Exchange student learns from the difference
Foreign exchange student, Barbara Yosino grew up with the influence of two cultures. Her parents are from Brazil and moved to Japan 20 years ago.
"I grew up in the Japanese culture and the Brazilian culture at the same time," she said. "Our household in Japan is different from the average Japanese household."
She is familiar with differences between her family's customs compared to the surrounding cultures.
"For instance, in Japan we celebrate Christmas a much different way," Barbara said. "We are Catholic, so Christmas is very important to us. For most Japanese, it is a reason to have parties, eat cake and get presents."
Barbara's family attends church often; however, she feels the majority of Buddist Japanese only attend temple when they are obligated.
"We go to church a lot and Japanese people seem to only go when they feel they have to – like New Year's and when a baby is born."
In Japan, Barbara lived in a dorm at her high school.
"I am used to not seeing my family," she said. "But my brother, who is five, I miss him a lot."
The two are very close, despite the 12-year age difference.
"I have taught him a lot about Japanese, because my parents are more familiar with Brazil," she said. "I miss reading to him and teaching him."
The 17-year-old has lived in Minden with her host mother, Pat Powell, since August and feels that making friends at Minden High was no problem.
"I started making friends the first day and didn't have any difficulty," Barbara said. "They are so, so friendly here."
She feels being a part of the Minden High School (MHS) Band has had a positive influence on her exchange.
"Most of the band members are my friends," she said. "They have helped me a lot by teaching me things and answering my questions."
Barbara twirls a baton as a majorette in the MHS band.
"I was a cheerleader and twirler in Japan, so I thought I would try that here," she said, also noting opportunities that are offered in Minden are not available in Japan.
"It has been amazing," she said of her time with the band. "I have never seen such excitement, playing and dancing.
"I never performed solo in Japan and I was able to do that here," Barbara said, also saying she enjoyed performing in field shows and in parades, such as Mardi Gras. "It's just a whole new experience because we don't have those opportunities in Japan."
Learning English and American culture were two of the reasons Barbara made the exchange to America.
"I also wanted to mature more," she said. "Taking a trip overseas, alone, and doing things by myself, it has pushed me to grow as a person."
She plans to attend an American college, which has a campus in Japan.
"If I graduate that college, I will have an American degree," Barbara said. "I hope to be able to get a job in America, and maybe come back to Louisiana and Minden."
Barbara said that people here are more relaxed and free to enjoy life.
"It's the way people live their lives here," she said. "In Japan it is work, work, work, work.
"It seems to be all about the money in Japan and life there is such a routine," she continued. "Go to school, graduate college, work, work, work, retire and that's it.
"The whole week is a routine," she said of adolescent and adult life in Japan. "Life is so fast and is all about money."
She does not feel people in Minden live that way.
"School here is so much fun," she said. "Teachers interact with the students, do fun stuff and make studying interesting."
Right now, Barbara and classmates are working on a rocket project, which she says would never happen in Japan.
"Here, teachers accept student opinion a lot," she said. "That is not something you will see in Japan.
"Students are freer to break tradition, and go after what they want," she continued. "Their (students) imagination is so cool. They are more creative here."
While in Minden, Barbara learned of the destructive earthquake and deadly tsunami in Japan.
"When it first happened I didn't know what was going on," Barbara said. "When I first saw the disaster zone on the TV all I could think was 'What?'"
Her immediate family lives on a peninsula three miles from the coast. They were able to avoid any personal or property damage from the earthquake and tsunami.
"Fortunately the day after it (earthquake) happened was the day for me to call home," said Barbara, who can only call home once every two weeks. "I was able to speak with them (immediate family) and know everything is okay where they live."
Barbara's Japanese relatives, the Yosino family, are currently living in the Epcot Center.
Barbara said she is looking forward to seeing her family but that saying good-bye to her friends here will be difficult.
This is her last week in America. Barbara said everyone has told her how much she will be missed.
"I am definitely going to miss them too," she said. "We call each other brother and sister; we are so close.
"My friends here, they are my siblings, they are so important to me," she said.
She said it was easier to say good-bye to friends in Japan because she knew she would be returning soon.
"But my friends here, it is much harder to say goodbye because I don't know when I will be able to come back," she said. "Some (friends) here are even closer to me than my friends in Japan."
When asked how she feels about her decision to make an exchange to Minden she said, "It has been more than I expected."