The Student News Site of Urbana High School


The Student News Site of Urbana High School


The Student News Site of Urbana High School


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    A different kind of dream; Hanon Austin on her year in Japan


    A ten year old girl sits in her bedroom, on her computer for hours at night. This isn’t out of the ordinary, all of us did this as kids; but, Hanon’s screen time was spent on something different from everyone else. While we all watched youtube and played games, Hanon researched exchange student programs all the way in Japan. 


    To become an exchange student was a dream that she had since childhood, following in her mom’s footsteps. Hanon’s mom, opposite her, traveled from Japan to Delaware to do an exchange year during her own highschool career. This dream didn’t come easy, “I did so much research as a pre-teen, since you can’t apply til you are 13 or 14 years old” Hanon said when reflecting on life before her dream came true. “As soon as I turned 14, I applied and was accepted. It was so exciting.”


    It wasn’t perfect, Hanon would have to leave her family and travel alone to stay with a host family wherever the program decided to place her. At only 14 years old, that’s a very big commitment to make. 


    While Hanon spent her freshman year of highschool at UHS, her sophomore year would be across the world. 


    When she arrived in Ishinomaki, Japan she was placed with her host family, “Of course it was scary being without your parents in a new place, but the family I stayed with always kept me comfortable.” 


    She ended up living an hour away from her new school, Sendai Ikuei Gakuen, and took a train every morning at the same time, which took her through the countryside and past a monument. These are moments which some might overlook; but, Hanon is not one of those people, “I would listen to music and enjoy the view, it’s very memorable. I kind of lived in the middle of nowhere so it was a long drive but the scene made it real.” She wasn’t at home, driving through Urbana to get here, not even close.


    Her new school started at 9 am. She would spend the morning, after arriving at school and before classes, mingling with other exchange students. “I ended up making some of the best friends I’ll ever have.” Hanon spent this past spring break in Canada with girls she had met there, living up to that notion. 


    It is not surprising that Hanon was able to make those friends so quickly. First semester this year, I knew no one in my biology class. She and I sat next to each other and her kindness was incomparable. She is the kind of girl who has everything you could have forgotten, and she makes the best sweets.


    She took lots of classes, sometimes ending her day at 5pm. “It was a little confusing because I took an english class, but it’s not the same english we speak; like, a little outdated. My teachers would ask me to say these things for the class and I’d hesitate because I would think ‘This isn’t right’”


    When her school day was over, she had time to spend with her friends in the city near her school. “Those were the best memories, because you just do whatever with your friends. There’s so many new things you learn in a day” 


    As the year came to a close, Hanon was torn. She missed her family back home but knew that she never wanted to leave.


    Coming back to the US with a million more fond memories, she was back to UHS. Although this is not the end of her story in Japan. Hanon plans to return for college, having the opportunity to graduate early next year in december. She hopes to live her life where she learned true fun and independence.


    “From the moment I got there it was this feeling of home. I don’t think it would be right if I went anywhere else.”

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    About the Contributor
    Mackenzie Massey
    Mackenzie Massey, Reporter
    Mackenzie Massey is a sophomore at Urbana High School. She is involved with the Urbana volleyball team as well as a club team. Her passion for volleyball was sparked after messing around with a volleyball with her friends throughout the summer, as well as her mom who played the sport before her. “I play on small teams and we are all very connected, it’s nice.” When I asked Mackenize which color best describes her as a person she answered without hesitation, green. She shared that there are many different shades of green which she can connect to. “I can be like dark green, very calm. But I can also be like bright green, very energetic”. So far, Mackenzie has loved her experience at UHS, it’s where she has found many relationships and gained many experiences. She enjoys all genres of music, what she listens to is usually decided by her mood. Some of her favorite artists consist of Taylor Swift and Frank Ocean. Her favorite class so far has been her engineering class with Mr. Brubaker, as well as her ceramics class. Her biggest strength is her ability to stay calm in dire situations and her positive attitude. She stated, “Not a lot throws me off so I like to be a person people can rely on to talk to.” This then sparked the next question of future careers. Being a therapist interests Mackenzie because of the passion she has for talking to people, which she is also excited to use through her next journey in the UHS Hawkeye.     

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