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

Independent students in the states

Compared to Connecticut university, Eastern Connecticut university is relatively conveniently located in the city and there are some residential areas nearby. When I was looking for a place to live, one of my professors, Anna-sensei offered me to stay at her husband’s study room. I was lucky that I could use the room in a semi-basement all by myself.

I was more than happy with my living environment,however, my eating habit was getting worse day by day. I was able to cook healthy Japanese food when I was living in a dorm but ever since I started taking regular courses I couldn't afford to spare my time for cooking. Also, I would have enjoyed cooking more if there were some friends to eat with but I lost my interest in cooking fancy meals if it was just for myself. It is often said that people usually gain weight while they stay in the states. If you follow American diets, you will definitely gain weight because you will get used to eating big portion meals and sweet dessert on top of them. However in my case, I lost some weight instead. I was kind of close to a chubby figure in Japan so I was alright with that.

In terms of rankings, Eastern Connecticut university was slightly worse than Connecticut university but the students there seemed friendlier and nicer to me. There were more students with multi-cultural backgrounds and they all seemed like they were trying hard to pursue their educational goals.

Most students have their part-time jobs so I didn't have much chance to meet my classmates outside of classes. Compared to university students in Japan, American students are such hard workers. A classmate said to me once “Of course I did not ask my parents to pay the tuition for me to go to university.” According to them, they are the ones to choose what they want to do so they have to be responsible for making money to support their college life. Some girls were living with their boyfriends but even still they were earning themselves. There were some full-time students who did not have jobs but they seemed to be either from wealthy families or commuting from their parents houses. Shop clerk jobs at grocery stores and rental video shops seemed to be more common than working as waiters at restaurants.

American people think establishing one's independence is very important. They are taught this way from their childhood. Here is a story to prove this.

This story is about one of my Japanese friends who was staying with his host family in the states. When he was helping his host mother for preparing meal, she asked him how he wanted to eat his egg and "I'm fine with the same style as everyone in the family" was what he replied. He just meant to be thoughtful caring about his busy host mother. However 5 years old kid in the family who heard the conversation said to him, "You were asked what you wanted to eat and why did you say you wanted to eat what everyone else would eat? Is this how you always answer?" The kid asked him surprisingly. Also, the host mother said to him " You maybe be just assuming that I am too busy but I just want to make you something you like. So please tell me what you'd really want to eat." It does not matter who is at fault in this story. What really matters is that no matter how small the thing is, you have to make your own choice. Therefore people think it's embarrassing if you are over 18 years old and your parents are still taking care of you at home.

Generally speaking, American students work hard out side of school and study hard at the same time. It is often said that graduating an American university is more difficult than entering one. On top of that, it is very difficult to get a job if you don't complete your degree. In a way, a person's educational background is considered to be judged severely in the States way more than Japan. On the other hand, American students know how to play hard as well. American university students are often seen to be only playing hard on TV but that is not always true. Libraries are open 24 hours and their schedules are usually really tight. Apparently they have to study hard to catch up with their studies. I was pushing my old bones hard to study like them so I could feel their pain.

If you think about it, Japanese university students are really blessed I think. Parents are simply trying to give what they were given from their parents but even so, kids nowadays in Japan have to study harder now. I can say that now because I regret that I didn't study hard enough when I was a student in Japan back then. Japanese college students in general and Japanese students who I met here seemed quite different. I had a bias against young people but the four girls I met here made me change my mind. I learned from them that young people can be quite different depending on the environments, how they are raised, their past experiences and their future goals. Out of the four girls, one of them had a green card as she grew up in the states because of her father's business. Second one grew up in South America and decided to go to an university in the states instead of a Japanese one. Third one was somehow also here in the states because of her parents business and the fourth one was once working as a flight attendant but quit her job and came back to college to study psychology. These girls seemed to have very strong wills that they were keen to study more than having fun. They were studying seriously hard to achieve their future goals and I was so proud to see them as a Japanese person. They are quite different from the girls who come to study abroad just for fun.

It was nice to see these young girls in their twenties and I certainly had a good influence from them. Even though I was in middle age, I thought I had to try harder by looking at them.

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