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Bibliotherapy about Studying Abroad

Conflicts with a host family.
My previous host family was away from home most of the time, and it did not help me to improve my English skills. For that reason, I left the family for my current host family’s place. My current host mother is a Caucasian woman. She, her son (a college student), her Church friend, and I live together. I am glad that we have a lot of conversations. However, they invite me to the movies or to go out for dinner too often. When I am alone in my room, they worry if I am sick. In addition, their kitchen is almost always messy, and I am the only one that cleans it. I talked to my host mother about it, but all she did was to clean up the kitchen a little. I wish she’d asked other housemates to keep it clean. Once, somebody ate the food that I bought for myself without asking me. About the incident, my host mother just said"It is not a big deal." On the other day, she said to me,"You look irritated lately. Why don’t you come to our Church with us?" Am I too picky? Is there anything wrong with me?

There are three important skills to make your home stay comfortable: observation, problem-solving, and communication. First, you should observe what your host family’s values and rules are. This will give you some hints about what the problems are and how you can solve them. Your host family does not appear to have rules about who does what household chores. They also seem to spend a lot of time together. If these are their values and patterns, you would stand out, even if you are right about your opinions.

Secondly, you should think about how to solve these problems. Regarding your privacy, why don’t you tell them something like,"I am happy to have a lot of chances to speak in English here. However, I have a lot of assignments from school. When my door is closed, I am studying. Don’t worry about me too much." They probably ask you out because they know the lack of interaction was the reason of your leaving the previous host family. You can let them know your schedule in advance, such as "I will be available this weekend. So, if you have a plan to go out this weekend, would you invite me?" or"I have to study all night tonight." By learning your schedule, they know when to ask you out.

It is not easy to change them regarding their kitchen issues. You can only wash the plates and utensils that you used, put your food in a container with your name on it, or stop paying for your board and eat out. Be sure you tell them about it. You can propose your ideas, like,"I would like to stay here and I want to be comfortable. So, I came up with some ideas, such as…"You should verbalize what you are thinking. Putting issues and ideas on the table will be easier for all of you to solve the problems.

Your host mother appears to be worried about you being irritated, and that is probably why she invited you to come to her Church. However, it is not fair if she thinks they are right, and you are wrong. If you don’t say anything about it, it would stay like that. You can say,"I got irritated because your family rules are different from mine. However, I figured it out how to work around these differences. So, I am fine, now."

If you have tried everything you can think of and nothing changes, you probably want to look for another place to live. It is not unusual for international students to move several times to find a suitable place to live and study. In this process, your English skills will improve as you negotiate with American people.
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My English skills are limited due to school dropout/truancy.
I dropped out from school when I was a junior high school student. I passed the University Entrance Qualification Examination and I am currently studying English in a language school in the US. My speaking skills are not too bad, but my writing skills are pretty much limited, which makes me feel devastated. Most of my Japanese classmates have moved up to the next level, but I have to repeat the same level, which makes me feel inferior to them. Is it a useless idea for me to study abroad?

An increasing number of Japanese students are dropping out of junior high and high school than before and many of them choose studying abroad as an alternative. Some of those who came to the US say that they lack the basic skills of English language or they have little academic abilities such as going to school daily and making friends at school. What should they do to get over these hurdles?

First, you should stop comparing yourself to your Japanese classmates. If you can benefit from comparing yourself to others, that would be a different story. However, if you feel more depressed by doing so, it is a waste of your time. Secondly, you should remind yourself of your original intention that brought you to the US. Was it"I wanted to change my life," or"I wanted to go to college after finishing ESL"? Whatever the goal, you need to make an effort toward that. It takes a lot of time and efforts to achieve any major goals.

A lot of Japanese young people feel rushed, and they tend to think the sooner they complete their education, the better. They are overly discouraged when somebody is ahead of them and they tend to give up. That explains why many Japanese students think that they are too old to start things anew, even if they are only 22 or 23 years old. It is never too late to start new things and it is never useless to study. However, only the ones who make a slowly but steady effort can achieve their goals. Who knows if your current classmates will be doing better than you in 10 or 20 years? Even though you are currently behind them, or you have to repeat the same level, all you have to do is to study English diligently. Learning a new language starts from one single word and one single structure.

You probably can benefit from observing free English classes for immigrants and refugees at a local library or a Church. There you could see learning English from a different point of view. The students there are immigrants of all ages and learning English to survive in this society. Some start from a very basic level of English and read simple sentences with heavy accents. You may think it is embarrassing, for many Japanese students think learning English in the US is the quickest way to be able to speak English fluently like native English speakers. The process of learning English is nothing cool or showy, and it is rather step by step. So, you want to give up your unnecessary pride and be patient.

You should also remember that English is a communication tool. It is more important for you to have your own idea and opinions and express them, than for you to speak perfect English. Keeping up appearances should not be your first consideration. People will listen to you and respect you if you have a good point. If you speak perfect English but have no point, you don"t receive much respect and people tend to not listen to you.
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I am having a second thought about my decision to come to the US to study.
I am studying at a community college in the USA. I got an e-mail from my friend, who works some part-time jobs in Japan. Since I got this e-mail, I have been distressed. She makes a lot of money and has a lot of free time for herself. She is enjoying her life, travels with her friends, and received a designer-brand purse from her boyfriend. There is a huge gap between her life and mine, as my life is just studying day in and day out. I started wondering if I made the wrong choice to come study in the USA, as I am not enjoying my life as much as many Japanese young people are. Do you think I made a mistake in my life?

When Japanese international students hear from their friends in Japan, they sometimes get upset especially when their friends are having a lot of fun. Comparing their lives to their friends" in Japan, they start wondering if they made the right choice to study abroad, as their lives are filled with school work, assignments, exams, and presentations. On the other hand, more people study abroad after they work several part-time jobs in Japan. They say that the older they get, the more difficult to it is find a job, unless they have a degree or some kind of special skills.

There is a social economic problem in Japan that there are fewer full-time positions. For this reason, many people get laid off even with a lot of work experience. Your friend probably can find jobs relatively easily while she is young, but will find it more difficult when she gets older. What younger people should do now is to study, work, acquire work skills, and keep looking for better jobs.

You are studying hard now. It is an investment for your future. The time and money your friend is enjoying now, designer-brand goods, having a boyfriend, and traveling – these are temporary rewards. On the other hand, the education and degree you are earning now will become a treasure in your life. If you can find a job that enhances your career and paves the way to success, you will gain something wonderful in your life.

What is important for you right now is to keep reminding yourself of your original goal and the purpose that brought you to the USA. Even though your goals are far away and your friends are having a lot of fun, you should focus on what your goals are now. You probably want to cut down on receiving some information from Japan intentionally, as it could discourage you and raise doubts in your mind. Your role models should be international students who worked hard and achieved their goals, not your friends in Japan. Lastly, you need to give yourself credit for making a steady effort to reach your goals.
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My host student doesn’t come out of her room.
We have been hosting international students over the past five years in the hope of giving international experiences to our children. More than ten of them were Japanese students. I enjoyed their stay because they are polite and nice to the kids and I still have contact with some of them years after their stay. However, our current host student has been a major worry for us. She is 19 years old and came from Japan two months ago. When she comes home from school, she goes to her room and doesn’t come out even for dinner. We provide breakfast and dinner, so we leave her meals; however, she doesn’t touch the foods many times. She seems to be eating snacks in her room. Whenever I talk to her, her answer is just yes or no. I thought she might dislike this house and asked her about it, but her answer was otherwise. Her behavior is not suitable for our children. We may have to ask her to leave; but I would like to help her because I like her. What can we do for her?

Unfortunately, this student"s behavior is not so uncommon among young Japanese students these days. Many of them who come to the US to study don"t come out of their room, don"t talk, and don"t eat with others. Some even stop going to school. In Japan, Hikikomori and Futoko. are the huge social problems. Hikikomori (shut-in or social withdrawal) refers to a person who lives in a room for six months or longer, sometimes years with no social life beyond their room. Futokoh is refusal of school, when children skip school for one month or longer per year (10,788,944 elementary and middle school students were Futokoh in 2006). The reasons for these astonishing phenomena are social anxiety, school bullying, inability to connect with others, family problems, being overwhelmed or disappointed by modern society, and an ineffective school system, etc. Some of these students choose to study abroad as a way to renew their life.

Another trend in Japan is that, as Japan"s birth rate plummets, there are an increasing number of only children and pseudo only children, who have siblings but live like an only child, since each child has his/her own room with a cell phone, a TV, and games, so they don"t have to associate with their siblings. That explains why many Japanese students have difficulty in relating to host families.

Learning about her academic background in Japan will help you to understand her baseline. If she was one of those students who chose study abroad as a way of starting over, the fact that she has been going to school daily here is a big accomplishment by itself.

Like you experienced, finding out what she is thinking can be hard even for a counselor. I have to ask many questions, guess their feeling, and describe examples of other students. That might sound strange and infantile to Americans; however, that shows how little experience they have had with verbally expressing their thoughts and feelings. What you can do to facilitate conversation with her is to get someone she feels comfortable talking to and use the person as a cultural interpreter when you have a meeting with her. In the past, some students in the similar situations had said,"I actually like this house and appreciate their respect for my privacy," "Going to school and doing homework are so taxing that spending time with host family is another pressure."

On the other hand, her influence on your children shouldn’t be overlooked. You want to make it clear what is acceptable and what is not. But be careful when you talk since she might jump into a conclusion that you don"t want her. When you present your expectations, be sure to start the conversation with assurance such as"We"d like you to stay with us. This is to improve our communication and understandings." A good first step is to come up with a doable plan, for example, having dinner together once a week or watching a TV program with family on Saturday night. If she can do that, both of you would feel better and could do a little bit more next time.

Many Japanese young students might be spoiled and inexperienced to live with others in harmony, but they are desperate to complete education. For that matter, American host families are not just providing room and board, but sometimes having to act as a surrogate parent who gives structure and discipline to these young Japanese students.

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