From The District 7090 February Newsletter
Norfolk Sunrise News
Posted by Mary Mercato


 Minori Kubode, 2019-2020 Rotary Youth Exchange Student, Kaga, Japan  When I was a junior high school student, I wasn’t interested in exchange. I did like learning about the cultures of other countries but in Japan, we have to pass an exam to enter high school, so I was just studying for the exam. I have to pass the exam to enter university and the competition is very severe. I studied all the time and I thought it was normal. Being a high school student was a little bit boring for me. I wanted to do something different and special. I also didn’t think it was good to grow up without knowing about the world. When I was 16, we hosted two students from Russia just for 2 days. Then I used my English to have a conversation for the first time and it was so difficult and exciting. I decided I wanted to know about the culture of other countries by myself, through my English. At the same time, I knew about this exchange program through Rotary because my Grandfather was a Rotarian.
I was so excited to be accepted as an exchange student and I chose to come to Canada. I didn’t think about what it would be like to leave my family and my friends for a whole year. So many people came to the airport to say goodbye to me. I suddenly realized how much I loved them all. It was still very exciting though.
When I arrived in Canada I was stuck in immigration because of problems with my visa and I couldn’t speak good enough English to work it all out. This was very hard for me and I was crying. After that, I met my host family but I don’t remember very well because I was so nervous. Everything in Canada seemed so big and I saw lots of beautiful nature with many animals like little chipmunks, cows, and horses in the fields and everything was so flat with no mountains.
At first, it was very hard for me to find how to spend time with people because I didn’t speak very good English and I couldn’t understand what was going on around me. I was also very homesick and it was hard for me to talk to my family and friends back at home. I was lonely and I didn’t know how to spend my free time because it was something I never had in Japan.
When I started school in Simcoe it was difficult for me to make friends because of the language problem. It was harder because I took classes with students who were younger than me. As my English got better I was able to talk more with the students and teachers and the teachers especially helped me a lot. In Japan, we do not have a friendly relationship with our teachers but the teachers in Canada were so friendly and that really helped me to feel better at school.
Now I have been in Canada for 6 months and my English has got a lot better. I have made friends at school and now I am teaching Japanese to a friend. I have found that there are many people from all around the world in Canada and I have learned about all their cultures as well. I have many exchange student friends from different countries and we have the same experience all being away from our homes. We are interested in each other because we all want to learn about the world together. Now I have friends who are from all over the world which is so exciting for me.
A huge portion of my experience in Canada has been about food. It is very, very different! Of course in Japan, we eat a lot of rice and fish but here there is a lot of meat and junk food and Tim Hortons which is my favorite. At the restaurants, the portions are very big but we can take left overs home which we don’t do in Japan. I am working with chef Tracy on cooking Japanese dinners for Rotarians and their friends. We have such a good time learning about cooking each other’s foods. I am learning about cooking Canadian foods and foods from other countries as well which I love.
I have had lots of exciting new experiences since arriving here. I have been to Niagara Falls, skating, cross country skiing, downhill skiing, hot tubbing and up to a cottage in Muskoka. I like walking in the woods and on the trails in Simcoe and Waterford. Christmas was very different for me because it was big with many gifts and a lot of parties. The food was good with turkey and many desserts. I am going to miss Christmas in Canada.
I still have lots of things that I want to see and do in Canada especially when the weather is warmer. I am so excited for all the new experiences and I am very thankful for the wonderful opportunity that this  exchange has given me. I am spending wonderful times with my lovely host families and thank you so much.
Minori Kubode, 2019-2020 Rotary Youth Exchange Student, Kaga, Japan