On the first day of school, there were more than 50 people running and screaming in the gym. I was kind of scared, so I just stood there staring at them.
Then suddenly, one of the teachers said, “Alright guys, find a partner and sit down!”
I didn’t have any friends when I entered junior high school in the USA. I knew some people from sixth grade, but I didn’t know any of my classmates. It seemed that they already had their best friends, so I thought I would never make friends in this school. Also, I was surprised that most of my classes were really small. There were only 20 students per class. I used to study in a classroom with 40 other students in my old elementary school, so it was difficult for me to find new friends.
However, gym was a really big class. When the teacher told us to find partners, I was in panic. I didn’t have any friends. I thought I saw some people I knew, but I really couldn’t find them. I was going to pair up with someone who was also looking for a partner, but most of the people sat down, and I was the only one standing in the middle of the gym. Just when I was going to tell my teacher that I couldn’t find a partner, a girl ran up to me.
She said, “Hey! You wanna be my partner?”
I had mixed feelings. I didn’t know her, so I was kind of nervous, but I was relieved and felt happy. I just nodded, and sat down. Then we waited for the teacher’s instruction.
“So, what’s your name?” she asked.
“I’m Yuki. I’m a new student. I just came from Japan three months ago,” I said.
“Wow, Japan! That’s so cool! I’m Katie. Nice to meet you!”
From that day, we always met at lunch. Katie had many friends, so I had lots of opportunities to be friends with her friends. Fortunately, she and her friends were really interested in Japanese culture, so I was able to be friends with them easily. Katie also had interest in Japanese language, so I used to teach her how to write and speak Japanese. Sometimes, I had to teach all of my friends at once during lunch. Katie was so enthusiastic about learning Japanese that she even asked me to teach her Japanese during the summer vacation.
By the time I left the USA, she was able to write katakana and hiragana by herself. She also talked to me in Japanese even when we were talking in English. On the last day of my school in the USA, Katie gave me a letter that was written in Japanese.
She handed it to me and said, “Arigatou for everything, Yuki. Have a safe trip!”
I said, “Thanks, Katie. You can come to my house in Japan anytime you want! Good luck for the rest of the year…”
She was crying, and I felt so sad. I wanted to talk with her more, but I couldn’t really talk. When my dad came to pick me up, she hugged me and wished me good luck.
If she wasn’t my friend, I wouldn’t have been able to enjoy my life in the USA, but I always wondered why she was interested in Japanese culture. I often asked her why she is studying Japanese, but she just said that she wants to talk with people from all around the world. I thought it wasn’t a very good idea because there are not so many people who speak Japanese. However, I realized that she started to learn Japanese not only to be able to speak Japanese, but to be friends with me. When I first came to the USA, I didn’t know anything about American culture, but she asked me lots of things about Japan, so I could talk with her and become friends with her. I learned that learning about a culture is very important to understand people and to be friends with them. That is what I learned from Katie, and that is why she is my best friend.