As we sat in Habib’s living room in the scorching June heat, I asked him how he felt about being selected for a study abroad scholarship. Shyly, he said, “I’m afraid.” Shocked with the unexpected answer, I asked him why he wasn’t excited, since the other three students were thrilled to go to Japan.
Kakehashi scholarship is a Japanese government sponsored program, which aims to build bridges among Asian high school students. Their aim is to facilitate 1,000 students in five years. Habib was selected alongside three other Pakistani students to go to Japan in the second consecutive year of the AFS program. They would get the opportunity to attend school in Japan and experience Japanese culture for the next ten months.
Habib told me that this would be the first time he steps out of his hometown, Mardan. He was nervous about living alone for the next ten months with strangers in a new environment and being away from his family. He was also worried about food and language being the biggest barriers for him. It would be his first time traveling on a plane.
Habib has always been a bright student. He received a scholarship in a good school in Mardan and was able to move from his village to the city. He’s an exceptional student and studies hard to maintain high grades. Habib, a small town boy, never thought about competing with Pakistani students from elite schools. Yet here he is, victorious, after competing with thousands of students from all over Pakistan.
The days flew by and Habib was finally in Japan. The moment he landed there he was surrounded with students from several Asian countries, all from diverse cultures. In the first few days of his orientation in Tokyo, Habib tried to blend in.
When he reached his new school in Sapporo, he was ready to assimilate and experience this new way of life for the next few months. From visiting cultural places, to trying out new cuisines, to experiencing his first snowfall and to celebrating his first Halloween, Habib made an effort to make lifelong friends and represent his country.
This will definitely be one of his most memorable experiences. We can’t wait for Habib to return and share all his fond memories with us!