Maria Juarez（高2） / Sinéad O’ Connor (英語科)
O’C: Please introduce yourself.
MJ: My name is Maria Juarez and I’m a student from the countryside of Panama, a province called Veraguas. I’m 18 years old.
O’C: What is your hometown famous for?
MJ: So we’re Catholic, that’s the official religion in Panama and every town has a saint and my town’s saint is Santiago - that’s why my city is called Santiago. We have a celebration for that in my town. It’s a very particular Spanish culture, it’s not about food but about the saint. I also think my town is famous for it’s geographical position. So the name Veraguas means ‘looking at water’ and that territory is the only territory that touches both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea so no other province or country in America has direct access to both like that.
O’C: Why did you decide to study abroad?
MJ: I thought studying abroad was going to help me grow and I wanted to experience different things, so living abroad was a challenge that I wanted to be able to get through. Of course I wanted to meet new people and know how other societies work so I can become openminded. I’ve grown a lot personally - I am now very independent and can take more care of things like managing time or money. I take responsibility for myself as I don’t have my mom here.
O’C: What Japanese culture did you know before coming here?
Mj: For Latin Americans Japan is a very organized country, we can't really distinguish between Japan, China or Korea but we know Japanese people really work hard and have a lot of discipline. We know a lot of your companies and brands like Toyota, Suzuki, and of course food like sushi is very famous. We think you eat very well, very healthily and we admire that very much.
O’C: What do you like about Japan now?
MJ: There are many things I like. At first it was hard but now I realize that even though the lifestyle is tough and busy that makes Tokyo such an important and central place so you can find everything here. Everything is so convenient, it’s not so close but it’s all in Tokyo. I love the imagination and creation of a lot of museums and planetaria because there aren’t so many of these in my country.
O’C: Did you experience any culture shock?
MJ: I was very surprised at trying to understand simple traditional things like taking off your shoes and sometimes the dress style of Japanese people is different - we as Latin Americans wear shorts and clothes that for Japanese people are very revealing or show too much skin. For us it’s normal but for Japanese people it’s probably not ok to wear that. Also after we eat we say gochisousamadeshita or when we get home we say tadaima. Of course I did it from the first day but I was sure to ask many questions so I could understand it and make it a natural habit rather than just following it because I had to. I learned to respect these rules and traditions.
O’C: At school this year there were many events, what was your favorite?
MJ: The school trip! It’s really different because it’s more educational than a school trip in Panama. I liked it because I could go with my friends and visit really old buildings and know their history and appreciate that history and culture and how people really respect that is something I like.
O’C: What did you like about daily life here at school?
MJ: Daily life was good, I like how people can really focus on things. I was really surprised at how people get into studying and how dedicated they are to tasks or chores and have basically have the skills to manage their time well. I noticed that they can talk with their friends and still get work done. I tried to learn to be like that too so I picked up some habits like that from my friends.
O’C: How did you make friends at school?
MJ: Friends School is a girls school so most people are kind shy but I think the best way was being myself and not to close myself off - saying hello to everyone I see even at first when I didn’t understand. It was really funny to try to communicate and at that time you really get to know. In the end I could connect with a lot of people.
O’C: How did you come to be good at Japanese?
MJ: Studying! But also using Japanese. I remember when I got here first one of my friends told me she was not going to speak English to me. I couldn’t speak Japanese so i used English but she always responded in Japanese and if I didn’t understand she preferred to explain the word in simpler Japanese rather than to say it in English. Also my Japanese teacher was really good. My classes were really effective because I had such a good relationship with her. We could have special moments and enjoy time in class instead of just studying and studying.
O’C: Do you have a favorite Japanese word or phrase?
MJ: 人格形成 - it’s like personal growth. I think I got to that word because I was giving a speech. I like it because it is one word whereas in English or Spanish you need a whole phrase not just one word to express that idea. It’s not only beautiful but it signifies my life and motivations here in Japan.
O’C: Do you have a message for us?
MJ: Just, thank you. All schools are different and exchange students are different so everyone has a different experience, but I think coming here was great because all the teachers and girls do a great job. They made me feel comfortable and tried to understand my culture and truly spend time with me. I feel like you belong here, like in a family. Of course, being in Japan changes exchange students but I think the exchange students also change the country or culture they are in.