An Exchange Student's Journey: Part 1

                                                                                                                                 An Exchange Student's Journey

Hello everyone! My name is Natalie and I am a former exchange student from Colorado. Last year I was awarded the Japan-America Friendship Scholarship, a scholarship that would allow me to pack my bags and fly across the Pacific to live with a Japanese family. My Japanese family was from Tokyo, but had recently moved to Hiroshima for work. When dreaming about where I would live in Japan, Hiroshima hadn't really crossed my mind. I had imagined the bustling streets of Tokyo or maybe the quiet life of Akita. But Hiroshima? Hmm... Not quite what I was expecting when I received my family introduction letter. When doing an internet search on the place I had to sift through hundreds of war related pictures before I could find anything modern. What little new pictures I did find weren't very promising either. To say the least, I was a bit nervous about coming to Hiroshima. After arriving in Tokyo, I would take a 4 hour bullet train ride to my new home. The ride was extremely scenic and my anxiety slowly dissipated (except for when I was served beef tongue, that was a bit frightening). I would step off the train and be greeted with excited squeals. The older of my Japanese sisters would run up to me, excitedly chanting my name. My host mother was holding a welcome sign they had made for me while my host father looked on with a heartfelt smile. Hiroshima station was much smaller than the Tokyo station, but no less exciting. We walked around for a bit and my host mother explained the various shops inside. There were many traditional Japanese sweets shops that had colorful packages ready for purchase. She explained that in Japan it is customary to purchase "omiyage" when traveling somewhere. Omiyage are essentially souvenirs and she said many people buy them last minute at the train station before leaving. There were many shops dedicated to Hiroshima Omiyage! We stepped out of the  station and I was taken aback by the beauty of Hiroshima. It was a fairly large city, but still maintained a nature feel to it. It was raining that first day, but everything was still beautiful shrouded in dark clouds. We took my host father's car back to our apartment, the place I would be calling home for awhile. They showed me my room, complete with a futon and everything! I quickly opened up my suitcase and took out the souvenirs I had brought from my home. We all sat in the living room together and I handed out gifts. I was happy to have brought pieces of my home to share with them. They were overjoyed with everything. Afterwards, they showed me around the house and explained how to work the shower and things like that. It was a lot to take it, but I couldn't be happier. My host father made a delicious dinner for us all and we talked for hours afterwards. Who knew it was so easy to talk to someone you've never met before when you don't even speak the same language? Nighttime approached and the events of the day suddenly caught up to me... I was utterly exhausted. I shuffled off to bed and fell asleep almost immediately. My first day in Hiroshima was complete.
My first meal with my host family ft. super cute host sister
Some of the t-shirts I brought from my home!
Fresh off the Shinkansen... Not the most flattering photo, but at least my host sister is cute :)

Natalie Montecino