Imagine a grand city of tall skyscrapers, ablaze with lights of every hue. See the bustling roads, hear the sounds of traffic and people, and feel the liveliness of this extraordinary place. Now picture our own Woodland Park. It is mostly quiet, not very crowded, and nature is more prominent than buildings or traffic. One brave student chose to not only face these vastly different settings, but also to plunge into an entirely new culture. We present to you Rika Sasaki, faring from Tokyo, Japan.
Rika is staying in Woodland Park with a host family for one year, and has been attending WPHS as a junior. When asked why she chose to come to America, Rika answered, “I just liked English, but in my country learning English is difficult. I wanted to speak English, and I’m hoping I can use English for a job.” As mentioned before, she finds the two cities fairly different. Tokyo, on one hand, is crowded with people, buildings, stores, and other wonders. Woodland Park is not nearly as populous. The differences do not stop there. In Japan, Rika was kept active with basketball, school and learning English. While she still engages in all three of these activities, things move a little slower in Woodland Park. “I have lots of time here, because in Japan I was busy…I don’t have to study as much here,” Rika explains. The school system here varies from that in Japan also. Students of different grades do not clash often, and instead of going from class to class, their teachers rotate. “We do everything with the same classmates for one year,” Rika says, as opposed to the WPHS arrangement where students take each class with a separate group of people. While this new system makes it more difficult to get to know one group of people thoroughly, Rika has been able to meet a lot more people, and interact with people in different grades. Teachers also tend to be more approachable at WPHS. “I like American school, because teachers are friendly and easier to talk to.”
Although she is enjoying America, Rika is naturally missing some elements of her home in Japan. Snacks made here are often too sweet or flavorful for her taste. One of Rika’s favorite meals, miso- soup (a combination of various ingredients, including vegetables, meat, and more), also tends to taste too strong over here. The shock of going from being surrounded by tall skyscrapers in Japan compared to the small town setting here in Woodland Park can also bring some homesickness. Despite all this, Rika is enjoying her time in America. “It’s very beautiful here, and I know it’s going to get cold. We don’t get much snow in Japan, so I can’t wait to see everything white. I like the people here a lot. Here it’s easier to talk to someone, because in English we don’t have to be so polite.” Those who know Rika are so glad she is here, and hopefully you will get to meet her too.