Interns in DC from Japan with Maki Sofia Tello and Yodai Tanaka

By Angel Njoku

Today, we had two Japanese guests in our very small class for the day. Our guests were Maki Sofia Tello and Yodai Tanaka, who are currently participating in an exchange program called Japan Internship for the Development of Young Leaders. They are both undergraduate seniors at their universities in Japan. Maki goes to a private university and she is from Kamakura, Yodai goes to a public university – Hokkaido University. Maki’s major in university is mass communications and Yodai’s major is law. Maki is a public relations student intern at the US Department of Agriculture. Yodai is an intern at Sojitz Corporation of America. After getting to know a little bit about them, we were able to ask them questions.

Their opinions about the difference between US universities and Japanese universities were very fascinating to me. Between my classmates and I, we already know that the tuition in Japan isn’t as high as it is here in the US. They told us that in Japan, the hardest part is taking the entrance exam, because students study for a year or more just because of the test. Yodai told us that he spent his summer studying for his entrance exam from 5am-8pm every day and he started studying in his junior/senior year of high school. We even learned from them that after students get into college, some of them just go to a lot of parties. Something surprising to me was when they said that in Japanese colleges, they don’t take attendance and students only need to pass the final exam to graduate. They know that tuition for American schools is already very high, but they told us some big differences, like how teachers try to interact with their students here while in Japan most teachers won’t do that. They also said that from what they know, US colleges take attendance and students have work that they turn in when given deadlines like reports and essays. With all of the work that US students do, it’s harder for them to graduate, because there is so much more than just a final exam that says if you pass or fail.

Maki also told us that she was half Japanese and half Peruvian and we were able to know how it is different, especially since Japan is a homogenous society. She told us that now it is more accepted, but it wasn’t like that when she was younger. The good thing is that she was never bullied because of it, but since her full name is Maki Sofia Tello, when she was younger her teachers didn’t really say it properly, so you can see the cultural difference there. But she took being half Japanese as an advantage. Something that surprised us all was when she said that her dad never taught her Spanish, because he wanted her to be Japanese. Just knowing this it shows that Japan is slowly changing and accepting more things.

Overall, we had a lot of fun with Yodai and Maki, and it would be great to have them come visit us again. They even participated in our walk and talk speaking exercise, since today was the introduction into our new lesson on lifestyle. So we asked around saying “what do you usually do on the weekend” in Japanese. Some of us were able to talk to them during the activity. I wasn’t one of them but it was really fun having them join us.

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