Japan Immersion Programme


Taking a chance and leaving our comfort zone always takes courage, even for young people who generally have an adventurous spirit. Some Grade 8 students chose to take a chance and go on an adventure far from their parents, far from their home, and far from their country.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Japan. We are here!!!

We arrived at Haneda airport at 8:24 a.m. local time. All of us were very enthusiastic to embrace the new adventures ahead.
“Bu, where should we go?”
“Bu, I wanna go to the toilet”
“Bu, should we fill in this form now?”

14 kids were buzzing around along with other groups of tourists from various countries that were also joining the program.

I have travelled to some other countries, but never with 14 kids!! Well, let’s make this an incredible experience!

We rushed to the immigration because Pak Ali, our chaperon, told me that we had to catch the 11:24 a.m. Shinkansen train to Nagano.

We anticipated the long lines at immigration; therefore, the students completed their immigration and customs forms on the plane; but, to my surprise only 4 students had completed them.

Oh well, the show must go on. “Come on kids, we can make it.” 15 suitcases were waiting and time was flying. After a few minutes, everyone was ready.

Being in a rush while carrying a 20-30 kg suitcase is really challenging. “Doesn’t Japan have lifts? Rosa’s luggage is very big, Bu. How can she carry it walking down these stairs?” asked one student.

“Just take it and keep walking. No other choice.” I replied.

In seconds, I saw fourteen children wearing backpacks and with suitcases in hand walking down the stairs. Their independence was being tested. One student went back up and helped his friend and me with our suitcases. He passed the caring test.

Taking the train in another country is very different, especially in a developed country like Japan. Japan is known as the most punctual country and its ticketing system is much different from the one in Indonesia. Each passenger is issued one ticket, which is needed to enter the departure station and to exit the arrival station. Things were going well, when suddenly,……

“Bu, I lost my ticket!” One girl shouted after I had gone thru the turnstile.
“Ha! Check your bag, backpack, and pockets.” I started to panic because she was the only one left behind, blocking the path to the turnstile for the other passengers trying to exit the station.

“I think I dropped it”. She lifted up her name tag. Only the ribbon was left, no id holder. “I put it in the holder, Bu”.
Exceeding my expectations, she assumed responsibility for the situation and turned around, finding the station officer. I do not know which language she used, but she explained the situation to him. With the help of Kumi San, our chaperon from Hippo family, she was allowed to pass without her ticket. We just learned how to be responsible.
“Topia Hall, Nagano. Snow Camp, here we are!!”

We were in a rush because the opening ceremony was to start in a few minutes. We put on our costumes, complete with headbands; ready to perform. We sang and danced Rambadia by Tapanuli and Yamko Rambe Yamko. Our performance was applauded by the audience.

“Excuse me”. A soft voice came from behind me.
“Can I interview your student?” a lady asked me.
No idea who she was; but it was no harm to let local people interview the students
“Sure. Do you want to interview all of my students?”
“Oh, no. One only”.

The next day, we were informed that an article about our performance was in the local newspaper. All our efforts and hard work had paid off.

The real challenge would begin soon, when we were grouped with other people from other countries who had also joined in the program.

Monday, 27 March 2017

The first snowstorm in my life. So beautiful. We were supposed to be doing outdoor activities, but the beautiful snow forced us to stay in our Minshuku, which is Japanese-style bed and breakfast. I could not stop thinking of the kids. Were they able to mingle? Did they sleep well?? Did they like the food???
I didn’t have to worry because my students can speak both English and Mandarin. There were able to make friends with people from other countries that had joined our tour as well as feed themselves. It was time for them to practice their communication and social skills. Survival skills will never be learned in the classroom.

Wednesday, 29 April 2017

It was our last day at the snow camp. The closing ceremony was opened by projecting our photos from the local newspaper on screen. So proud! Then, we sang and danced together. After four days, we more skillful in communication and social skills.

“Budi! Budi!”

A soft voice called out my name. It was Moja-san, the person in charge of the Indonesian participants.

“Hai” I replied.

“Eight people will go to Nagano, wait here.”


In minutes we were in a car heading to Iiyama station, catching the 12:17 p.m. train to Nagano. Moja-san told me about my students’ host families and who would be staying with each family. I believed they were in good hands. I closed my eyes, enjoying the warmth of the sunshine streaming in the window, despite the cold weather. All my life I have gotten sunshine for free from the Almighty, but sometimes I don’t fully appreciate it. When we got abundance of blessings, sometimes we forget to be grateful.

I kept my ears open and listened how happy the kids were about the snow camp and how they missed their group already.

“Was your group fun?”

“Not at first, but then we had so much fun”

“I miss my new friends”

“Me too”

“Two cute guys were in my group”


Ah.. their conversation was more than enough to assure me that they were fine.

I stopped paying attention. I hope more students will take the same opportunity to try new things and explore other countries. Life is too beautiful to be seen only through classroom windows.

written by Ibu Agnes Budiastuti, MYP Coordinator


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