Life with Host families
WYS will select the host family for each student that has been accepted into the program. It is important to remember that all host families have volunteered to host exchange students, and therefore they are also expecting a great experience. Host families choose you based on your applications and on how well you would fit into their family in terms of hobbies, personality, interests and background.
It is also important to know that host families are also participants in this programme and just like you do, they also have a clear purpose for participating. It is very important that you, the host family, host school and WYS cooperate with each other so that the purpose for participating in this programme is met by all parties and the experience becomes memorable and pleasant for all.
A typical Japanese host family will usually be very busy during the week, so they will expect their host students to quickly adapt to their status of a family member and share responsibilities just as the rest of the family members do. They will also expect you to value their culture and to show continuous interest in learning about Japan. Be prepared to ask many questions and to communicate with them in Japanese as much as you can, even if that is not much! They will treat you as one of their own children, so be prepared to act as one! It is also important to remember that Japan is still a conservative country, so teenagers here are not given as much freedom as teenagers in Europe for example are. Be prepared to ask for permission and to practice the three golden words for good communication known as “ho-ren-so”: report, contact, seek advice.
Japanese School Life
From the structure of the buildings, to ways classes are held and ways students are required to behave, schools in Japan may be very different from your country’s schools.
In Japan, The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) manages the national education system, and the Ministry is in charge of providing guidelines to schools, board of education and any other educational institutions. Therefore, each school will have a fixed curriculum and students in general cannot select classes depending on their interest. Japanese schools usually have approximately 7 classes a day. School usually starts at around 8:30 am and ends at around 4 p.m.
Exchange students will usually be placed into a “homeroom class”, and will have their own desk. Unlike in many other countries you are most likely to have almost all of your classes (except for art, music, physical education or any other special classes) in the same classroom – your homeroom classroom. There will be a homeroom teacher and a homeroom class everyday. Class schedule will be arranged by the school, so you will not need to register subjects by yourself. Most Japanese classes are lecture-based.
Japanese schools put a great emphasis on extracurricular activities. Club activities stretch from all variety of sport, including soccer, baseball, tennis, handball and dance to cultural clubs, such as tea ceremony, music, drama and broadcasting. Exchange students are encouraged to enroll in a club activity of their interest while on the program. Clubs are held after school hours and students usually spend approximately 1-2, at times even 3 hours a day engaging with their club activities. Participation in a club activity gives students a good opportunity to make friends, study Japanese and learn much about the Japanese culture.