Pairing Perspectives

Growing up in multiple countries is a rare and interesting experience that few Horizon Honors students can attest to. For sophomores Toko Oba and Harrison Dreyer, however, experiences like the aforementioned one has provided them with insight into global culture.

Naya Johnson, Editor of Features & Extras

When sophomore Toko Oba arrived for the first time at Horizon Honors as a foreign exchange student from Japan, she had captured the attention of students such as myself who couldn’t help but be curious as to what her life before her arrival was like and what she thought of the United States. The same applies to English sophomore Harrison Dreyer, who, besides boasting an enthralling accent, possesses a rich personal and family history from all over the world.

The Horizon Sun: Would you be willing to provide some information about your family history?

Harrison Dreyer: [My family was] one of the founding families of Rhodesia, also known as Zimbabwe. My dad immigrated to England, which was where my parents met. I was born in Oxford, and, later on, we moved to the States because my dad got a new position in work. He switched jobs, and that’s why we’re here.

Toko Oba: My mother is Taiwanese and my father is Japanese. They both lived in the US while they were college students, so they tried to give me an English education. This made me want to be a exchange student in the US.

The Sun: What was it like growing up in an Asian/European household? What do you think are the major difference between a childhood in Asia/Europe versus one in America?

HD: I guess it’s pretty similar over there. The main thing is different vocabulary, and I feel like society is the same in England. In a household, the kitchen is the heart because everyone learns to cook. Your spring garden and your summer garden are also very important. If you have space in your home, you garden, whether its pots or house plants. Spanking isn’t a thing. We have the naughty step– basically, if you do something bad, you sit on a step. There aren’t many differences in parenting.

TO: The houses in Japan are much smaller than the ones in America. Most people live in apartments (we call it “mansion” in Japan). During the winter, everyone goes into the hot tub to warm up. It is normal for parents to hit small children when it is necessary, like if a child runs into the street without looking. People in Japan eat healthier meals than the people in the US do.

The Sun: What are parents like as a whole and what societal values are typically ingrained into a child’s brain? Are American parents, or Americans in general, more lax?

HD: There’s a north-south rivalry that you come into contact with at a young age. If you live in the south [of England], nothing in the north is worth it, and vice versa. It’s like the northern-southern US rivalry. You also develop an appreciation for soccer. It’s incredibly popular. A lot of values are based on geography. What you think of other people is based upon where you live. If you live in a cosmopolitan center like London, you’re more exposed to diversity, so you’re more open-minded and lax.

TO: There are many kinds of parents in Japan. Some are extremely strict; they do not allow children to go hang out with their friends and have high expectations for them, like wanting them to attend good universities.

The Sun: What is the educational system like in contrast to that of the United States?

HD:  You can finish school at 16, but you can’t go off to college. You get your GCSE [General Certificate of Secondary Education], which is kind of like a high school diploma, and you can go on with an apprenticeship for something like bank telling. Then you could go to a university. It’s mandatory to take A levels (the two main standardized tests) for two years with [a] minimum of three classes. The grading scale ranks from A* to F, including the E value like grading scale here, except it’s based on those three classes. We don’t have the same sort of grade levels either. It goes from your first year to your 11th year.

TO: There are three years of middle school and three years of high school. After the middle school graduation, people could go to work. Also, high school is not required. It is really hard to get in to a college, but very easy to graduate. Seniors that are going to take the exam for the university usually study for more than ten hours a day. They go to school, sports practices, [study], and then finally go home. For high school, it is really hard to get a 100 percent in a class. It is almost impossible. The normal sophomore-level math in Japan is college algebra in the US.

The Sun: How did a typical day play out (grocery shopping, extracurriculars, etc)?

HD: Daily life and culture is fairly the same as here.

TO: People either walk or drive to [their destinations]. There are fewer special deals in Japan. The Japanese stores are smaller than the ones in the US. There is more fish and less canned food in Japan. Everything in Japan is more expensive than in the US.

The Sun: How does pop culture differ there than here? What are the pros and cons of each culture?

HD: Trend wise, it’s a year earlier. We find out about the latest events before most Americans do. I prefer the humor of English culture because it’s more cynical.  In America, property is cheaper, which is nice. The focus of sports in media is different. In England, we focus on soccer, tennis, and rugby, but over here, American football is more popular. Music and movies are similar.

TO: Korean idols are really famous these days. The sport that are famous are soccer, baseball, and skating. I don’t really know how the pop culture works because the trends change really fast, so you have to check for them every day. However, it is kind of fun to watch everyone doing the same thing that is popular at that moment.

The Sun: What are the three most common/most believed stereotypes about Americans from your country? Do you think those stereotypes are true, now that you’ve spent some time in the US?

HD: The stereotypes I’ve heard the most are that Americans are 1) ignorant of other cultures, 2) rude and obnoxious, and 3) unintelligent. This isn’t my opinion, and I don’t think that they’re true. Some people are more ignorant that others, but otherwise, they’re false.

TO: I’ve heard that Americans do not work very neatly, are usually fat and bad at mathematics, and sometimes have low-level behavior (like sitting on the dirty ground, cursing a lot, and doing drugs). My opinion is that Americans are good at math and some people do work neatly.

The Sun: What’s the most annoying question people asked you after you came to America?

HD: The most annoying question is “Have you met the Queen?” Assuming every English person is royalty is also highly irritating. The most [ridiculous] question is “Did you struggle to learn our language when you moved here?”

TO:  When they ask “Are you Chinese?” As an Asian person, I can usually notice the facial differences between Japanese and Chinese people.

The Sun: What do you find most interesting about America? What’s the most shocking thing?

HD: The most interesting things about America are the different foods and how Americans perceive other cultures.

TO:  The shocking thing was that the bathroom wall had big gaps and people could actually peek inside.

The Sun: What do you think makes your country stand out from others?

HD: Definitely cynicism.

TO: The unique nature and culture.

Despite their contrasting views, these two different but equally fascinating students are Horizon Eagles, and it’s one thing they’ll share no matter where their wings take them.