During his first several months in the U.S., an exchange student and his host family have made sure to take the time to cook traditional meals for each other.
Shuhei Nakazato, an 18-year-old from Naha, Japan, has cooked curry for his host family in Franklin. He was pleasantly surprised when he found out that the family already had a rice cooker to help with preparing for that meal. He’s also made a type of Japanese street food for them that bears a resemblance to pizza.
In return, his host family, Michael and Deb Shirley, have fed him traditional American fare, like spaghetti and hamburgers. This fall, they were able to introduce him to Thanksgiving, with turkey and the rest of the traditional holiday foods.
Nakazato decided he wanted to become an exchange student because of the importance of learning about other countries, he said.
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“The world (has) become global,” he said. “I’m from Japan, and we have to learn a lot more to communicate with people from other countries.”
Friends back in Japan, whose time zone is about half-a-day ahead, pester him with questions about what living in the U.S. is like, he said.
School is a much different experience in Franklin than in Japan, where students were required to wear a school uniform and weren’t allowed to use cellphones, Nakazato said.
As a history buff, he’s enjoying the U.S. history class he’s taking at Franklin Community High School. Next semester, he plans to take a shot at learning a third language and will spend a semester studying French.
One reason his host family selected him was because of their shared love of music. Nakazato and Michael Shirley both play guitar. His host family has taken the time to introduce him to country music, and he’s shared popular Japanese music, where electronic styles are more prevalent, Nakazato said.
Each year, the Program for Academic Exchange hosts a talent competition for all its students. Nakazato, who performs magic tricks with cards, wound up as the national champion.
“I know what he is doing, and I can’t catch him at that,” Michael Shirley said. “
That is impressive.”