Question: Do I have to be able to speak Japanese?
Answer: No, you don’t have to be able to speak Japanese. Most Japanese students are able to understand or speak some English. We will provide you with some basic conversational Japanese phases to help you during your home stay and at school while in Japan.
Question: What if I have food allergies or health concerns?
Answer: After admission into the program, you will complete a health form asking you about allergies, medications, dietary restrictions, disabilities and other health issues. This information will be reviewed by the Michigan State University Travel Clinic. Travel clinic staff will work with students to help them prepare for managing any conditions or medications while abroad.
Question: What if I do not have the best grades? What if I’m not an “all A” student?
Answer: On the application you will submit, you are asked to give your GPA and have two teachers complete a recommendation form. While you don’t have to have a 4.0 GPA, we want students who have applied themselves at school and have positive character traits that will make this exchange experience a positive one.
Question: How long is the plane ride?
Answer: It is a long trip to the Shiga prefecture. The international flight is 12 to 14 hours and with additional layovers, the total travel time can be much longer. Students are encouraged to use their travel time to meet the other students traveling with them, practice their Japanese and enjoy all the technology today’s international flights have to offer.
Question: Will I be near other students from Michigan?
Answer: There is a good chance that there will be other Michigan students at your Shiga high school but it is not guaranteed. It will depend on who applies in Shiga and what school they attend.
Question: Will my phone work? Will I be able to use it in Japan?
Answer: Don’t count on your cell phone working in Japan and actually, you won’t need it. Most students use texting or other applications to communicate with home. With only two weeks in Japan, you won’t want to use your time on your phone! The Michigan chaperons have working phones to communicate with Michigan and the Japanese officials.
Question: How am I matched with a Japanese student?
Answer: Your completed application will be sent to Japan. The information you give will be used by the Shiga Board of Education to match you the best Shiga student match. We are always impressed by how well students match up!
Question: What clothes will I wear?
Answer: We will review school uniforms at the program orientation. It is very hot and humid in Shiga in June. Cool cotton blouses or shirts with skirts for girls, slacks for boys are the norm.
Question: Will there be any celebrations when I am there?
Answer: The school clubs will be celebrating but there are no national holidays while you are in Japan.
Question: What have past participants said about their experiences in this program?
Answer: Parents and students both report that this program is a life-changing experience. Going to Japan and staying with a family seems to mature students. One student decided to participate in an early enrollment college program that she didn’t feel confident to do so before going to Shiga. Parents and students have found that hosting a Japanese student in their home makes them see their country, state and hometown with new eyes. It makes everyone grow in ways theey didn’t consider before participating in the program.
Question: What fun things will I be able to do in Shiga?
Answer: Before you leave Michigan, you will have an opportunity to communicate with your Japanese student and family. They will ask you what you’d like to do, see or experience. Some students may be in an urban area, others in rural areas. No matter where you stay, you’ll learn much about Japanese culture and people. There will be school activities that will keep you busy as well.
Question: What will I do during for the two weeks in Shiga?
Answer: You will stay with your host family, participating in their family activities. You’ll attend school each day. Some Michigan students have “taught” English to students in English class, others have participated in a variety of different classes. There are after school clubs that you can participate in with your host student. There is an introductory and closing program that the Shiga Board of Education will host for you and your fellow Michigan students and chaperones.
Question: What accommodations do my family have to provide the Shiga student?
Answer: They should have their own bedroom with bed. You will receive a copy of their application before you go to Shiga that is similar to our application, giving you information about the student and their home. The family will also provide daily meals and include you in their daily life and activities.
Question: How much spending money will I need? Are there ATMs
Answer: We suggest bringing $400 dollars. You can change your dollars to yen before leaving Michigan or in Shiga. You should check the exchange rate and fees at your local financial institution. International ATMs are available at many convenient stores and large banks. Travelers Checks aren’t accepted at many banks in Shiga. Credit cards are often accepted at large stores, but may not be accepted at smaller shops. International Transaction fees may apply for ATM and credit card transactions.
Question: What are school lunches like in Shiga?
Answer: Your host mother will provide you with a bento box meal each day.
Question: How do I get to school?
Answer: Depending how far away your school is from home; you may use one or more modes of transportation. Some students ride their bikes to school, some take the train, and some students use both. Others are driven to school or walk.
Question: Will the Japanese students be able to eat American food?
Answer: Yes! Pizza, ice cream and many foods you enjoy are items the Japanese students want to try and often love. Our food portions are much larger and are saltier, have more fats and sweeter than foods in Japan.
Question: I will be playing football while my Japanese student is here. What will they do at that time?
Answer: Some Shiga students play musical instruments and practice with the band. Several have participated in the homecoming parade and/or the football game halftime band production. Other students have spent time with other family members at home or taking part in family events while their hosting student was at practice.
Question: Will I be able to drive my Japanese visitor to/from school?
Answer: Due to liability issues, Japanese students cannot be on any motorized vehicles and must only be driven by adult drivers in automobiles.