The Voice of the Loy Norrix Community

Knight Life

The Voice of the Loy Norrix Community

Knight Life

The Voice of the Loy Norrix Community

Knight Life

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Japanese exchange student Naoko Isobe graduates

Photo Illustration. Left: Naoke Isobe poses in front of her high school in Japan, the Matsudo Kokusai high school (Credit: Akiyo Asobe). Right: Isobe poses with social studies teacher Kyle Shack at Loy Norrix High School, in Kalamazoo, Michigan (Credit: Sean Bergan).

Excited and nervous to go to the United States, Naoko Isobe left her home in Chiba, Japan to study abroad in Kalamazoo Michigan for the 2023-2024 school year.

Naoko Isobe is a senior this year. She moved from Japan at the beginning of the school year to live with a host family for 10 months. Unfortunately, however, when her year at Norrix is up, so is her time in the U.S. 

Naoko left her home country to go to the United States on July 23 for an orientation for America. She got to meet her host family in August. Naoko’s exchange parents, Ron and Jennifer, have already taken in exchange students from Germany, Japan and Europe, so it was a familiar experience for them. 

 Going to another country can be scary for anyone, but it was especially scary for Naoko, since she had no choice in where she would go. Fortunately, when she found her friends Jayda, Sri, Natalie, Maya and many more, she felt more comfortable.

“They’re so nice, they keep it real,” said Naoko. “They’re so welcoming: they invited me to join the track, and they help me with my government homework and group projects.”

Naoko wasn’t shy during her first year at Norrix. She participated in track and field and ran the 200 and the 400 meters. Naoko met her friends Erica and Ella during track practice. She also went to the 2024 prom. This was a special night for Naoko because in Japan, there aren’t any school dances. 

There are a lot of rules in Japanese schools, especially in comparison to schools in the United States. At Loy Norrix and other public schools in the United States, students can express themselves through what they wear, as long as it meets the loose dress code. In Japanese schools, however, students have to wear a blouse attached to a sailor-style collar and a pleated skirt. However, if you are a girl you have the choice to wear pants or a pleated skirt. 

 “It’s hard to express yourselves when we are all wearing the same thing,” said Naoko. 

American and Japanese cultures are vastly different. American culture is one of many things that Naoko wanted to see and experience when she came here. Food in Japan is also very different from American food. One of the foods Naoko wanted to try was McDonald’s, which she found to be very different from McDonalds’ in Japan.

“My favorite American food is macaroni and cheese. My host dad cooks it for dinner every Monday,” said Naoko. “And my favorite Japanese food is Shabu Shabu. I usually go to eat with my friends after school.” 

Naoko has liked almost everything here so far, but her favorite sight to see in Michigan is the Great Lakes, which is what Michigan is most known for. When Naoko went to South Haven, her favorite part of the trip was seeing the sunset on the lake. Now that Naoko has experienced American culture, she said she loves it. She got to express herself and see new places. 

“I had an amazing time. I’ve learned so much and met amazing people,” Naoko said. “I would love to come back.”

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