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12/27/2012 11:21:00 AM
English is difficult, says exchange student

by Paul Martin

"At first, I couldn't understand English," admitted Miya Horita from Japan, exchange student in Cannon Falls High School. Although she had studied English for about five years at her school, it took time and effort to keep up with English at conversational speed.

She was encouraged by host family Jeff and Mindi Jorgenson of Cannon Falls.

"I knew a little Japanese from my time stationed in Japan with the Navy 20 years ago," says Jeff. "The fact that I was prepared to try out the small amount I remember of my Japanese encouraged her to try out her English."

The size of everything American is remarkable to Miya, for instance the comparison between the Japanese Disneyland and Disneyworld in Florida, which she visited with the Jorgensons.

Horita is from Kanagawa Prefecture, south of Japan. She has one older sister, and a family used to travel and living abroad. She is used to snow, but not in Minnesota amounts! She had already visited New York and Hawaii before this trip. Her mother is a pre-school teacher, but her father is a Commodities Buyer. Based in Colombia, he returns to Japan twice a year.

In school she is a junior, and is studying hard here, taking classes in US history, creative composition, math, drama, Spanish and craft design. After school she does speech, and is on the JV Dance team. Next semester she will be in choir.

When asked about the differences from school in Japan, she said it was hard to find the different classrooms at first. In Japan, her class stays in the same room for the day. The other great difference that she noticed is lack of uniform, which is required in Japan, but not in the US. Her plan when she returns home is to attend an International Studies college, if she can win a place.

"I love American food," Miya says, smiling. Mac cheese and French fries are favorites. Sushi is common at home, but not here, so she learned how to fix sushi soon after arriving.

She also enjoys some American customs. She went trick-or-treating with Chuill, a Cambodian student at Kenyon/Wanamingo High School who is living with Pastors Nick and Cindy Fisher-Broin, and she would like to take the idea home with her. She recognizes some Christmas customs, such as trees in the home.

"American Christmas trees are much bigger," she says. The Japanese do not string lights on their homes, either. Her family is Christian, which puts them in a small minority in Japan. A member of a Catholic church at home, she has been attending Riverwood with her host family.

Jeff and Mindi Jorgenson clearly enjoy hosting foreign students. "We had been planning to host when our daughter (Olivia, age three) is older," says Jeff. "Then last year, a family who was to host a Chinese student had to back out at the last moment, and we stepped in."

Their experience with Jason from China led them to host again - a positive experience across cultures for them, Miya, and the students of Cannon Falls.

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