Rebecca Vilan
2011-12 Outbound to Japan

Hometown: Coral Springs, Florida
School: Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School
Sponsor: Coral Springs - Parkland Rotary Club, District 6990, Florida
Host: Ageo Rotary Club, District 2770, Japan

Rebecca's Bio

Hello and Konnichiwa! My name is Rebecca. Jyuu nana sai desu, to Kanada kara kimashitaka. -I am 17 years old and I am originally from Canada.- I’ve lived in Florida most of my life however, and I attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School currently. I will be graduating high school before I leave on my exchange to take a year in Japan before I go to university. Let me tell a bit about myself.

Okay, it is very hard for me to write this professionally because I AM SO EXCITED TO BE GOING TO JAPAN. I have been thinking about this for a year and now my chance has finally come, thanks to the wonderful Rotary Youth Exchange!! I am 5’6”, have blonde hair and green/blue eyes. And let me tell you, I will stick out like a sore thumb in Japan, oh boy. I don’t care though because it will be so exciting. I’m pretty good at using chopsticks (which will be essential to my survival) so I think I’ll be okay.

When I first discovered foreign exchanges, and presented the idea to my parents, well it wasn’t even to be heard of. But after many months of research, perseverance and discipline, I am turning this dream of mine into a reality! Just the thought of spending a year in a completely different culture gives me the chills. Carpe Diem, right? I can’t wait to be hit with this “culture shock” stuff, it sounds like fun! I actually think reverse culture shock will be harder for me to deal with. Haha. If anything, I love the idea of doing something so un-routine. Different is exciting, ne? I am ready to take on these responsibilities and expectations, sir!

At home in Florida, I live with my mom and dad, little brother and my 10 year old kitty. I’ll miss all of my family and friends like crazy. I come from a diverse family and currently I can speak English, French, and Hungarian. I’m a very excitable person and I like a wide variety of things including (but not limited to) traveling, sports, video games, reading, music, and drawing. I love Tae Kwon Do, playing Tennis and my favorite everything is Harry Potter. The type of music I like ranges from Classical to classic rock, although recently I am all about that Japanese pop. Yay!

Of Japanese, so far I’ve learned a few basic words, phrases, etc…, including memorizing the entire Hiragana chart, and half of the Katakana. So I hope I’ll be okay. I think learning a whole new “alphabet” if you will, is going to be the biggest challenge.

I’d like to thank Rotary Florida for giving me this amazing opportunity and my parents for letting me do this. I love you Mom and Dad. I look forward to this coming year with great anticipation and excitement.

Culture shock here I come!

-Rebecca, べき

“To be proud to associate with people of all cultures, creeds, and races, knowing with deep conviction that International Understanding is the fruit of International Peace.”

–Rotary Pledge.

Rebecca's Journals

August 16

Arriving at Narita airport was somewhat of an adventure for me. Challenge accepted. Following the passengers out of the gate wasn’t too difficult. Of course I had to stop in the bathroom and see for myself. Yes the toilets talk to you. Afterwards to customs where I spent a good ten minutes filling out customs and immigration papers. Got through customs pretty quickly. Then I had to get my baggage which also wasn’t too difficult, it’s bright green, you can’t miss it. After that it was a bit tricky finding my way out of baggage claim. At this point I started to worry and hope someone was there to greet me. I walked out the doors and to my happy surprise; there were a bunch of people waiting for me with huge colorful signs. It was a relief to see them. I was about ready to cry of relief. Greetings exchanged, lots of bowing and こんにちは (Konnichiwa) はじめまして (Hajimemashite). It was also a great surprise when one boy started speaking with me in English. He was a Rotex who’d been to America  a few years before. We got in the car and headed home. At this point I was dead tired. Exhausted. I hadn’t slept a second on the plane and my eyelids felt like lead. I wanted to stay awake though, so I could watch the scenery but after a half an hour in the car I was knocked out. The car ride took about an hour. When we got to the house, my host Mom was waiting at the front. My first experience with a Genkan. That was fun. The house is a traditional style Japanese house and quite large. We got my suitcases into my room and then went back out to go to a restaurant. My first night in Japan  and we went to a Chinese restaurant. There were many people there, my family, and other members of the Ageo Rotary Club. I tried all the food there, including Jellyfish. It was rather crunchy, which I didn’t expect by the looks of it. None of the food was bad, just some tastes I had never, well, tasted before. Everyone introduced themselves to me and were laughing and having

I've been here a few days now, and I've already experienced more new things than I have in probably my whole life. And I'm having a great time doing so.

November 5

So, I've been in school for about 2 months now. Immediately there are things that I noticed are different from school back home.

* Bowing. At the beginning of every class, and end, we stand up and bow to the teacher. Not done in America. The bowing shows respect and acknowledgment of the teacher.

* In Japan, everyone wears a school uniform. Mandatory. I don't know what happens if you don't wear it. It probably doesn't even cross the mind of the students to not wear the uniform to school. Plus, they're cute uniforms. I like them. Some people may not and claim it stops individuality. Individuality is not very popular in Japan.

* Make up/ piercings/ hair dyes. None of these allowed in Japanese school. No make up, they'll make you remove it right in front of them. Can't have painted nails either. It's okay if you have pierced ears. You just can't wear the earrings to school. Dyed hair is not allowed. Pretty much means to say, school is not a fashion show, you are there to learn, and make friends by yourself. Without the aid of glamour.

* Classroom anatomy. American classrooms usually have a few whiteboards, and those attached desk-chair things, and if you're lucky, windows. Japanese classrooms, chalkboards, separate desks and chairs, you can put things in the desk. hooks on the side of the desk to hang your bag and lunch, openable windows, elevated podium for the teacher, and sliding doors. If you ask me, I love the sliding doors, now I don't have to fear being hit by a door when walking through the hallway.

* Shoes. I have four pairs of shoes I use in school. Walking outside shoes, classroom shoes, Gym shoes, and Track shoes. Can't wear outdoor shoes into the school. As soon as you get in there is a locker room entrance to change your shoes in. And lockers to keep them in.

* Teachers move from class to class. Not the students. So there is no rush and crowd in the hallways to get to your next class. You stay in your homeroom class all day.

* Time between classes. You get 10 minutes between each class. For what? You don't even have to change class. So, nothing in particular. It's break time. Usually kids get up, talk, get things from their locker right outside the class. It's nice. Relaxing.

* Lunchtime. There is no cafeteria. Everyone eats in their homeroom, or goes to another classroom. Desks get moved around and pushed together. Everyone takes out their bento. (Lunch brought from home.) If you don't have obento, you can get something from the many vending machines on the floor. (Remember Japanese vending machines don't just sell sodas and junk food. They sell much more.) Everyone can do as they please during lunch, which is 45 minutes. Can be on your cellphone, or play a video game or mp3 player. Whatever you want. The teacher is not in the classroom. And it isn't extremely loud with all the people talking. They know how to use inside voices. And somehow after lunch is over all the desks are back in perfect rows and there is no garbage anywhere.

* Sleeping in class. It's allowed. In Japan, you're not supposed to interrupt the teacher in the middle of a lecture unless they call on you. You are not allowed to talk to other kids either. So basically, since sleeping doesn't interfere with the lesson, you can do it. It's up to you to take care of whatever lesson you slept through. No excuses.

* At the end of every day for ten minutes, students clean their classrooms. The the hallways and stairways too. There is sweeping, eraser-cleaning, organizing shelves, etc. I think this is a great idea. It teaches responsibility and cleanliness. This way kids don't make a mess during the day, because they'd just have to clean it up anyway. We even clean the bathrooms.

That's about it for now, of course I haven't been here that long and these are the most obvious differences, I'm sure there are many more I haven't noticed yet.