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Zinnia Erickson – Japan

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こんにちは! I am Zinnia Erickson. In the upcoming year I will be studying abroad in Japan during what would be my sophomore year at Buckeye Valley. I am very excited for the amazing journey that I am about to embark on. While in Japan I hope to learn as much as I can about their language and culture. This exchange will allow me the ability to grow socially and find myself. Both my mother and father have studied abroad and I am very excited to be able to follow in their footsteps. My mom studied abroad in Japan for seven years after college and my dad studied abroad for two years in Japan with work. I enjoy reading, writing, and drawing. This year I began ice skating lessons and am greatly enjoying them. I also sometimes enjoy cooking, and I would love to learn how to cook traditional Japanese meals. While abroad I hope to be able to try my hand at many different traditional Japanese arts, as well as visiting many of the traditional Shinto shrines. I have also begun taking Japanese lessons and while they are difficult I hope that it will help me in my study abroad. This year has been amazing working with Rotary, I have met so many wonderful people from all around the globe with all sorts of different stories and I can’t wait to meet more different people. Thank you to all of the people who have supported me so far. Thank you to the Delaware Rotary Club for sponsoring my exchange and District 6690 for all of the preparation and support. Also, thank you to my family for allowing me to have this amazing adventure. 行ってきます!

October 1, 2017

Hello again! I am still having so much fun in Japan! And it has finally started cooling down! Tomorrow my host family and I are going to Kyoto! We will be visiting some of the famous larger shrines and temples as well as Kyoudai University. I am so excited. This past week was busy and fun as well though!

This past Saturday me and my host father went to the local soccer team’s game! We rode into the Okayama city station and got lunch from a bakery. The bakeries here are wonderful! We walked to the stadium and I got to see a lot of the city! I saw where my second host family lives and got to see lots of flowers that were in bloom. Right now Spider Lilies are everywhere, they are my favorite flower and it is wonderful to see them in person! The game was really close, but our team still lost. It was really interesting to watch because all of the spectators were so engaged in the game and the cheering was amazing! I have never seen so much fan support.

On Sunday, my friends and I went to karaoke! To get there I had to take the bus which admittedly was nerve wracking. On buses, in Japan, there are set stops, but to stop at them you have to press a button. I was so worried I was going to miss my stop, but then I pressed the button when they called it and I was there. I met with my friends in the station and we went to karaoke! At the karaoke place there were small rooms with couches and a TV against the back wall. Your party rents a room and then you can sing until your time is up. It was so much fun! Some of the songs had dances, so my friends taught me how dance to them. I am so glad I got to go.

Everything is new and exciting here! And I can’t wait to learn and experience more things. I am so thankful for the ability to go on this amazing adventure! Thank you for this once in a lifetime experience!













November 1, 2017

Hello! I have been in Japan for a little over two months, time has passed in the blink of an eye. Already the rice is being harvested, the leaves are changing to warm hues, and I have to wear a scarf at the train station. I didn’t think it would get so cold so quick here.

Earlier this month my host family and I went to Kyoto for the weekend! We visited many famous shrines and temples, then at the end of the day ate a traditional Japanese meal. We had sashimi and a soup where you cook everything in the broth at your table. I was so amazed when they started bringing out the little pots, each equipped with a small heater! It was so interesting. Each of the shrines were painted bright orange red and stood towering so high. At the last temple we visited I tried “Omikuji.” It is where you shake a box that is filled with sticks, once a stick falls out, according to the number on it you get a fortune that last until the new year. Mine said I would be sad for a short time, but then I would be even happier than I am now. I am not worried though because I am just very happy right now.

This past week in Orchestra Club  I had my regular test which was terrifying. A regular test is where you play alone in front of the whole club.  I was worried I would hold the bow wrong and it would squeak, but it didn’t and I passed! In Orchestra Club you have to complete and pass regular tests to get new and harder music. My senpai and I practiced everyday the piece that I would play for the test and it really payed off! Now I get to try more difficult pieces, I can’t wait!

The Japanese language is very complex. While I did study it before I left there is still so much I need to learn, so I have made it my goal to learn at least 20 new kanji by the time of Thanksgiving. In my free time I am using a dictionary to read some books I bought at the used book store. It is so much fun because the kanji that pop up frequently in the books I have started being able to read them in other contexts without my dictionary!

Last weekend was the multi district Rotary meeting for 2017. There were so many people! It was a two day conference, I only attended the second day though. I gave an introduction for myself and at the next multidistrict meeting in January I will give a twenty minute speech. The title is “Try it My Way!”

I am so grateful to be here and be able to experience all of these amazing new things. It is like a new adventure everyday! Thank you so much for this once in a lifetime opportunity!


December 1, 2017

Hi again! I passed the hundred day mark only four days ago. I couldn’t believe it. Time has flown by way way too fast, yet at the same time it feels like I have been here forever.

The rice paddies have been harvested and the weather has turned cold. In the morning there is frost and my glasses fog up when I go outside.

This month has been busy. I discovered that I would be participating in the orchestra concert. It was nerve wracking, I only had a week to learn the new pieces. My senpai and I practiced during lunch hour as well as after school. In the end I only played maybe half of the whole piece, but it was fun to be able to hang out with my friends. We left school early and it was such a great time. I loved feeling apart of such a strongly knit group.

I also watched a traditional Japanese musical drama, called Noh! I really enjoyed it! The costumes are breathtaking. The spirits are my favorite. They have long wigs that when they dance look surreal. The main performances are a bit difficult for me to understand, but the kyogen is easier to understand. The kyogen is a short piece in between the two main dramas and often it is a comedy. It was very funny. I also got to take a Shinkansen to Fukuyama which was so exciting! Riding a Shinkansen was one of my exchange goals!

I cooked Thanksgiving food for my family on Thanksgiving. Turkey is super difficult to find in Japan, so I pan fried chicken as a substitute. I cooked squash soup and oven baked sweet potatoes. My host mom and I team baked an apple pie! Everything turned out really well! And my host father said it was good!

I have at least one period a day at during school which is self study Japanese and I decided that I wanted to make more of the time i have been given. I decided to change my goal and now I am learning seven new Kanji a day. It has really helped though. I can occasionally read signs and even when I can’t read the full text it is exciting to realize you know how to say it! My goal is to learn and be able to recognize at least 500 Kanji by the time I leave.

Okayama is so much fun! I love that everyday I am able to learn new something new! Thank you so much for this wonderful once  in a lifetime opportunity! I won’t waste a moment of it!
























February 1, 2018

Hi again! It has been so cold this month, although it is definitely not as cold as Ohio. And it has been snowing everyday. It is always sunny though when it snows, so it looks a bit like something from a movie. The time has past so fast this month. It seems that just yesterday was New Years.

New Years was super fun. We spent New Years eve at my host mother’s mother’s house in Himeji. My host sister and I wore  kimonos and took pictures in front of Himeji castle. After we changed out of the Kimonos we headed home and watched the New Year’s eve broadcast which was very funny. It was like a comedy that ran for hours. We also watched a concert broadcast that featured some of my host sisters favorite artists. Then right at midnight we ate special New Year’s food. These foods are cooked vinegar or sugar to preserve them. It was really gorgeous looking, but I must admit it was definitely not my most favorite food I have tried here. The next morning, at 5, my host father and I climbed a mountain to watch the sunrise and make our first prayers for the new year. It was a gorgeous sunrise. After that we went to my host father’s mother’s house. There we met up with his brother’s family and his mother and then we all went to a shrine in Kibitsu. We then proceeded to pay respects to his father at the cemetery.

School has been busy, although this week we have a four day weekend because of entrance exams for prospective high school students. Right now in orchestra club we are preparing for the graduation ceremony in March. The club plays the music for the event, I am looking forward to playing as a whole orchestra soon! My senpai and I are all practicing together to make sure the timing is right. In two weeks the strings teacher will come and check how we are coming along and give us tips on how to improve.

This past weekend I gave a twenty minute speech at the intercity meeting for my district. I was so nervous, but I met lots of new people and I am very glad I attended. I also got to look at Okayama Castle before the meeting which was awesome! This weekend I am attending a rotary event and will be playing the ukulele at a talent show with other exchange students from other districts. I am excited to talk to other exchange students! Next week I am doing a three minute speech on the salamanders my class takes care of in front of my host club. I can’t wait to share with my host club about my normal school life here, plus the salamanders are very cute. On the 27th I have a twenty minute speech as well. I am excited because it is being held in a garden and there may be a chance to look around before the meeting starts!

I am still working toward my goal of learning 7 new Kanji characters  a day. I have noticed that I can read and write more Kanji than before. When we take notes in class sometimes I understand bits and pieces which is very exciting. In chemistry, I understood that we were talking about the different colors of the chemicals and chemical compounds. It was nice to know that I was making improvement. I am going to keep working on my goal!

Everyday is full of new opportunities and adventures. I am so grateful to have been give this once in a lifetime opportunity. Thank you so much! I will make the most of it.


























March 1, 2018

February flew by so fast, I mean it doesn’t even feel like winter anymore. Flowers have even started blowing on some of the trees on my street. This past month has been filled with lots of events and fun adventures.

I started the month off with an event to help my district’s outbounds prepare to be inbounds! I also got to meet and talk to some other inbounds which was wonderful! We were given a tour of the tourist areas in my city. We visited the O’hara Art Museum and got to make a famous local dessert. We all ate the dessert promptly, I mean they did say it was best eaten warm. We were then given some free time to explore. Guess what we found tucked in the second floors of one of the shops… a cat cafe! Not just any cat cafe, but the Jungle Cat Cafe. We spent an hour basking in the presence of friendly polka dotted felines! I am really looking forward to hanging out with them all in Kyoto at the end of March!

Today my club played the Graduation ceremony for my school. We have been practicing the music since December and at the beginning of the month began holding whole orchestra morning practice. It is still breathtaking when everyone plays together.

I had the chance to hang out with my friends this month! We volunteered at an event to raise money for poor communities. There were several different performances and all admission ticket sales went to the charity. It was fun to do something with my friends and it was nice to know that  we were helping someone.

My counselor and several rotary members went skiing this month as well!  I had never tried skiing before and was super excited to learn. The area was in the mountains of Hiroshima.  It was so much fun! One of the members, who had been skiing for thirty years, taught everyone the basics. Walking was pretty hard at first. The lift was terrifying the first time, as well, but it was fun by the last time. I even worked my way up to the tallest hill with Sensei’s help! On the second day I got to try snowboarding! I was not fantastic, but some college students offered to teach me. By the end of the day I could go down the tallest hill and do an easy pattern! It was really fun. I got to make new friends and get to know the rotarians of my host club better.

I am still keeping up with my goal to learn 7 new kanji characters a day. I also decided that by the time I go home I want to have memorized at least 200 different kanji combinations! I have noticed that I can read more. It is really excited when I can read a whole sentence or grasp an idea of what is written on the chalkboard.

Everyday I am learning something new and it is amazing. Thank you so for this once in a lifetime opportunity! I won’t waste a moment of it.







April 1, 2018

Hello again!

I feel like time is passing faster and faster everyday! It is warm here already, and the girls in my class are already wearing short sleeves.

The cherry blossoms have bloomed! There are so many petals everywhere. It is amazing, they look like snowflakes from far.

My school is on spring break right now. We will be returning next week to the start of the new school year. I am going to be a Highschool 2nd year, which is equivalent of a high school 3rd year in America! My after school club will be playing the opening ceremony for the new high school students! There was a boot camp last week, during the break. For three days we played from 8 in the morning to 8 at night. It was so much fun! I do have to admit though y fingers definitely were sore. But, I could hear the improvement!

My friends and I have been hanging out on all of our free days! We went to an Owl Forest Cafe where you can pet owls and take picture with them! For my friends birthday we also went to an amusement park!

This weekend I went to Kyoto with my next host sister to an exchange student weekend for the three districts in our multi district! We put on traditional Japanese clothes and visited several temples! My favorites was Kinkakuji! It is the golden temple. It was sunny and the whole temple was sparkling! It was fun to talk with all the outbounds about what they were excited about in their host countries! Many are excited to meet and hang out with their host siblings!

I am still working toward my goal of having memorized 400 kanji characters by the end of my exchange. I study 7 new characters a day. And now at the train station I can read signs, and I can read menus at restaurants as well! This past week I picked a manga up at the convenience store and I could read it! I only had to use my dictionary twice! It is so exciting to see the improvement! I am hoping maybe I will have learned more than 400 kanji by the time I come home!

Thank you so much for this once in a lifetime adventure! It has taught me so many things and help me grow as a person. I won’t waste a moment of it!







May 1, 2018

This month the weather has just kept getting warmer and warmer. It already feels like summer. My gym class has already started being held outside. The flowers have been so lovely this month. At the start the trees were all velveted in cherry blossoms. Now the ground is covered in all sorts of bright colored blooms and the fields are outlined in oranges and purples.

I have been helping in my school garden and get to spend a fair bit of time outside. I tend the raspberry garden on Mondays and the herb garden on Thursdays, as well as helping make the new corn garden with the First Years.

My class has recently begun their research projects and I have been helping my friends with theirs on the Imori salamander. It is super fun! We just finished measuring and taking all of their weight on Friday. At my school they have two species of salamander, the Ooita salamander and then Imori. There are roughly 200 of each species kept at my school for various research projects that the students do. The salamanders are quite adorable.

Club has kept everyone on their toes this month. We played at the Entrance Ceremony for the new First Years. Then this past week we played at the after school club showcase. It is kind of like a half day long commercial. Many clubs will perform to try to bring in new members from the first year classes. Many of the science clubs danced. It was really fun. My club even came up with a dance that you could do while holding instruments. This weekend my club held a practice camp for the concert this week. I would be lying if I didn’t say I was scared, but we have been preparing for this since January so I think we are ready.

I recently switched families. I will miss my past host family, but I am excited for all the new experiences I will gain. They also have a dog! He and I have been going on lots of walks!

Yesterday evening my host family and I attended a local shrine’s festival! It was so much fun. There was a lot of fun food like yakitori and cotton candy. Dance troops came in from the neighboring city and we paraded in the streets with shrine’s god’s palanquin. At the end of the night we welcomed home the god.

This evening I will be traveling to Mt. Fuji with my Clubs president’s wife. I am really looking forward to it! My camera is charged and ready!

The days keep passing by faster and I am going to savior every second. Thank you so much for this once in a lifetime experience. It truly is unforgettable.







June  1, 2018

Hello again! This month was so much fun! The weather has been getting warmer and soon we will be in the rainy season, so I am going to enjoy all of the sun while I can.

At the beginning of the month, my after school club, Orchestra, had its annual concert. It was exciting to see all the hard work everyone had put in finally pay off. We played roughly 15 songs! Everyone was so nervous, but once it started it was like a flip switched and all of the sudden everyone was so lively and confident. It was really fun and I was really proud of how we did.

My host family and I went together to the Porsche club of Japan meeting in Osaka this month as well. We met up with the Rotary exchange student who is staying in Hiroshima. Her, my host sister, and I all got to explore the race track, as well as the connecting amusement park We also all got to look at all of the cars and take pictures with several of them! There were also professional race car drivers at the event. They drove people around the race track at super high speeds. My host sister, Hiroshima City’s exchange student, and I all got to ride around the track. We went so fast! Later that day after the real meeting the three of us went to the hotel’s onsen! It felt so good after walking around all day.

Two weeks ago my host family and I went ice skating together. It was so lovely. My host father was really good, even though it was his first time. My host sister and I raced each other around the rink several times! It was so wonderful to be back on the ice and it reminded me of when my sister and I go skating at home.

Last week my school held its annual Sports Festival! It is a day where there are no classes and the whole school participates in different types of relays! I ran in four events: the Typhoon Relay, I am a sen, the After School Club Relay, and the Sweden Realty. All events are running, but each has a unique twist. I am sen is where one person runs across the back of 25 people and is timed, whichever group has the shortest time wins. There is also a relay where you have to run with boxes instead of batons and every hundred meter you have to pick up a new box. They are not small boxes. All classes’ student’s points are added up and then the class with the most points in the winner. My class didn’t win, but it was a really fun! I am so glad I got to experience it.

I am so thankful for everyday here. And it has gone way too fast. I mean I am not ready for it to end. Thank you so much for this once in a life opportunity. I promise I won’t waste a moment of it.








































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