Jillian Molyneaux, 2016 MI-Shiga High School Exchange

JCMU isn’t only for college students: high school students from Michigan can participate in the Michigan-Shiga High School Exchange! While in Japan, you will meet with a Japanese student partner, experience Japanese high school classes, and participate in unique cultural events within the surrounding community. In September, the Japanese student partners travel to their American partners’ homes, attending high school and living with their host family in Michigan for two weeks.

To show you what the program is like, we asked Jillian Molyneaux, an alum of the 2016 program, about what her experiences were like abroad. Read below to find out why she recommends this program “10000000000%”!


My life in Japan for two weeks was an amazing experience! You’d be surprised how two weeks go by so quickly. My usual routine was waking up around 6am to get ready for school. After eating breakfast my host mom would give me and Hana, my host sister, our bento (Japanese packed lunches) as we left for school. Hana and I rode our bikes to the train station, which took us about 30 minutes. After we parked our bikes, we got on the train for about 10 minutes. Once we got off the train, we walked the rest of the way to school.

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On my first day, many people stared at me since no one else knew I was coming except the school and my classmates. I actually thought it was funny when people did a double-take when they looked at me. The huge shock on their face got me every time, with their eyes wide open and mutters to their friends of “cute” or “beautiful” in Japanese. People at school would come up to me and talk to me or ask to a take selfie with them. I remember a group of middle school girls asked to touch my eyelashes, since long eyelashes are a big beauty trend for Japanese girls.

What I absolutely loved about this program is how kind everyone is and how they inform you of everything before you go. They let you know what you can expect to experience when going to Japan. There are also chaperones that travel together with the students, rather then having someone individually trying to figure their way through the airport. I also liked how they had some activities for us to do as a group before we met our host families. It definitely helped ease off the nerves and anxiety, as well as helping us become friends with each other! It was also very nice that the program took place in the summer so I didn’t have to miss any school back in Michigan. I recommend this program 10000000000% for anyone who cannot miss school and cannot be away for a long time. So please, help this wonderful program flourish more in the future by going abroad yourself!

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My advice for future students is definitely be prepared for anything. If you have easily fizzy hair in hot humid weather, humid frizz control hair products will help (probably). Also, a little bit of Japanese goes a long way – especially with just basic things like “thank you,” or “excuse me.” Think of this opportunity as a chance to be more open about yourself with other people. Make sure to pack lightly since you’ll mostly be in your school uniform and you can take more souvenirs back home. In addition, definitely bring something to do on the airplane. Trust me: 14 hours of sitting in one place is eventually going to be boring. Also be sure to be aware of yourself and how loud your voice is, since it’s considered rude to be very loud in a public place. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Even if it may seem embarrassing, it really helps you adjust to life abroad.


We would like to thank Jillian for speaking with us about her wonderful experiences in Japan! We hope this shows future high school students that study abroad is for them, too. For more information about Jillian’s program, please visit the Michigan-Shiga High School Exchange webpage. The postmark deadline to apply for the 2017 exchange is March 10th, so if you are interested, then we encourage you to start the application process as soon as possible!

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