Japanese Exchange Stories: Jamie Markos

Jamie Markos joined the Japan tour in 2014, followed by a month-long student exchange experience.

In the world of Japan, the little school of Elwood College conquers yet another sublime trip with memories to last through the ages. I, Jamie Markos, am here to enlighten you, as a reader, of the utterly fantastic experience Elwood College offers visiting the loveliest parts of Japan along with staying on an exchange program with the College’s strongly bonded sister-school, Obu Higashi Senior High School.

On the average school day, morning silent reading commenced the day at 8:30am on the dot (silence, even without the help of teachers!) for 15 minutes. This was followed by six or seven periods depending on the day, with a gap of 10 minutes in between each 55-minute class. Lunch at 12:45pm usually entailed either a lot of people rushing off to the canteen or to the SCHOOL VENDING MACHINES! Vending machines in a school was no surprise as they are actually located around every corner on every street.

Studying the Japanese language prior to the exchange helped me to a degree but the whole experience was a great way to improve my skills. Skills such as comprehending the classroom work didn’t seem as much of a challenge as I anticipated but still not 100% was understood. Techniques such as identifying key words and repeating words in my head helped a lot, along with fellow classmates speaking slower Japanese and being patient with me, which I found quite a privilege. Coming home to my very kind host family with newly acquired words was always fun as it always made them question and realise their own language. This would usually lead to a long but still entertaining discussion about one of the Japanese writing systems Kanji.

Other details of day-to-day life included a solid 30-minute cycle to school in a nice Japanese summer and checking up on my two other Elwood friends during certain breaks. Having these two other students helped me feel that I wasn’t all alone - that there was someone who was just as confused as I was!

One thing I found quite memorable was the school trip to Hiroshima, just a short Shinkansen (bullet train) away. The trip was majorly different to an Australian camp/trip. By that I mean every second of every hour was planned out in a little booklet, which was handed out to every student. I suppose it was a great form of organisation.

Overall, the experience gave me a lot of loving memories along with an extended knowledge of the language. But most of all, possible friendships that should last if I were to return, which I would quite enjoy if the opportunity arose.