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Exchange Student Spotlight: Kokoro Matsuura

Meet one of Linden High School's new foreign exchange students.

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Kokoro Matsuura, a 17-year-old foreign exchange student from Tokyo, Japan is making LHS her home for the 2017-2018 school year. I had the pleasure of getting to know Kokoro, who describes herself as happy, which is clear to see, as she always has a smile on her face.  

Koko first became interested in becoming an exchange student after living in China for five years because of her father’s job.

“I saw people can speak English who live in China. So I thought I need to speak another language for my future,” Koko said.

During her time in China, she attended Japanese school, and was not able to speak Chinese fluently. Also, she has liked studying English since she had started in the seventh grade.

“It’s just reading and writing. We have one class a week to speak English,” Koko said of learning English in Japan.

Upon arrival in America, Koko was both excited to meet her host family, but nervous for school. Prior to coming to Linden High School, Koko spent time in Oxnard, CA, with another Japanese foreign exchange student. 

Koko is staying with Lynn and Rick Perry who live in Lodi, CA, our local wine country. The married couple are retirees and have three adult children, two sons, a daughter and three grandchildren. In her spare time, Koko hangs out with her host family, and they do activities such as going to church, shopping, and boating. Her favorite activity so far has been going to San Francisco and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge.

“It’s beautiful, but it was cold,” said Koko. San Francisco is a staple of Northern California and a typical tourist spot.

Kokoro visiting the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA.

After school and on weekends, she swims in the pool, watches TV and movies, and does homework.

Interestingly, one of her favorite American TV shows is American Ninja Warrior. She also likes to watch Disney movies because “they are easy to understand.”

“Kokoro is very kind, quirky, and interesting,” said junior Nayeli Lopez, one of Koko’s friends.  “She’s always interested in learning something new.”

In addition to her great sense of humor, that makes everyone around her laugh, she also has a knack for making friendships with everyone.

“She’s always wanting to learn as much as she possibly can about our culture,” said Lopez. Koko has made many friends in her classes and in the exchange program. “When I can’t understand what they’re saying, they try to understand me,” she said of making friends here at Linden High School.

Her favorite subject this year is U.S. History taught by Oscar Fry.

 “He tells many jokes,” said Koko about Fry. “At first I couldn’t understand, but I now understand about half of what he says.”

She also enjoys the class, because she has the opportunity to learn the U.S. point-of-view about war that occurred with other countries such as her home country of Japan. Koko says her high school in Japan is only three grade levels, the students do not move from one classroom to another for each period, and only the teachers move from period to period.

School is not the only difference between America and Japan. Koko describes Tokyo as having tall skyscrapers, being noisy and crowded, and fast-paced. Most people walk or take the train to school or work. The atmosphere in rural Lodi and Linden is clearly different than a large city such as Tokyo, that has 9.2 million residents.

Of the few similarities, Koko has observed that there is McDonald’s in both America and Japan. She said her favorite American food is hamburgers. Which she only had eaten at McDonald’s in Japan.  

Koko hopes to get more involved at Linden High School and is interested in playing on the basketball team. Koko played on the Mita High School’s basketball team in Japan. She loves the hard work each teammate has to put in for the team to be successful, and also that it is fun.

“It’s challenging…we have practice everyday, even Sundays when I play with my team in Japan,” she said, while emphasizing that there are no breaks.

Although she misses her family and home in Tokyo, she is excited to learn about American culture and to experience traditions like Thanksgiving with her host family, their adult children, and grandchildren.

“I want to eat a lot,” she said. 

One part of the Japanese culture she would like to share with Americans and the students of Linden High School is the New Year’s Day food and traditions they celebrate. The traditional Japanese food eaten on New Year’s Day is called Osechi; usually identified by their special boxes called jūbako, which resemble bentō boxes, something one may see on the menu of a sushi restaurant in America. Ceremonially, the Japanese people go to the temple, throw money in the collection box, and then pray.

Japanese New Year’s Day food called Osechi.


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