Junior Keagen Kawahara moved over 6,000 miles from his hometown in Japan in order to “experience a new culture and meet new people” in the summer of 2019.
Kawahara at Derby in August.
He was shocked by the many cultural differences dividing Japanese and American culture.
“People are really friendly sometimes,” Kawahara said. “For example, if you go to McDonald’s, they tell you to have a nice day. We never had that in Japan.”
“… Everything you guys do here is the opposite (of Japanese high schools). The shoes, the hair, the style, the atmosphere, everything is different.”
He inserted himself into the school immediately, playing soccer in the fall and then joining the swim team.
He continued noticing disparities in American and Japanese behavior as he settled in and made friends.
“In Japan we hung out way more,” Kawahara said. “Like, right after school we met up somewhere and we hung out for a long time. Here, we’re just friends at school and I kind of don’t like it.”
Since arriving, he has had many unforgettable experiences and now considers America “a part of” him that he will take back with him when he returns home.
“I wouldn’t choose either,” Kawahara said. “I love Japan because I was born there and it’s my home, but I would visit the U.S because it’s a part of me now.”
Above all, Kawahara said he most appreciates the learning opportunity he’s been given.
“Some things I already knew, but it was a new environment so I learned so much more (than I expected),” Kawahara said.