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Students describe life overseas


Tyler Junior College student Michael Okito moved from Congo in order to attend college in America.

“Congo is right in the middle of Africa,” he said. “It’s always hot and we probably get one month of rain.”

Okito said that Congo is more of a city and it’s nothing like what is shown on TV.

“My city is just like Tyler,” he said. “It’s just not as developed.”Other preconceived notions about Africa include people being malnourished, and that residents live in huts.

“The houses we have are pretty big,” Okito said. “Mine even has a pool.”

Okito said the wildlife in Congo is also different from what people expect.

“I have never seen any wild animals in Africa,” he said. “It might be because I stay in the city and we have zoos there. But it’s not like you land at the airport in Africa and see a wild zebra running by.”

Okito said famous Amercian music artists have also come to Congo.

“About two years ago The Game came to Congo,” he said. “We’ve also had Sisqo and Shaggy. Congo even hosted the fight between Muhammad Ali and George Foreman.”

Another form of entertainment for residents in Africa includes soccer.

“Soccer is a big sport,” Okito said. “It’s like football here.” Okito said that Africans celebrate many of the same holidays as Americans.

“We have Easter and Independence Day,” he said. “We celebrate Christmas, however, it doesn’t snow in Africa. So the whole Santa thing doesn’t really work.”

Okito said “Hotel Rwanda” was one of the few portrayals of Africa that was valid.

“That was a true story,” he said. “Things were really like that and in some places they are still like that.”


Ever since she was 9 years old Shizuka Kikuchi has been traveling by herself, back and forth, to her hometown of Tokyo, Japan. Although she currently lives in America, Kikuchi returns to Tokyo to visit her family for the summer.

“It’s a 14-hour flight,” she said. “But there is no three-hour stop in between.”

Kikuchi grew up in Houston. It was there she attended an American-Japanese school.

“It was like a Saturday school for Japanese people only,” she said. “There, I studied History, Science and Math in Japanese. My parents forced me to go.”

In Japan, high school is optional. Kikuchi said a student must take an entrance exam to be accepted.

“It’s just like college,” she said. “And plus you have to pay for it. Your books and materials are included in your tuition.”

Kikuchi said middle school is more of a priority.

“Middle school are grades 7 through 9 and high school is 10 through 12,” she said. “If you graduate middle school and choose not to go to high school you can still find work, you just won’t find a really good job.”

Kikuchi said the time a student spends in high school depends on his or her major. Different majors range from academics, to athletics or music. However everyone has to take general studies.

“School usually lasts from about 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.,” she said. “But I was there for tennis so practice lasted from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m.”

Life inside schools is also different. In America, students move from classroom to classroom. Kikuchi said the teachers are the ones who move between periods.

“In Japan, students have to clean their own classrooms,” she said. “That is why you see them wearing sandals that we call getabako. They keep the floors clean because the janitors only clean the hallways. It’s the same thing as in a home. We take off our shoes so the house doesn’t get dirty.”

Kikuchi said Japanese schools don’t have cafeterias. She said students have to bring their own lunchboxes to school.

“I hated that we didn’t have cafeterias,” she said. “Cafeterias were mainly found in rich schools. We had juice vending machines or a 7Eleven that you would go to before school. But we did have a bread lady who sold things like pizza bread. The whole entire school goes to that bread lady.”

Holidays such as Valentine’s Day also vary in the Japanese culture.

“We celebrate Valentine’s Day on Feb. 14,” Kikuchi said. “However, the girls usually give the guys gifts. Then on White Day, which is on March 14, the guys give the girls gifts.”

Kikuchi said the one of the things that the Japanese and American cultures have in common is the love for their cell phones. However, Kikuchi said it’s worse in Japan.

“We do everything on our cell phones in Japan,” she said.

“Japanese are more crazy about their cell phones than Americans.”

The most popular novels are also written on cell phones. According to the New York Daily News, this new ‘craze’ is called “keitai” or cell phone novels. A 15 year-old-girl who goes by the pen name Bunny, sold more than 110,000 paperback books of her cell phone novel and made over $600,000.

“The cell phone novels are like journals, Web sites or MySpace,” Kikuchi said.

Kikuchi said that cell phones also have built in ‘credit cards’ that can be scanned and used to make purchases.

“Mostly every Japanese cell phone has a symbol on the back,” she said. “You scan it like a credit card. You can scan a machine at a train station, restaurant or vending machine and it will send the bill to your phone. It keeps you from having to carry a credit card. Japanese are more crazy about their cell phones than Americans.”


Although her grandparents reside in Virginia, TJC student Deepa Sagar is originally from North India, near Delhi. Her first trip to America was when she was 12 years old.

“After the navy my grandpa founded a seminary,” she said. “I then went to high school here.”

Sagar said she likes the American educational system a little more than the Indian educational system.

“Here you have to do a lot of critical thinking and everyone’s opinion is valued,” she said. “In India, the way they teach is just how it is. It’s tradition to follow it.”

Sagar said students start taking more advanced courses in sixth grade.

“When we enter sixth grade we have to study chemistry, biology and physics,” she said. “We don’t get to choose. That’s why you see a lot of Indian doctors.”

Sagar said that Delhi has also become more industrious. Malls and a Metro Station have recently been added to the city.

“The malls are very classy with escalators and elevators,” she said. “We still have village markets, which are really good places to buy things like your jewelry. But those are located outside of the city.”

Name brands found in America can also be found in Delhi.

“We have Nike, Adidas, Old Navy, Gap and European brands,” Sagar said. “We have Proactiv, TGIF and KFC. Nobody knows what Kentucky is, but they still eat KFC.”

Sagar said India also has a McDonalds but without the hamburgers or drive-thru.

“We have veggie burgers but no beef,” she said. “We cannot kill a cow. And Delhi is so packed that there is no room for a drive-thru or parking. Even when they cannot park in a certain place they park there anyway.”

Sagar said Delhi streets are often crowded with traffic.”You can see an elephant stuck in traffic with a car, scooter and bus,” she said. “There are elephants at the traffic lights.”Sagar said that with elephants on the roads, people are advised to close their windows.

“You don’t want an elephant’s trunk to go in your house or car,” she said. “Or they might go on a rampage. It’s actually something that traffic police teach when they visit schools.”

Sagar said that a holiday celebrated in India is Divali.

“It’s a light festival held in October,” she said. “The legend is that a king came back to his domain after 40 years in the wilderness and that’s what the celebration is about. We have firecrackers and lots of lights. It equals Christmas.”

Another important part of the culture in India is Bollywood.

“Bollywood is India cinema,” Sagar said. “Most romance and love stories are based on Bollywood.”

Sagar said most of the movies are musicals.

“Even in action movies or thri
ller movies you have at least five music pieces,” she said. “Otherwise your movie will never be successful. The music and movie industry go hand and hand.”

Sagar said that along with Bollywood, India is known for its physical geography as well.

“India is mainly known for its beauty and history,” she said. “There are over 260 languages all over India so even in your own country you feel like a foreigner.”

Sagar said she plans to head back to India for the summer.

“In India there are a lot of stray dogs,” she said. “You know that you have reached India when you see stray dogs on the landing strip.”

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