By HRV Talon Reporter: Charley Boonstra
Marina Uehara is a 17- year-old girl with big dreams. Always beaming, Marina radiates a positive energy everywhere she goes. She is one of the five exchange students at Hood River Valley High School, coming all the way from Japan. Marina come from a small town called Yamanashi that is nearby to the famous Mount Fuji. Her family has owned a leather company for hundreds of years and her father travels the world for the family business. Her discipline and kindness to succeed in life have taken her all the way to Hood River, Oregon.
She came to the United States through a program at her school and was assigned to come to Hood River. Marina loves it here and has enjoyed meeting new friends and learning more of the English language. In fact, one of the reasons that Marina wanted to travel was to improve upon her English language skills. “I love to talk to my friends, because it’s really helpful with my English”. In Japan, she is only taught grammatical aspects of the English language. Marina stated, “We don’t really focus on speaking”. Coming to America, for Marina, was the opportunity to be immersed in a new culture.
Marina’s English teacher this year is Ms. Webster. “She is a diligent and dedicated student,” Ms. Webster added, “She has a passion for learning and wanting to do her best”. Indeed, Marina has been striving to do her best in America. She is involved in all sorts of activities in Hood River. Marina was featured in a choir piece playing the violin and she enjoys doing yoga at a studio downtown. Marina continues to nurture her passion for playing the piano and violin, as she has been practicing for almost 12 years.
She has made many friends, including the senior Zoe Swisher. Zoe commented, “She is super friendly and lovely. She is a really good person and loves to learn about different cultures”. Zoe and Marina have been exchanging their languages this year, with Marina teaching Zoe Japanese, while Zoe helps Marina to learn English. “The best way to learn a new language is to go to that country”, Zoe added.
When asked about differences between Japan and America, Marina first states that “Japanese people hesitate to show affection in public”. She added, “I was so surprised to see people kissing here!”. “Most people are very shy”. The food is also different in Japan. “We mostly eat rice, vegetables, and meat,” Marina said, “not really fried foods”. Marina also added that sushi is a specialty cuisine in Japan. Most people don’t eat it on a regular basis, despite the American stereotype that they do.
The one most interesting fact about Marina is that she loves to be a part of the global community. From learning different languages, to traveling the world, she is surely a global citizen. When she leaves next year to go back to Japan, she would like to study international business. She may even finish up school in Japan and then come back to America for college. “I want to try many more new things in my life and also to get better at speaking languages”. Marina will most certainly contribute to her family business and her own community in Japan after learning English. Marina calls English, “the global language”.
Between being with friends, learning English, and playing music, Marina has truly taken advantage of her opportunity to come to America. If Marina is known for one thing it is her cheerful attitude. Despite being a busy exchange student, she seems to find the time to maintain her positive attitude. She sends vibes of kindness and compassion all through the HRV hallways. In Ms. Webster’s words, “She is always smiling”.