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Alyx’s Tokyo Experience

Last December, year 13 student Alyx Bolivar was one of 14 lucky students selected for the Tokyo Metropolitan Education Board Student Exchange Scholarship. She went on a once-in-a-lifetime 12-day trip to Japan and experienced the life of a student living in Tokyo. Here is her reflection on the trip:

“During the latter end of 2019, an opportunity named the “Tokyo Experience” programme arrived in the form of a flyer, a notice and an application form. Mrs. Kevern encouraged her year 12 and year 13 students to apply. We had to write a 500-word essay about why YOU should go on the trip. By sheer luck, I was selected to be one of the 15 New Zealand students chosen!

“It was the trip of a lifetime, even for someone as introverted as me. It was completely different from going on a normal school trip. When I boarded the aeroplane, I didn’t know anyone and no one really knew me. But by the end of the flight, everyone knew each other’s names and were pretty relaxed about being with each other. For one week we lived with our host families in Tokyo, experiencing the daily life of a Japanese student. Most, if not all of us, grew to be very close to our homestay families, and we will never forget our time with them. We shared laughs, we shared smiles and we bonded over some delicious food that my homestay mother cooked!

“The Japanese are very proud of their culture and as part of the programme we had the chance to experience their rich traditions and history. We had sessions with the Naginata club’s mentors, kind elderly ladies who trained and worked alongside youth to pass on the tradition of how to use Naginata (a traditional Japanese spear). We attended a tea ceremony in a Washitsu (traditional Japanese room with tatami mats) and we went to the Tokyo Edo Museum which showcases Japanese history from the 17th century and beyond. We were also able to take a trip to the National Noh Theatre where we got to watch a Noh performance, try on Noh actors’ clothing, be taught how to move like an actor and were given the extremely rare opportunity to wear an expensive Noh mask.

“Our final task, nearing the end of the week was a conference where we were to discuss and present solutions to problems together as youths from many different countries. The Japanese media wanted to hear our opinions on our new experiences of Japanese culture.

“We also had some individual free time. Personally, I consider myself lucky enough to go with my host family to Sanrio Puroland (an amusement park with Sanrio characters such as Hello Kitty, KeroKeroKeroppi and Gudetama). I think that must have been one of my favourite moments.

“Those memories are captured in the photos in my album! The Tokyo Experience is a once in a lifetime opportunity that anyone aspiring to learn Japanese or is interested in global studies must try for. The 12 days I spent in Japan were so enjoyable, they passed in the blink of an eye. I will never forget this moment in my life.”