Bella Oliver, bending and blending into a new school

Fiona Hinkulow, Senior Writer

For six weeks last summer, Senior Bella Oliver lived in Japan, going to school and experiencing Japanese culture first-hand.
With the help of a scholarship from Youth for Understanding, Oliver took a flight to Japan.
“The last person that I touched was my mother before I boarded the plane. I didn’t get another hug until the last week of school, when I was saying my goodbyes to all my friends,” Oliver said. “It was difficult for me to restrain myself from hugging.”
Oliver was now living in a place where public displays of affection were deemed unacceptable and a society ruled by fathers with an iron fist.
“I went to school every day from 9 am to 2:30 pm, staying after school to help manage the boy’s rugby team, then I did my English and math homework, since those were the only two subjects I could understand in Japanese,” Oliver said.
To Oliver, the educational system in Japan clicked with her more than the US educational system.
“At Liberty, we have a 2 day-block schedule, while in Japan, they have a 5-day block schedule, where you would have to stay with a particular group of kids, who you became close friends with,” Oliver said.
For Oliver, unlike most newcomers to Japan, the language barrier did not deter her from her learning; when she was younger, she had lived in Japan while her father was stationed there during the 1990’s.
“Americans speak incredibly loud, compared to the soft-spoken Japanese and I learned to be aware of my volume,” Oliver said.
Presently, Oliver does not plan to go back this summer, but she does hope to visit sometime in the near future. “I’ve been talking to my host parents trying to figure out a way to go back,” Oliver said.
“I would definitely recommend students to go study abroad. It’s important for American students to realize that every country does not have the same societal norms as America,” Oliver said. “It helped me become more aware of other people and realize that you’re lifestyle and ideals don’t need to be forced upon other people.”