MATSUNOSUKE - Akiko Hirano's Pie & Cake

Akiko Hirano's Essay

Backnumbers American Cake form a Housewife who studied abroad

Essays from Akiko Hirano who studied in the U.S. at age 45.

Reproduced and translated with additions from the 2000 Sojusha Publishers' publication (sold out).

COVER: American Cake form a Housewife who studied abroad
housewife's dream

The dream of exchange to the U.S.

Invitation to Illinois

The illusory exchange

An 8 million yen investment in me!

The struggle with English begins

Inside a multi-cultural class

Japanese food in
an underground kitchen

My composition appears in a text book

If only I had read more books
when I was younger

The death of
a Chinese exchange student

American style stress relief

Finally, a real university student

Independent students in the states

Driving debut

Amazing silver power

Visiting New York City

Crossing North American Continent by car

The death of a Chinese exchange student

My campus life in the States was quite busy but also very fulfilling. As the days went by, I could feel that I was getting used to American life both physically and mentally. It was on one of those days that I heard some sad news that made us, foreign students, very upset.

A 25 year-old Chinese exchange student who was living in the same dorm as me passed away unexpectedly. Apparently she had gone to see a school doctor for her stomachache but she was sent back to rest in her room because the doctor couldn’t diagnose anything wrong. However next day when her friend visited her room, she was found dead most likely drowned. She was sent to the hospital right away but it was too late to save her.

Almost all the Chinese exchange students seemed to take this personally.

They complained about university’s response toward this incident including her diagnosis from the school doctor. Things get worse and developed to a dispute between exchange students and university.

Meetings between the Chinese student group and university were held on a daily basis and I had to attend the meeting a few times at my friend’s request.

After all, they couldn’t figure out the cause of death. An internal examination was required but the school needed to contact her parents for permission. The school couldn’t get hold of the parents for quite some time so they didn’t seem to know what to say and what to do. In the meantime the Chinese student group was getting more and more frustrated.

Finally they were able to get in touch with her parents but it was a few days after her death. These days we get to know what is going on in the world instantly but at the time I felt that China was very far from where we were. There was a funeral service right after her mother’s arrival from China. With her request they decided not to do internal examination so this student’s cause of death became unknown for good.

When you look at the Chinese foreign students, they look like they are really grudging their time for studying. She was a very diligent student and she must have been the rising star from her family back in China. It is so painful to think of her family’s loss and sadness but at the same time it is scary to think that this could happen to any of the foreign students because of our poor communication skills in English.

We all die someday but hopefully our lives don’t end this way. Maybe because of my age but my feelings were more complicated than the other, younger, students. Here is some of my advice for foreign students in the campus.

1. Do not understate your stomachache. It could be worse than just a stomachache.

2. When you are under the weather, you should speak up.

3. You should have one or two friends you can contact right away.

4. Before leaving for studying abroad, you should get a full health check-up done.

5. Do not over work (We all know this is very difficult)

Even though I am trying to give some helpful tips here, I have a bitter experience myself. It was about my dentistry treatment. When my ESL classes were about to finish, one of my teeth started aching. I got all my cavities treatment done in Japan but somehow I got another cavity.

Almost everything in the states including food, housing prices and communication cost are more reasonable than Japan but not medical cost. Especially dentistry cost is quite expensive. I was afraid that if I went to a dentist in the states, I would be charged too much that I can not afford to pay my tuition fee afterward so I decided to go back to Japan for my treatment. After all it was much more than my flight fare to go back to Japan so it was worth it.

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