Science and Beyond: How Cultural Exchange Unlocked Dreams of a Global Career

Hello everyone! This is the HelloWorld Host Team. Today we would like to share with you the experience of one of our guests, T., who was hosted by Narayan and Manju Gurjar, an inspiring couple of hosts that we have previously interviewed.

For T. this was the second experience with the HelloWorld Cultural Exchange Program! Last time he joined, he was already dreaming of being a scientist, but this time he got the chance to stay at the house of a OIST Scientist, and this made him dream ever higher!

Let’s find out

How was your homestay experience this time?

It was just one day, but since it had been a long time since I did a homestay, I was naturally a bit nervous at first. But since I had participated (in the program) before, I think more than just understanding the meanings of the words, I was unconsciously looking for the many positive points having fun.

And what were you able to “unconsciously” perceive?

I thought that the hosts’ daily life differs from Japanese people’s, but I also felt that enjoying things has nothing to do with nationality.

What made you feel that way?

Earlier, I was playing table tennis and soccer games at OIST, and I felt like we somehow simply connected with each other, which I thought was really nice.

What made you decide to do a second homestay experience?

Simply put, I enjoyed it last time I participated, and I also thought that to become a scientist, it is necessary to have English skills and interact with foreigners. Additionally, since I will be studying abroad, it’s also to get a bit accustomed to it.

So to improve your English, you’re going to study abroad?

Yes, but the main reason is that I really enjoyed the experience of cultural exchange and challenging myself to speak in English.

Following your last experience, did you feel that your interest or motivation towards English and different cultures changed?

Studying english by yourself or at school, when you’re surrounded by Japanese people is very different from an immersive cultural exchange. While at the homestay, I found it hard to explain what exactly I meant, and there were a few times that I struggled to speak fully. So today, and also in my previous program, I kept thinking that there is always room for improvement and leveling up my English skills.

Today, at the beginning, there was a moment when you showed a poster and explained your research in English. How was that?

Even presentations in Japanese can be difficult, so I felt that it would be impossible for me to explain my research in a foreign country with my current skills. Since the listeners knew that I wasn’t very fluent in English, they tried to listen carefully, which in a way made it easier to explain the content. If they had been Japanese, they would have probably ask more challenging questions. I think if I become a bit more able to speak english, I’ll be able to talk about my research even better.

How was it staying with a host family who are actually researchers like you aspire to be?

Even from their mannerisms and actions, I definitely felt that they were intelligent. Other than discussing my poster, we didn’t really talk much about science. Instead, we talked about normal things like what kind of music they liked, what foods they enjoyed, and such.

At the beginning, the host family said, “We are on the same page.” They meant that they wanted to have open and varied conversations, not just about science. Did you find that you were able to become closer through those conversations?

Yes, quite a bit. At first, I thought it would be impossible, but even in just a few hours, I realized that things can change quite a bit.

How was visiting the laboratory at OIST?

It was awesome! Being at OIST and experiencing what it’s like to become a scientist, I felt even more strongly that it’s something I definitely want to do.

Narayan, like you, has been studying English, which is not his native language, and is now making a mark on the world. Through your homestay experiences, what do you envision for your future? What kind of scientist do you aspire to become?

Considering all my experiences, I do want to become proficient in English, but more importantly, I want to be able to interact with foreigners on a more equal footing. I feel like I often create barriers unintentionally. So, I hope I can become friendlier and have more engaging conversations.

How to get there? Do you have any ideas?

I plan to not only improve my English but also to be more proactive in initiating conversations without hesitation.

Please give a message to those who want to join the program in the future!

Even if you haven’t traveled abroad, engaging with foreign cultures in your everyday life can definitely have a positive impact in the future. So, I think it’s important to enjoy the experience without being too intimidated!

Thank you for sharing your experience with us, T.!

Through the HelloWorld Cultural Exchange Program, our amazing Host Families share their culture and their daily life with Japanese students by welcoming them into their homes. No matter if you are an experienced or a new host, our program is an opportunity for you to join a vibrant international community and make wonderful connections. If you are interested in learning more about it, we suggest taking a look at our previous Host Voice issue, “How To Be an Actor of Social Change from Your Own Home”.

What is the HelloWorld Cultural Exchange Program?

HelloWorld provides educational experiences to connect international families living in Japan with locals who want to learn about diverse cultures. Through our Cultural Exchange Program, Japanese students who are unable to go abroad get to spend 24-48 hours at the homes of international families and get to experience the world in their own city.

So far, over 200+ host families have joined our program and 8000+ students have taken part in our cultural exchange.

Find more details on how to join us here!