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ELC - English Language Center Boston
Student Spotlight: Kaori Ikenishi December 14th, 2015
ELC: Why don’t you tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

Kaori Ikenishi: About me? I’m from Japan, and I studied English in Toronto for one and a half years before coming to ELC.

ELC: Toronto is a beautiful city! What would you say is the biggest difference between Canadian culture and United States culture?

KI: Actually, I didn’t see such a big difference. The Canadians are always talking about what a big difference there is, but I didn’t see it. For example, the Canadians say that their culture is like a mixed salad, and the United States is like a melting pot–this is what I learned from them–but I don’t notice a big difference.

ELC: What does that mean, a salad and a melting pot?

KI: I think in Canada, for example, people call themselves “Chinese Canadian.” So they think the Chinese part is more important than the Canadian part. Being American seems more important here. Oh! And the spelling is different. I spell like a Canadian! (laughs). But, honestly, I don’t see any big differences between the US and Canada. Both are very diverse and welcoming.

ELC: Is there a lot of diversity in Japan?  What part of Japan are you from?

KI: Nowadays, yes, especially in the big cities like Tokyo. I lived in Tokyo for five years, but I am originally from Kyoto. Really old city.

ELC: Is Kyoto the city where they have very old houses made of wood and paper?

KI: Oh, yes, of course! We still have them. Some of them are hundreds of years old.  History is very interesting to me.  I always thought learning history and learning about different cultures was very similar, because basically studying the past is just like studying another culture.

ELC: So for you, studying history is like an anthropological study.

KI: Yes, exactly!


ELC: If you could go back in time to any time period and any place, where would you go and why?

KI: Hmmm! I studied about war times, the war age, but definitely I wouldn’t want to go back to then. I would like to go…oh, I don’t know. Anytime that has nice food! I would like to try anything that I haven’t tried before.

ELC: Me too! I love to try new foods. What’s your favorite kind of food?

KI: Anything local, I love!

ELC: Sweet. So, back to the present day. You studied history, then did web design and marketing, but you recently left that job?

KI: Yes. It was too much. I was working thirteen hours a day, seven days a week.

ELC: Oh my goodness! Is that a standard work week in Japan?

KI: No, that’s a lot of work, but we definitely work long hours to please our clients. In Japan, it’s not so easy to say “no” to a client. If they want you to change something, you have to say, “YES,” and get the job done. I think it’s normal to work maybe nine hours a day.

ELC: Wow, that still seems like a long day. Is a normal ‘work week’ Monday through Friday only?

KI: It depends on your industry. A lot of people work weekends in Japan.

ELC: Now that you’ve left your job, what are you going to do? What is your plan after ELC?

KI: I think I’m going to marry my friend! He’s British but works here. Probably we will stay in Boston.

ELC: Wow, congratulations!!! That is huge news! So, it sounds like you may remain a familiar face, even after you finish your course of study here at ELC.

KI: Oh yes, of course! Thank you.

ELC: You’re a seasoned traveler and exchange student. What would you say is the biggest challenge as an international student?

KI: I think you have to keep an open mind. In the beginning, I was so afraid of making mistakes. But I’ve learned, it’s okay to make a mistake. That’s how you learn.

ELC: That’s one thing I’ve noticed about you. You’re able to strike a good balance. I think sometimes when I travel, I really try to blend in, like I want to pass as a local. You seem very comfortable as an explorer. You recognize that you are a tourist, someone observing a new place, and this actually makes you better able to integrate; it lets you interact with people honestly and openly.

KI: Yeah, I don’t mind speaking in a not-totally-American way. I’m not American.

ELC: That’s one of the beauties of the English language as it’s spoken in the United States.  People bring their own language and their own culture and their own nuance to our culture, and that’s how it keeps developing and evolving!

KI: Yeah, I agree with that.  Everybody should embrace their differences.

ELC: Well said. Any final words of wisdom for any new students reading this?

KI: Take advantage of this unique opportunity, of being in a new culture speaking a new language. Don’t be afraid. Talk to as many people as you can.

ELC Boston - Kaori

Boston Student Spotlight - Kaori from Tokyo