society, I may be able to achieve this goal to some extent sometime.
Now that I am in Grade 12, I will soon be applying to university. However, I do not think this is the end to my global interactions. This is why I would probably not repeat this again since I feel a similar experience can be continued even after I graduate this school. In university, and even after that, I can hopefully continue being in an international community which provides opportunities to use the skills I have gained up to High School. A question I have would be, how would I interact with people who can only speak and understand a different language which I am not comfortable with? At this school, we were all able to understand each other since we shared a common language, English. However, in the case where we cannot comprehend each other’s words due to the language, I would like to find out if there is a way to have even the simplest conversation with that person. If this becomes possible, it may allow cultural exchanges to be more easily done and even deepen our understandings of it.