Japanese student makes the most of her exchange experience at York College
York College of Pennsylvania is about 7,000 miles away from Ayako Marutani’s hometown of Tokyo, Japan.
Right now, she can’t imagine being anywhere else.
“Studying abroad has been one of my dreams,” Ayako says.
Ayako attends Sophia University in Tokyo, where she’s studying to be a flight attendant. This semester, however, she’s in the U.S. taking classes in Hospitality Management at York College.
“I really felt it was beneficial for me as a flight attendant to also know something about Hospitality Management,” she says.
Although she was excited to begin her new adventure, Ayako admits that, as she stepped on campus during that first week of classes in late August, she was beginning to feel the distance.
“At first, I was so homesick, and I really wanted to back to Japan.”
But then she met a friend.
Andrew Fare is also a freshman at York College, also in Hospitality Management, and also a long way from home: Long Island, New York.
“You get to school and suddenly you’re faced with knowing nobody and having to make totally new friends,” he says.
Andrew met Ayako in their Marketing class. Friendship quickly followed.
“She’s really happy, always smiling, always positive,” he says.
Ayako says Andrew is a very social person. “He has helped me meet lots of new friends,” she says.
“We’re both making it work,” Andrew says. “Now, York is home to both of us.”
A first for both of them
Andrew persuaded Ayako to join him as a member of the Hospitality Society. Several students from the group and two professors traveled to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for a tour of the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court hotel. Andrew calls it a great experience.
“It gave us the chance to see the backstage operations and the event spaces of a beautiful four-star hotel,” he says. “We also got to meet with professionals in the industry who were at that hotel.”
After the tour, the two enjoyed Inner Harbor; taking pictures, exploring the sites, and getting to know one another.
“Neither of us had ever been to Baltimore,” Andrew says, “so that was a first for both of us.”
Taking it all in
Andrew says Ayako has been making the most of her time in the U.S.
“She’s only been in America for seven or eight months, and she’s already been to New York City, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and South Carolina.”
Her time in South Carolina was a result of volunteering to help build a house with Habitat for Humanity.
“I loved the experience,” she says. “It was really hard work and kind of exhausting. I slept really well, but I learned a lot. And being able to contribute was so rewarding.”
The Japanese and American freshmen have been learning a lot about each other’s culture.
“It’s been fun to see someone experience, for the first time, the things we take for granted,” Andrew says, “like eating pizza, for example.”
And Ayako has been helping Andrew learn about Japanese customs and simple cultural differences.
“Ayako told me that, in Japan, when people sneeze, nobody says anything like ‘Bless you’ – they just ignore it. I thought that was really funny.”
Learning the language
York College partners with Japanese universities in an exchange program that allows a student like Ayako to experience a year in the U.S. while giving an American student a similar opportunity to study in Japan.
“About three years ago, I started studying English because I knew I wanted to study abroad and I also knew that it was a very competitive interview process,” Ayako says.
“She is so fluent when she speaks,” Andrew says. “We’ve had so many conversations — I’ve introduced her to so many people — and language is never a problem. I don’t think I could learn Japanese in three years. She’s amazing.”