From exploring Silicon Valley landmarks to attending Battle of the Classes, exchange students from Iwata, Japan dove into the world of an MVHS student to experience the many offerings of the Bay Area in just a week.
The Iwata Exchange Program allows students from MVHS’s sister school Iwata Minami High School to stay with hosts in Mountain View, and alternates every other year with sending MVHS students to stay with hosts in Japan. This year, the students arrived on Thursday, Mar. 16th, and left the following Thursday.
Preparation for the stay started months before, with weekly meetings to plan activities and organize supplies for the opening ceremony and trips. The hosts also communicated with their homestays over email a few weeks before they arrived.
“I think [my exchange student and I]were at the acquaintance level when we were meeting,” senior Javin Lu said. “But I think we hit it off really well. It was not awkward at all, it was all warmth and connection.”
While the Japanese students were here, MVHS held a welcome rally introducing the school to the Iwata students, and they attended field trips to places like Stanford University, UC Berkeley, and the Computer History Museum. Sunday served as a Family Day to show their homestays any aspect of Silicon Valley that they wanted.
Lu took Daiki Mori, the exchange student he hosted, to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Apple headquarters, and other popular spots in the Bay Area.
“We got a tour [of Apple HQ], and he had a blast,” Lu said. “He has an iPhone, and this is where the idea is from.”
In addition to the field trips, Iwata students also had time to explore the different facilities at MVHS.
“He loves Freestyle Academy. My homestay plays bass, and on Tuesday he was jamming with friends, and we brought other people in, and he loved it. We have a lot of opportunities that you [don’t see not just] in Japan, but in a lot of other high schools here,” Lu said.
Hosts and homestays also had the opportunity to share parts of one another’s culture during the week.
Junior Serena Myjer spent time in the kitchen with her homestay, creating American foods like cookies, and learning how to make Japanese dishes like inari, a rice-filled fried tofu pocket.
According to MVHS hosts, out of the variety of tourist trips, the Iwata students were most excited by the opportunity to go to McDonald’s and Safeway.
“They wanted to buy snacks. They really liked Skippy peanut butter,” Myjer said.
Lu saw the same enthusiasm surrounding food with his homestay.
“They are obsessed with McDonald’s, because they think that is what America is,” Lu said. “Burgers and huge portion sizes.”
Both Myjer and Lu noticed differences in values between American and Japanese culture.
“They are really polite and kind to each other, and I think our culture can learn from that,” Myjer said. “I’m more open to other cultures now, and glad I was able to experience it.”
Lu also emphasized the relationship skills that he observed with his homestay and from his time being a homestay in Japan last year, believing that we should normalize collaboration with others to the extent that they do.
Ultimately, the week of exchange proved to be equally impactful for the hosts of MVHS as it was for the Japanese homestays.
“I cried a lot [when we said goodbye]and I didn’t expect that. I was surprised as a host by how comfortable I could be, and I never felt like I had to have a persona for our guest at all. It was surprising to see how willing and open he was to allow me to be completely myself,” Lu said. “You don’t need to share the same language to connect with others.”